Bangalore-based Indic-language social networking app ShareChat has raised $4 million in a series A round of funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, and participation from existing investors SAIF Partners and India Quotient. Interestingly, Venture Highway, which also invested in the startup, is advised by Neeraj Arora, the business head at WhatsApp.
The startup will use the funds to improve its Android app, and add local dialects such as Haryanvi and Bhojpuri. Sharechat had previously raised $1.25 million in July this year and was part of the six startups to receive equity-free seed funding worth $50,000 from Google in May.
Sharechat is a platform somewhat like Facebook and Instagram, but focuses on small town users and vernacular content. It lets users make posts to a ‘wall’, add images, videos and audio clips, view posts from others, add and follow friends etc. It also has a ‘treasure’ section, where it lists posts based on categories like romantic, humorous etc. The app also lists news, horoscopes, daily tips, devotional services and other miscellaneous services.
Importantly, the app is not available in English, and can only be used in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Malayalam. It’s not clear if the content for each language is unique, or the same content and posts are translated to another language. The company mentions that it is testing Bengali and Tamil and will be adding these languages soon. Note that the content presented on the app does not contain ads and according to the company, it does not yet have a revenue model in place. As of now, Sharechat claims to have 2 million active users.
Increasing adoption of Indic language content:
The adoption of Indic languages by apps and startups has increased in the last year or so, as more users of vernacular languages in the country come online. Paytm recently added 10 Indian languages, while MagicX, which lets users pay of groceries, bills etc., added support for transaction in 8 Indian languages. Others to announce or launch services or features in Indian languages this year include Intex smartphones, Karbonn smartphones, BookMyShow, Data Xgen, Wikipedia, Google, UGC, ContentMart among others.
The Government has also got in on the action – It mandated handsets to support Indian language keyboards by 1st July 2017, started offering a free .bharat domain with a .in domain and asked for handsets and emails to support regional languages.