Servicing India’s local, primarily rural, languages might be the next big trend for content and media for the country’s startups
Indian content provider DailyHunt, which aggregates in a dozen of India’s languages, has raised a $25 million Series D funding round (Rs 168 crore) led by Chinese content provider ByteDance with participation from Sequoia Capital India and Matrix Partners India. Fresh funds will also come from past investors Omidyar Network, Falcon Edge and former Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin.
“DailyHunt has grown by partnering with publishers, developers, advertisers and other ecosystem partners,” Virendra Gupta, the founder of Ver Se’ Innovation which currently owns DailyHunt, told Techcircle.in. “The investment by ByteDance, which has done this at scale, reinforces our belief in the opportunity.”
They currently serve a dozen languages: English, Urdu, Odia, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Nepali, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil. Odia (Oriya) and Bhojpuri are prominent rural India, considered under-connected areas of the country. It was not immediately clear if the new round would go toward expanding to new languages.
Originally dubbed NewsHunt by Umesh Kulkarni and Chandrashekhar Sohoni in 2009, it was rebranded last year. They claim on their site to have reached 95 million installs, resulting in over 2.3 billion pages being consumed on a monthly basis from more than 200 sources.
“DailyHunt is serving a huge, unmet need of providing local language content to Indian mobile users and has grown with its localized approach ad-business model,” Techcircle.in reporting, quoting ByteDance Founder and CEO Zhang Yiming. ByteDance also operates recommendation platforms TopBuzz in the US and Brazil as well as Toutiao in China.
Populating the Indian internet with multilingual content
India is linguistically diverse with many provinces granting official status to one or more languages besides the national languages of English and Hindi. Several of those languages are considered under-served by the web. For instance, some Indian languages are not available on Google Translate or Microsoft Translator because of the sparse traffic they create from underdeveloped areas of the country. Languages such as Oriya (Odia), Bhojpuri and Assamese are just some of those needing extra attention.
However, it would be false to assume these languages don’t exist on the web, and one could argue that consolidating more content in those languages would go a long way in getting more people on the internet. There are several competitors in the news space up against DailyHunt, including Hike, Way2News and InShorts.
Currently in India, only about a quarter of rural users have smartphones, according to the Boston Consulting Group. They also can only connect through 2G and 3G networks. Recently, Vodafone started upgrading Odisha to 4G, where Odia (Oriya) is widely spoken. An Assamese search engine, Bisarok, was launched back in 2012, though it appears Bisarok hasn’t been highly developed. Another messaging app also trying to foster web use in local languages, ShareChat, raised $1.25 million in Series A funding recently.
Ver Se’ has its own history investments and acquisitions, pouring $2.25 million (Rs 15 crore) in July 2016 into another local language aggregator, OneIndia, which lists classifieds in Kannada, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali, and Malayalam. They acquired e-commerce startup Rocket Science Innovations and ValueFirst Messaging-backed recommendation engine BuyT.in back in 2015. DailyHunt last raised a $20 million Series C funding round led by Falcon in February 2015 and an $18 million Series B led by Sequoia in September 2014, according to Crunchbase.
Sequoia Capital India is a prolific investor which seems highly tuned to the need for localized services across the country. They are also an investor in localized search engine JustDial which maintains about a dozen offices across India. Matrix Partners India has a diverse portfolio of its own that includes Indian payments startups like Razorpay and Mswipe and ridesharing giant Ola.