What are the three mistakes that Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal regrets in life? Who does the InMobi Founder Naveen Tiwari look to for the right advice? What are the plans of Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for keeping the city safe and secure for women?
Ask them on Frankly.me, a mobile app that facilitates conversation between the masses, public figures and celebrities through questions and video selfies. The platform stands for frank conversations with public figures such as politicians, authors, singers, directors, social activists, actors, sportsmen, officers or even entrepreneurs. The basic idea behind the app is to expand the horizon of conversations and spark a two-way dialogue as opposed to a one-way broadcast through videos.
“I am an extremely curious person, and every time I meet new and interesting people, I would try and have a piece of their brain and understand their perspective on whatever topic or idea they would have strong views about. In most of these cases people would either be too boring or too shy or too introverted to continue an interesting conversation. That’s where the idea of creating a marketplace for open exchange of ideas, beautiful thoughts, experiences and essentially meaningful conversations originated,” said Nikunj Jain, Co-Founder at Frankly.me. The app has recently secured investment worth US$600k from Matrix Partners. Earlier, Jain used to run InoXapps, a mobile app development company which was partly sold last year and he exited from the company to start Frankly.
Getting hitched with the right partner
Abhishek Gupta, Co-Founder of Frankly, was raising funds for his startup Zumbl. “He was asking for an exorbitantly high valuation and to add to that while we were talking, I was checking out his app, and it didn’t really work so well,” Jain said.
“So, I joked about saying, instead of putting money in your company, at the very same valuation I could buy a real brick and mortar four-floor house in my colony with parking.” The conversation ended on the note that if he could raise even half the amount he was seeking then I would put in the remaining half,” Jain added.
Gupta’s then co-founder, decided that they did not want money from Jain , while during the course of the conversation, Jain was convinced that Gupta understood human psychology better than anybody he had met in his life.
Gupta was later able to close a handsome round from the leading angels of the country, including Jain.
“Just before he was calling in the cheques, we met to discuss the future plans. While we were doing so, I was so impressed with his product and human behaviour understanding, that I offered him to close down Zumbl and join me. He surprisingly agreed, and in less than five minutes, we had agreed on the numbers and next day he was coding from our office,” Jain said. “His then co-founder still isn’t very fond of me,” he added.
Asking questions Frankly
The app is a question and answer platform which allows people to ask questions to public figures who then answer them back in video selfies. It enables the common people to reach to out their favorite celebrities and strike conversations with them. The app works on the democratic rule that is most upvoted questions are answered by these celebrities and relevant public figures.
Some of the people who have already joined Frankly include Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, politician Kiran Bedi, Chef Vikas Khanna, Chef Ranveer Brar, Commentator Jatin Sapru, Writer Javed Akhtar, Author Ravinder singh, Singer Shafqat Amanat Ali, Singer Gurdas Maan, Composer Meet Brothers, Fashion Designer Bina Ramani, RJ Naved, RJ Sayema, Snapdeal Founder Kunal Bahl, Inmobi founder Naveen Tiwari, among others. The app claims to have 5,000-6,000 users joining it every day with a significant addition in celebrity categories. It is not looking to monetise in the near future, but as a platform it plans to charge the users for using it. The startup is in Beta stage with a website and apps for both Android and iOS.
Impacting the Delhi elections
All the candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party for the Delhi Elections joined the app and have promoted themselves heavily in their respective constituencies.
“We believe it was for the first time in the history of this country that the electorate was able to have direct conversations with their respective candidates. These candidates got dozens of questions regarding local problems and they answered them with detailed solutions,” Jain said.
Video selfies and fan questions have a hit with celebrities
According to Jain, getting celebrities has been a cakewalk because they have liked the idea so far. Video selfies and fan questions are an instant connect with the celebrities.
“Most social media managers are giving up on Facebook owing to its decreasing page reach. Celebrities are also realising that Twitter’s limitation of 140 characters significantly restricts any meaningful conversations. Also, India being largely a spoken country, text content is not a natural fit in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where the true potential of growth exists,” Jain explained.
Isn’t Twitter and YouTube already doing this?
The startup competes with giants like Twitter, YouTube and Reddit AMA. The key differentiator of the app is the feature of two-way communication which eradicates the sense of obstruction in communication. “Besides this, the decreasing page reach of the social media also paves way for the app to reach its maximum height. Adding to these factors, it does not limit the number of characters used, which restricts meaningful conversation,” Jain stated.
The video Q&A platform, VYou also saw immense response from users before shutting its consumer site down in March 2013 due to lack of user engagement. However, Jain is not worried because he believes that Frankly has been launched at the right time and at the right place, where mobile video is growing, Internet speeds are improving and phones have usable front cameras. “Also, we are starting off from where Vyou left off,” he added.
Potential in tier-II and III cities in India
At present, the startup intends to expand within India considering the linguistic diversity of the country. “It foresees a lot of potential in the tier II and tier III cities bearing in mind the surge in the mobile usage and Internet penetration. Over and above, these are the cities where the celebrities get their loyal fans from,” Jain concluded.
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