Bangalore-based Indic-language social networking app ShareChat has secured series B funding of $18 million (approx Rs 116) crore from Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi and its existing investors like SAIF partners,  Lightspeed Partners, India Quotient, and Venture Highway.

The development was first reported by VCCircle. The publication had found the development in company’s ministry of corporate affairs’ filings.

Focused on disrupting the vernacular content space with an innovative platform, the new round of investment will be used to strengthen the Machine Learning and AI efforts of the company, with a major focus on expanding the aforesaid technology divisions. With a monthly user base of 8 million+, ShareChat also plans to utilise the funds for rapid expansion and efficiently manage increasing cloud infrastructure costs.

The company said that it will use the fresh funding to expand technology for the platform and will strenghthen its foothold in vernacular content space by expanding its divisions like Machine Learning and AI . ShareChat added in a statement that it will also utilise the funds for rapid expansion and managing increasing cloud infrastructure costs.

 

Note that, the Government has made it mandatory for all mobile handsets being manufactured or sold in the country, to come loaded with multi-language support feature. And, Xiaomi had the largest market share in India in terms of smartphone shipments with 23.5% market share for the quarter ending September 2017, according to IDC’s data.

Founded in 2015, ShareChat is somewhat a mix of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, which focuses on non-english speaking/writing users in India. It lets users make posts to a ‘wall’, add images, GIFs, 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. It also has a live chat room. 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, Malayalam, Bengali, Tamil, Kannada and Odia. It’s not clear if the content for each language is unique, or the same content and posts are translated into another language. As of now, Sharechat claims to have a monthly user base of 8 million.

 

Previous Funding

In November 2016, ShareChat had 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. Before that, it had raised $1.25 million in July 2016, and was part of the six startups to receive equity-free seed funding worth $50,000 from Google in May.

Indic Language

Biggies like Facebook and Google have been ramping up their efforts for the Indian market by focusing on regional languages, as these businesses wouldn’t want Internet usage to be limited to the users who are familiar with English: that’s a fraction of the country’s population.

In September last year, Facebook has added more local languages to its text editor in its Android app. The transliteration feature in the mobile app enables users to comment in 12 native or local Indian languages including Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali amongst others.

Recently, Google announced voice search in 8 additional Indian languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Google also launched Gbroad in April this year, which consists of 22 Indian languages like Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Google had earlier started displaying various search information in Hindi.

Moreover, companies like BookMyShowAmazon’s KindleQuikrSnapdeal etc. have been adding at least Hindi interfaces in their mobile apps, and most support additional languages like Tamil, Telugu etc.

Update: The story has been updated and modified as we received an official statement from the company.