The understanding of the Indian domestic market is a core barrier.
Editor’s note: This article is from WeChat public account “Taiwan Joint Venture” (ID: taihecap) a>.
India’s entrepreneurial environment is open and cruel. In the social field, Facebook, Instagram and other European and American giants have been in the market for many years, and they have a deep foundation and firmly grasp a group of English-speaking elite users. At the same time, a large number of non-European and American companies, including Chinese companies, have also stepped up their slogans for entering India. Indian startups have faced unprecedented competition since they were born.
Nevertheless, ShareChat, which was established in 2014, has sprung up and become the head company in the social field of Indian dialects, and has received multiple rounds of investment from international war ventures including Chinese investment institutions. On August 16th, ShareChat announced the completion of $100 million in Series D financing, jointly invested by Twitter and Yuxin Capital The old shareholders, Shun Capital, American Lightspeed Venture Capital, India Safford Investment Fund, India Quotient, Morningside Capital continued to make additional investments, and the Thai joint venture was the exclusive financial advisor of this round.
The opportunity comes from localization. India has a diverse religious culture, a unique caste system, more than 20 languages, and more than 1,000 dialects. In the Indian market, the English-speaking users of foreign giants come from the elite, with high commercial value but about 100 million, while the needs of more than one billion dialect users are hidden under the iceberg. With the popularity of the mobile Internet, dialect users are constantly “touching the net”, and the different usage habits and huge gaps in dialect content have given local startups a good opportunity and natural barriers.
Recently, Chen Incheon, vice president of Thai joint venture, invited ShareChat founder and CEO Ankush Sachdeva to talk about his breakthrough story and the wonderful story of the head of the industry and the deep thinking of the Indian market. The following is the Chinese collation of the conversation.
Catch the structural opportunities of social networking in India: Under the “touch” user bonus, the dialect content is very large
Q:European giants such as Facebook, Instagram have been popular in the Indian market for many years, how is ShareChat?Found the dialect market blank?
Ankush: It was 2014, and I suddenly saw a Sachin Tendulkar on Facebook.
(India famous cricket player)
To create a message for the WhatsApp group, in order to join the WhatsApp group, there are 50,000 users who have shared their mobile phone numbers publicly, which is too shocking.
So I also added 100 people to the WhatsApp group. Usually people are stuck in strange groups. But once again, I was amazed that these people just started to chat in dialects. It was especially natural. Later, I added a lot of dialect users, and I first understood their thoughts and feedback, which refreshed my original knowledge. I realized that this part of the dialect users did not care about their privacy, and the demand has not been met by the existing channels. Then we started to do the chat room, iterated the chat bot, and then iterated for the information flow content distribution mode.
In summary, Facebook, Instagram’s main audience is English users, and ShareChat is a social community based on UGC content, serving Indian dialect users.
Q: Why is this happening?
Ankush: Because the Internet is too new for them, although they are between the ages of 25 and 30, their online behaviors are like teenagers, and I used them in high school. HiFive, Orkut There is no difference in the behavior of these social software.
In particular, in 2016, Jio (an Indian telecom operator) quickly popularized 4G networks in India, the tariffs were cheaper, the network speed was faster, and a large number of users suddenly “touched the net”, and they still had no idea about the Internet line. The rules and culture are not clear how to interact in the online community, so their behavior is very offline. You can join the WhatsApp group at will, chat with people in groups, and make friends, this is the same as they would be online. The things to do are the same.
Q:ShareChat also captures the dividends of this new wave of users. What are the different behaviors of dialect users compared to English users?
Ankush: is too different. Most of the dialect users’ avatars are particularly funny. For example, some of them will put their big head photos together with the photos of the Indian Prime Minister, and then nickname the mixed case, various fonts, emoji expressions and so on. Mumbai, Delhi, thisEnglish users in first-tier cities will feel that the nickname is full of emoji expression packs and heart-shaped patterns are too strange, but users in second- and third-tier cities feel that it is really cool.
Q:Haha, there are a lot of differences between the two user groups because they are different in age, not in physical age. From the content supply side, many Indian KOLs only open accounts on ShareChat to publish exclusive content. What other reasons do you think are different from the user audience?
