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Three College Friends Started From Scratch To Build A $5.35 Million Business

In the era of information technology, yesterday’s dream manifests in reality within clicks. Earlier, there was an period of handwritten messages, followed by emails and SMS, and now we have shifted to instant messages. There are millions of apps present today that have made communication smoother and one such application is ShareChat.

Bengaluru-based ShareChat is an application that enables its users to communicate in local languages. It has raised $1.25 million as a part of their series A funding, which is an initial round of their venture funding in exchange of their investments.

After toiling and collecting their funds, which was raised in October 2015, the architecture development started in July 2016. Prior to the funding round the company had raised $100,0000 from Indian Quotient , a primary stage funding company aiming for Indian Customers.

ShareChat is a social media platform for communication in local language. It was founded in October 2015 by three IIT Kanpur alumni Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh and Ankush Sachdeva. The trio was struck with the idea of developing the app when they launched a debate app which took the discussion to a Facebook group. Within an hour the founders had collected 30,000 phone numbers in comment section.

On seeing the scope here they started researching about it on space.

“According to research firms there are 350 million smartphone users in the country, of which an odd 100-120 million users are fluent with English. The others would prefer their vernacular language over English as a preferred mode of communication. This left us with a huge market size to foray into. Further, reports also suggest that by 2018, India will have close to 850 million smartphone users, which will give birth to an even larger vernacular market,” said Farid on being asked why the sector was gaining this much attention.

With the advent of low data cost and cheap cellular phones the consumption of data is only on the upswing where 93 percent of the usage is on videos either in Hindi or other regional languages.

There was an initial struggle to get the application more users. Thus, after brainstorming, they came up with an idea of promoting their app through WhatsApp. Influenced by its power, the trio released ShareChat as a tool for discovering and sharing content on WhatsApp. One way was to hack data that enabled elements of ShareChat to be shared on WhatsApp group. Each share was a direct link to Google Play Store from where the app could be easily downloaded.  The firm had approximately 50,000 to 60,000 WhatsApp group initially.

As conveyed by Farid, between October to December 2013 there were 100,000 installs out of which there were 50,000 unique shares every day. Owing to the feedback, the application allowed users to create their own content for sharing.

The firm claims that there are almost 1.3 million downloads now out of which 95,000 are through playstore and remaining through .apk (download platform) files. Of the 1.25 million installs there are 500,000 active users who share 6 million unique element share on a monthly basis. The application supports 50 to 55 content formats from jokes, videos, health tips, etc. It also supports regional languages viz. Marathi, Malayalam, Telgu, Hindi, Oriya and Gujrati.

There are constant updates ShareChat is only available for Android platform because Google is not intuitive for regional languages. Given it is used in regional and rural areas it is improving its architecture so that it could be used easily without interruption of unavailability of high speed network.

Farid states, he is more interested in spreading the language and not in generating revenue as of now. He adds –

“Just like other social network journeys, our focus right now is on getting the engagement and audience sorted first. We are looking to reach at least 25-50 million users before we start experimenting with different revenue streams. The simplest way for us to get revenues is through sponsored posts, advertisements, as well as services and micropayments.”

The firm gets majority of its traffic from Gujarat, Western Maharashtra, Eastern UP and the Middle East for the Malayalam content.

How does ShareChat stay clean from inappropriate content? Regarding this there is a regional language team that monitors the content. Further, there are porn filtering algorithms.

The app is improving under the guidance of its founders. It had started as a low revenue app and is growing now in multifolds.

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