Twitter, Tiger Global, Tencent and others have pumped in over $900 million into India’s vernacular social media platforms in a year

Twitter, Tiger Global, Tencent and others have pumped in over $900 million into India’s vernacular social media platforms in a year
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay
  • Lokal app has reportedly raised $12 million (close to ₹90 crore) from China-based Tencent.
  • ShareChat, Public App, Koo and Lokal have raised over $900 million in a little over a year.
  • XScale Accelerator’s startup mentor Sunil Kamath highlighted that 9 out of 10 users are accessing internet content in their local languages, which is compelling investors to jump in.
After InShorts’ Public app, Bengaluru-based Lokal app is the latest desi social media platform to garner the interest of the big shot investors.

The three-year-old startup has reportedly raised $12 million (close to ₹90 crore) from China-based Tencent, which is one of the leading internet and technology companies. 3one4 Capital, Y Combinator and India Quotient — which have been an investor in the company for two years — also participated in the round, as per a TechCrunch report.

Lokal has declined to comment on this report. However, there seems to be a larger trend in play here.

Sept 2020ShareChat$40 millionHero MotoCorp’s Dr. Pawan Munjal
Sept 2020Public App $19 millionLee Fixel’s Addition
Dec 2020ShareChat$100 millionTwitter
Mar 2021Public App$22.4 millionA91 Partners
May 2021Koo$30 millionTiger Global
July 2021InShorts* $60 million Vy Capital
April 2021ShareChat$502 millionTiger Global
July 2021ShareChat$145 millionTemasek
Source: Media reports
*InShorts is the parent company of vernacular social media platform Public app.
**This list does not include the short video apps and platforms that have raised multiple million dollar rounds in the last one year post the TikTok ban.

Seems like investors are keeping a close eye on the social media apps for Bharat — the Tier II and III of India.

While there are multiple other platforms in this domain — Sharechat, Koo, Public App, Lokal— have raised over $900 million.

$900 million funding in a little over a year

XScale Accelerator’s startup mentor Sunil Kamath, citing a Sharechat report, highlighted that 9 out of 10 users are accessing internet content in their local languages.

Meanwhile, Ankur Bansal of BlackSoil investment firm added that only 12% of urban and 3% of the rural population speak English and such rapid adoption of social media apps coupled with a large market opportunity has led to interest from the Indian investor community in this space

StartupUse caseUsers
ShareChatSocial media for entertainment 160 million
Koo India’s alternative to Twitter52 million
Public AppLocation-based app for hyperlocal networking50 million
Lokal AppLocation-based app for hyperlocal updates and interactions2.5 million users

Source: Official statements by the respective companies

ShareChat is obviously the biggest startup amongst these players, with a valuation nearing $3 billion and a monthly active user base of 160 million. Public App is valued at over $250 million. Lokal’s and Koo’s valuations are still undisclosed.

But challenges still persist

“This catchment geography referred to as “Bharat” is positioned as the catchment for the next billion users of the internet and social media. Thus, the startups aiming to tap this segment have a huge potential opportunity. With investors taking interest, coming days hold promise for vernacular social media platforms,” Center of Innovation & Incubation’s (CII) chief executive Manisha Acharya said.

Challenges ahead of these Indian social media players
Ensuring data security
Content creation and keeping users engaged
Constantly updating and revamping its offering
Attracting celebrities to engage users
Source: Industry experts

“Facebook is a very good example of innovation and relatability, over time facebook stopped re-inventing its platform and on the other hand Instagram took every opportunity to re-invent. From a mere photo sharing platform to now generating 1.04 billion users worldwide in 2021, 71% of the Instagram users are in the millennial generation (under the age of 35). On an average an Instagram user spends nearly 53 minutes on the platform on a daily basis,” said Devendra Agrawal, Founder and chief executive of Dexter Capital Advisors.

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