Coming in ‘shorts’ – News, from IIT students, for the mobile-first nationShradha Sharma
Swamped by news? Tired of headlines overload? Breaking down from breaking news? Try ‘News in Shorts’ from three IIT students. Currently on leave from their college, they have co-founded a startup in Delhi to give you news in short snatches. The venture – of Azhar Iqubal, and Anunay Arunav of IIT Delhi (Mathematics and Computing), and Deepit Purkayastha of IIT Kharagpur (Computer Science and Engineering) – has a self-explanatory name, News in Shorts (NIS), a mobile-based service that guarantees to deliver news within 60 words.
Ask them more about what they are doing, and what led them to startup; pat comes their passionate reply.
We always wanted to do something which could help our country grow into a more aware nation. We realised that news media (one of the four pillars of a successful democracy) in India had a lot of scope for improvement, especially with technology acting as an enabler.
We realised that the future of the country, the youth, who were ready to spend hours on Facebook or Whatsapp, were not even aware of the most important news of the day. Seeing this repeated pattern around us, and after talking to these people, we concluded that the only reason the young generation was not reading news was because the existing sources were very content heavy – not optimized for a person who wants to get updated in minutes. So, we started News in Shorts to address this pain point.
We started to explore the media sector around December 2011, and started working out and analysing the entire space, trying to find solutions for the various problems. That finally culminated in launching a very lean product: News in Shorts, on 1st April 2013. We basically give you the current news in short format.
The intent is to ensure that news reading and information become accessible to all. A common person does not have to spend too much time reading and assimilating the information all around him/her. Our editors read news from all the credible sources, handpick the best stories, and summarize them so that users can get themselves updated within seconds. NIS provides only factual news without any opinions. The focus is more on mobile-first consumability of the content. That way, you get synthesised news on your phone, on the go.
In just a few months, validation came from the market, in various forms. News in Shorts has a strong 50k fan following on Facebook, 1000+ Android app downloads, and was selected in the TLabs Accelerator program run by Times Internet.
What motivates us when we see a lot of youngsters, who never cared about the daily happenings, are reading news and getting updated. It feels like we are making our youth informed and helping the nation grow. In the words of one of our users, “This is the best news app that I've ever come across. It is because of this app only that I've started getting updated about the stuff. Before it, I wasn't so much interested in reading news at all.” Such appreciation from our users keeps us going and aspiring to do more.
Having a deep incline towards numbers and tech, we are currently planning to scale by building on the "personalisation" and "summarisation" capability of our product. We believe the automation of summarization will help us to churn out as much content as required although we would continue having manual intervention. The personalization will help us serve the most appropriate short news articles for a particular user which will help us scale in terms of the various kinds of user preferences.
Currently, the app usage has grown organically, and we are facing a challenge which most bootstrapped entrepreneurs face: How to ensure mass adoption without spending money?