ShareChat, a Bangalore-based social networking app which is bridging the gap of vernacular content in India, has bagged US$4 million in series A funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners. Existing investors – SAIF Partners and India Quotient also participated in this round of funding, which was closed a week ago, the company said.
Venture Highway, another early stage investor, also has a minority contribution. The investment from Venture Highway is interesting because the firm is advised by Neeraj Arora, business head at WhatsApp. ShareChat started as a content sharing tool for the widely used chat service.
When the startup garnered a million shares a week, the founders ‑ Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh, and Ankush Sachdeva – decided to build that tool into a fully-fledged social network. The app was launched in October 2015.
The startup plans to use the funds to improve its technology, which is again similar to what WhatsApp uses. “If you go to tier 2 cities, WhatsApp and ShareChat are the only internet-based apps that work properly because we use a lean technology which consumes low data and power,” Farid told Tech in Asia.
The startup also plans to launch services in Indian dialects – such as Bhojpuri or Haryanvi – spoken in small pockets of the country.
ShareChat is currently available in six Indian languages, such as Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Telugu, Punjabi, and Oriya. The team is currently testing two new languages – Tamil and Bengali – and will launch them soon.
The startup has 2 million active users. It seeks to increase its active user base to 25 million by July 2018. Ambitious? Farid thinks otherwise. “We have an addressable market of 200 million users who seek vernacular content, and we are expanding. Achieving 25 million users in next 20 months will not be a problem,” he assures.
ShareChat doesn’t have a revenue model in place at present, and that is not going to be their priority anytime soon, because, as Farid says, “we want to first capture the market.” ShareChat is an open platform where users can create, discover, and share content with each other, much like Tumblr and Instagram. That’s the reason the repository of information available on ShareChat is wide, including horoscopes, entertainment, news, jokes, videos, and memes.
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