Ankush: Because the features of ShareChat, Instagram, and Facebook are different. Facebook connects elites and sinking users, but it’s positioned like WeChat, sharing your personal life, so a typical Facebook stream will either see a lot of your friends’ dynamics or see a certified account. PGC video does not see a lot of UGC content. Because Facebook does not intend to force the UGC content community, we have never regarded it as a competitor. KOLs will not regard Facebook as a lot of powder-absorbing positions; Instagram has a natural elite tonality, and it comes to content producers. The threshold is high, and its influence on the gene cannot reach a wider sinking market. Youtube is an exception. Because of the short video format, there are some non-English audiences.
Q:ShareChat has differentiated positioning and captures the dividends of Internet users. The growth is very fast. Now the MAU has exceeded 60 million. Is this growth sustainable?
Ankush: In the Indian market, although the headlines and Youtube are growing rapidly, the dialect content is still very scarce. Especially when I saw that China’s content economy has developed vigorously, and these contents are completely invisible in India, I feel more deeply that there is a huge gap in the content of the Indian market. For example, it is reasonable to say that the Malayalam region of South India has been in the network for five years. Presumably, there must be at least 10,000 female KOLs to talk about topics such as nails, but in fact there is no such thing. The current situation is that the demand for content in Indian dialect users is too great. People will be willing to take photos of the models on Google, and then use their own dialects to discuss the looks and figures of the models. There is a huge gap in the supply of dialect content in the market, waiting for us to further resolve, this is also the future growth opportunity of ShareChat.
Q: Is the content on ShareChat rich?
Ankush: In the past year, many new content producers have emerged on our platform. They may not be aware of it yet, and they are already doing content production. For example, there is a little boy in the town, who has nothing to do with bicycle stunts. From time to time, he makes a lot of cool moves. One day, the offline stunts are transmitted to the Internet, and the “噌” is bursting red. For those who are already interesting in the offline, once they start to send content online, they can become very good content producers. After a while, they can have a lot of attention and fans.
We are delighted to see that with the further popularization of the Internet, more and more new Internet users are constantly “touching the Internet”, and more and more new content producers are coming from the supply side. Out of the ordinary people of 100 million.
Strict System Coordination Policy and Regulation I was praised by the government for eliminating hate speech
Q: So many companies in the world, which one is closest to what you want to be?
Ankush: I appreciate Amazon in its management and every aspect. It has always paid special attention to innovation and experimentation, has the courage to try it, has a variety of business segments, e-commerce, cloud, content, channels. Wait, it will eventually come to fruition.
Q: Chinese companies are running faster on content. What are the core competencies of ShareChat in the face of competitors from China?
Ankush: We have always faced competition, and Western competitors have come to India for a longer time. Our barrier lies in: India’s dialect market is very diverse and very different. We started our understanding of the Indian market and will continue to better understand the community and continue to leverage our local market.
Q: Understanding the local market also includes a grasp of policy and regulation.
Ankush: Yes, India has legal and social responsibility requirements for content platforms. Therefore, we have a strict system to eliminate pornographic content and hate speech. Compared with other countries, hate speech between different religions and castes in India will be more prominent. So we set up a special team and have been working closely with the Indian government. Although it is a startup company, we have been praised by the government for its positive actions in eliminating hate speech.
I believe that once content is used by people who are ill-intentioned, it can be very dangerous. There are some vague areas, even if the law does not stipulate the prohibition, we will not touch it, because if you walk in the gray area, even if you are not supervised now, there will be the risk of being brought to court in three years. So now we will have a regular dialogue with the government, and even forward-looking to explore the regulatory trend of the law, to understand how to legislate in order to put an end to these bad things in India.
Q: Do you think regulation is an obstacle for foreign companies that are not familiar enough with local Indian regulatory policies?
Ankush: Frankly speaking, considering the particularities of the content industry, there are potential risks.
15 local languages have been covered Providing fine-grained algorithms for better content distribution
Q: How is your management team?
Ankush: I and two other co-founders, Farid and Bhanu, are alumni of IITKanpur. I met in 2012. During the university, we have worked on several different products and experienced quite a lot. Ups and downs, but it has always been a team. The seven-year common experience is like a coagulant. I feel that we will always be a team, really. The current division of labor is that Bhanu is a CTO responsible for technology and infrastructure; Farid is CO, and O is responsible for products, user communities, content recommendations, business collaborations, and more.
