ShareChat, an Indian-language social networking platform, has closed a US$4 million in Series A round of funding led by Lightspeed India Partners. Existing investors SAIF Partners and India Quotient, as well as new investor Venture Highway (through VH Capital), have also co-invested.
“The fresh round of funds will be employed majorly for going deep into the vernacular ecosystem. Having multi-lingual interfaces is just not enough. We have literally just touched the surface of our target audience. These are early adopters. A lot of work is required on our part to make ShareChat a household brand, digging deep into the user base, and to bring even more interesting infotainment and utilities for our ever-expanding Indian market,” said Farid Ahsan, Co-founder and CEO of ShareChat.
ShareChat was started by IIT Kanpur alumni Ahsan, Bhanu Singh and Ankush Sachdeva. It was started as a content repository app for sharing on WhatsApp, and has now evolved into a full-fledged social network.
It is building a social content network in India with a focus on small town users and vernacular content. As the name suggests, ShareChat allows users to create, discover and share content with each other, much like people do on Tumblr and Instagram. Users can follow others who are either a content creator or a friend on the platform for regular updates, much like most other social networks.
The key differentiator for ShareChat, however, is the primary action of sharing.
“Our core focus is to become the most essential non-chat social app for a first-time internet user, whether it is through local language content or through infotainment services which are relevant to them. They are hunting for things to do that are utilitarian (payments, commerce, etc.) — there’s plenty of choice here from Flipkart to Ola to Justdial to Paytm. They are also hunting for ways to kill time (TV, games, books, magazines, news, music and social media),” said Ahsan.
“Most of what is in this ‘kill time’ category is the traditional entertainment and media industry rejigging their content for mobile consumption and distributing this one-way through aggregators or directly. Examples would be Saavn or Hotstar or InShorts or Youtube. Almost no one has created or exposed new content for the average Indian common man or woman. This is what ShareChat is doing,” he added.
ShareChat is available in six languages, including Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati and Punjabi. The app has clocked 3.5 million downloads, with roughly 2 million active users on the platform, the startup claims. One million content pieces get shared per day from ShareChat.
“Our audience is ever hungry for both consuming localised content and expressing their creativity and opinions to the right audience, something that was not very easy for them until now, even with existing social networks. We believe that the Indian user is very typical in his/her needs and this gives a local player a closeness to user problems when compared with global social networking giants like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat,” said Sachdeva, Co-founder and CPO.
“A lot of our effort goes into understanding the audience and their needs through experiments. It is a lot like returning to an earlier time of internet usage, pretty close to how we were when we came to the internet for the first time in the early 2000s,” Sachdeva added.