Startup publication Tech In Asia, which expanded into India towards the end of 2015 is now cutting back on its Indian operations. We’d heard from sources yesterday, following layoffs in its India operations, that the publication is pulling out of India, but it denied that, telling MediaNama (full statement below) that it will keep an editorial staff of 3 in India to provide coverage for an international audience. Its website, at the time of writing this report, lists 8 people in India. It is also canceling its Bangalore conference, as it doesn’t think that will “be sustainable on a unit economics basis”.
When it launched in India, Tech In Asia had hired 6 journalists in India, and said that “we’re confident that there is a place for us to serve and build the startup ecosystem of one of Asia’s most promising markets.” The editorial shift, it appears from the statement, will be about covering India for an international audience, instead of India for the Indian ecosystem. That, however, doesn’t mean that it won’t be back. The company says it will consider expanding its presence in India in the future, but “If we do, it’ll have to be done on a basis that is scalable, sustainable, and provides maximum value to the Indian ecosystem.”
This isn’t the first instance of a startup publication weaning away from the Indian market: back in 2013, post an event, TechCrunch had decided to scrap its event partnership in India, and decided against investing in India. At that time, it had hired an Indian editor, Pankaj Mishra, who eventually left to join the Economic Times and then co-found FactorDaily. TechCrunch hasn’t had an India reporter since.
The bloom is clearly off the boom in India’s startup ecosystem, with startups conservative about advertising and sponsorship spends (and are focusing more on B2C than B2B spends), especially over the past 6-8 months. Funding is slowing down (but not drying up), layoffs are taking place, and cash is hard to come by. The trickle-down impact of that is being felt by publications that rely on advertising and sponsorship. India has always been a market that flatters to deceive: you can buy growth, but sustainability is another story. That said, several tech publications have raised money in the past year or so: YourStory, The Ken and FactorDaily. Funding gives them time to weather this storm, but business models (in some cases) and sustainability (in most cases) will have to be figured out. 2016 wasn’t easy and 2017 will be tougher online media in India, post the heady days of 2015.
The statement from Tech in Asia
Tech in Asia has downsized our India operations. However, we are not shutting down in India. We’re keeping an editorial team of 3 to provide coverage of the Indian market for an international audience. We’ll also be inviting members of the India tech community to contribute pieces to Tech in Asia. Our aim is to give the India tech community a voice on the international stage.
We’ll be cancelling the Bangalore conference as we don’t think it’ll be sustainable on a unit economics basis. However, there is no reduction in Tech in Asia’s editorial budget. In fact, we’ll be hiring reporters to cover the Singapore, Indonesia, and China markets.
We look forward to expanding our presence in India again in the future. If we do, it’ll have to be done on a basis that is scalable, sustainable, and provides maximum value to the Indian ecosystem.
Disclosures: Each of the tech publications mentioned in this story has some areas of overlap with MediaNama