Q: With regard to technology and infrastructure, I know that you have spent a lot of energy on technologies such as AI and deep learning.
Ankush: Because essentially what we do is content distribution, the algorithm is critical to accomplish a better match between the content and the user. In this process, how to make the content flow smoothly and efficiently, and let content producers and consumers be happy. It takes a lot of energy and patience to explore this issue, but we will stick to it.
Q: You have to deal with a variety of dialect databases, which adds to the complexity of the algorithm.
Ankush: Yes, dealing with diverse Indian dialects is our biggest challenge. We have a machine learning team dedicated to content recommendations. India has more than 20 languages, more than 1,000 dialects, even Indian traditional mediaThe body can’t cover all the dialects so far, and if we can provide enough rich dialect content, users will definitely like it. There is another difficulty. Most Indians have two or three languages. We need to identify the language that users are most accustomed to and push the corresponding content to him. Therefore, the diversity of the Indian market is both a challenge and an opportunity for us.
Q: How many languages can the platform cover now?
Ankush: 15 languages, this is enough. In the next one to two years, the platform will identify more dialects through algorithms.
Q:In the context of globalization, is there a plan to expand ShareChat to other countries and languages?
Ankush: Although we do have some user bases in other countries, such as Bangladesh and the Middle East, we have no plans to expand into markets outside India in the next few years. Now that we have a large user base, we don’t want to pay too much attention to external competition or rush to expand, but we want to seek inward, constantly optimize the user experience, and make the users in our content community more happy.
Chinese investors have seen high quality content companies always ask the right questions
Q: Just reviewed some of the turning points and milestones of entrepreneurship. Based on your personal experience over the years, what is the difference between Indian entrepreneurs and Chinese entrepreneurs?
Ankush: Most Indian entrepreneurs are deeply influenced by American entrepreneurial culture. Our idol is Mark Zuckerberg, Paul Graham of Y-combinator (Paul Graham) is inspired by the speech. American culture is very idealistic, focusing on innovation and obsessing with the pursuit of “great cause.”
The basis of the idealization of American entrepreneurs is that most of their consumers can bring high ARPU. Once the “eye-catching” customer is successful, they will make a lot of money. This is also the American social company. Business models rely on advertising reasons. On the contrary, Chinese entrepreneurs are very pragmatic and pay attention to details. When you start a business in China in the early days, you will find it hard to make money. First, you have to find more people to come to your platform, and then you can make money.
The first batch of Indian entrepreneurs were very idealized. They all borrowed from the entrepreneurial ecology of the United States. They focused on the big problems and solved big problems.It’s so vibrant. But the reality is bitter, and one company after another has fallen, especially in 2016, India’s “capital winter”, and many head companies that pursue American entrepreneurial culture are dead. It can be clearly felt that after the bloody reality of baptism, later Indian entrepreneurs have changed from the idealism of American culture to the pragmatism of the Chinese style.
Q: After your business, you have been raised by many well-known Chinese institutions to share the difference between Chinese and Indian investors. Which type of investor would you prefer?
Ankush: From the perspective of financing, the investment in Indian content track is not mature enough. Many local investors have not made any money in this field, so it is difficult to have China in the face of various content platforms in the market. Investors’ perspectives, and Chinese investors who have seen high-quality content companies have received generous returns on this track, so they can always ask the right questions and give them the right benchmarking company.
For example, a content platform like ours, Chinese investors can immediately mark Weibo and fast-handed, while Indian investors think of WhatsApp, Facebook, and we are completely different from the latter.
We are more inclined to choose investors who have strong confidence in the Indian market and have long-term confidence in our business model. Simply put, we are more inclined to look for long-term value investors. For example, we are really happy to see Chinese institutions like Shunwei, entering the Indian market early and investing in us.
Q: Indeed, like Shunwei, Xiaomi, and Chenxing are your old shareholders. In addition to capital, how can Chinese investors give you help?
Ankush: Chinese investors have given us a lot of valuable experience from China. The first-tier cities in India are more like the US market, while the content of the second-tier and below markets is very similar to China. So by benchmarking Chinese companies, we can also see the direction of future evolution.