ShareChat is growing its team from 250 to 400 as it moves to monetize its 60 million user base

Sunil Kamath talks about ShareChat's expansion plansShareChat
  • ShareChat has raised a total of $224 million, with the latest Series D funding of $100 million from Twitter
  • The platform is now looking at starting its monetization journey and is reaching out to brands that could advertise on its platform
  • The platform’s aim is to get every Indian on to the internet, to a social network of its choice where they can converse in a language they are comfortable in
It’s been four years since ShareChat, India’s homegrown regional social networking platform came into being. The platform came into the limelight after it raised $100 million funding in Series-D from Twitter, bringing the total raised in funding to $224 million.

The company that was founded in 2015 by CEO Ankush Sachdeva, Bhanu Pratap Singh, and Farid Ahsan, currently has a strong user base of 60 million. It hasn’t been making any money till now, because according to Sunil Kamat, Chief Business Officer, ShareChat, the platform was in the growth-hack mode. As the platform is now starting its monetization journey, it is not only reaching out to brands to partner with them but also planning a major hiring spree. It plans to expand its team from its current strength of 250 to 400 within the next three to four months.

While they haven’t put a target figure to where they want to be in the next few years, Kamath shares that for them, the priority is to get more and more people onto the internet and present them with a platform where they are comfortable conversing and sharing their opinions.

Edited excerpts:

Q) It’s been four years since ShareChat started its journey. How has it been so far?
We came into being four years ago, before the data revolution happened. Our journey has been pretty impactful till now. Our co-founders saw a gap in the social media landscape early on and saw a large opportunity for a regional social platform, and that’s where it all began. It's good to be early in the space and we are glad to be at the forefront of change because a lot of people are now trying to mimic our platform. It's a good feeling.

Q) How big is the team right now, and how do you plan to scale it up?
We will be hiring a lot of talent for the company across various units. Our strength is currently at 250, which we plan to scale up to 400 in the next four months.

Q) You say you aren’t chasing targets right now. What are you in it for then?
One thing that India has been missing is the ability to get everybody on board. For us, it’s about getting every Indian user to be on a social network of his choice and to make him comfortable with his language. What motivates us is the thought of bringing every Indian user to the Internet and thereby help improve his quality of life over a period of time.

Q) What has your revenue model been so far?
Our revenue model will be ad-based. Till now, we have been completely focused on growth. However, we are not in this for the short-tem. Our aim is to become one of the largest social networks in India, which means we will be heavily acquisition-based. Now that we have acquired users, it's good to open up to partners, to reach the audience. It's good for our audience too, as they have brands coming on board that they can interact with brands. We will end up building our own journey because it's always been that way for us. We never had parallel system to look up to. But people tend to replicate ShareChat’s journey which is overwhelming.

Q) While you’ve been in existence for four years, you haven’t spoken about the platform too much. How have you been reaching out to your audience?
Our audience belongs to the Tier II, III and IV markets, so we come up with a lot of regional communication. It's about who you want to communicate to. If I wanted to attract the investor community, I would talk to the mainline media. We are doing a lot of work in the regional side; we work with a network where we get access to regional print, television. However, now that we are starting to monetize the platform, you will see a lot more of us. We were in this growth hack mode all these years and didn’t have too much to talk about. We were just putting our heads together, getting the product fitment right, the initial engagement metrics in place and then scaling up with the acquisition of consumers and audience retention. That journey continues. Now we are aiming at accelerating the reach for the platform, getting people to know about ShareChat and build monetization opportunities for the platform, to see how we can get brands to engage with audiences because it’s a fairly new audience for them as well.

Q) You have seen good growth in terms of your consumer base. What have you done right?
As a platform, we are very data and insights driven. Since we are a User Generated Content platform, our consumers create content for other users to consume. So, a lot of our learning comes from our users. We see people behaving in a certain manner and modify our platform according to the needs of our consumers. We have a comment section on the platform where we observed people started asking for each other’s numbers and other details. Seeing this, we enabled a chat feature. We also observe the kind of content people are consuming on the platform. Sometimes, a nicely edited content might necessarily not do as well as another piece of normal content that people connect better with. So, these are the insights which we pick up. We unlearn and learn again and that's what keeps us going.

Q) Going ahead, what will be your marketing strategy?
A lot of our marketing will be focused on driving engagement for consumer on content. We will focus on encouraging consumers to use our camera feature. On the other side, we want to build monetization through brands and marketing channels.

Q) Have you seen a lot of interest from marketers?
We are still at a very early stage because we are just starting that journey now. I have met top FMCG brands and had amazing conversations. They are the ones who are giving us ideas about how they can use the platform. This is probably the first time that brands will have the ability to put up ads in 14-15 languages on a single platform. It's a challenge and an opportunity at the same time because I don't think digital agencies are equipped to run campaigns in more than a few languages.

Q) Are you planning to expand to more languages?
As a country, we have 22 official languages. We would love to evaluate a language on the basis of what it brings to the table, whether there’s a significant upside of that language. We have also done dialects like Rajasthani, Haryanvi and Bhojpuri because we are a very visual platform in terms of content. We recently brought in Urdu too. We are currently building a team of people who would be well-versed in these languages too, to be able to help consumers. We have teams for various languages and each of them has learning of their own language. What works in 'A' might not work in 'B' but could work in 'C'. So, they work independently, but there is a lot of common understanding of engaging content.

Q) With this new round of funding coming in, what will your key focus areas be?

The new round of funding hasn’t changed things much at our end. It's more of a financial transaction at this stage but with every round you raise, you become more responsible, towards your shareholders, and investors. So, we really have to make sure that we have very good stories.



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