Featuring local, instant and relevant news in Karavali (a dialect of Kannada), the Namma Karavali app is transcending linguistic barriers and creating a personal connect.
Language is an important part of one’s identity. It connects people, builds relationships and creates a sense of belonging. With English being the dominant language for news and stories online, very few understand that all Indians are not proficient in the language. Also, favouring a regional language over English is not wrong, it simply suggests freedom of choice.
Namma Karavali has cashed in on the need for news in a regional language and launched its own app, an online hyperlocal news aggregator for the coastal Karnataka audience spread across the world. Users can stay abreast of happenings in local towns and also of news across the world, all curated in their own language, Karavali.
Content is king
Mohammed Azzan Patni (27), the founder of Namma Karavali says that he stood out as a child as he was extremely disciplined. “I come from a town in Udupi district of Karnataka. I belonged to a traditional and orthodox family and so grew up well-mannered. I was often cited as an example to others,” he says.
When he was in high school, Azzan, inspired by a lecturer, started opening up and began hosting events and conducting plays. After completing his engineering in Information Science, he co-founded a software solutions company, Pace Wisdom Solutions Pvt. Ltd. in 2012.
The idea of Namma Karavali took root when Azzan gifted his mother a smartphone a year ago. “I noticed that she hardly used any app apart from WhatsApp or Candy Crush. This was because all the other apps mostly had English content. Although she can read English, understanding content was difficult.” he says.
“This was when the idea struck me. I thought why not create a content discovery platform that can help users get local, instant and relevant content in their own language?”
The idea was pitched to the board at Pace Wisdom, and upon approval, it was taken up as a weekend project by Azzan and two other developers. “We had two interns who sourced content from over 60 local, regional, national and international news portals and summarised the news. The idea was to present only facts and not opinions. We also translated some interesting articles to Kannada.”
What started out as weekend project, garnered good response and with a proof of concept (POC) in place, Namma Karavali began by aggregating and summarising news in less than 60 words. It was launched as an app in July 2016.
The initial hurdle was understanding what people from this region like or dislike. But with the help of analytics integrated into the app, we were able to discern the taste of the locals. Contests that solicited feedback at regular intervals helped us understand user behaviour and interests. Since I did not have a media background, another big challenge I faced was gauging the market. We are tech guys new to the field of media and content. But I always believed great content is the key to user retention and this understanding helped.” says Azzan.
Relevant information in a regional language
Namma Karavali introduces users to the a vast world of content, in their own language, in this case, Karavali dialect.
“As an information science engineer I feel information is important for people to take wise decisions. Language should not be a barrier in any way.” says Azzan.
“Today most content available is in English. When we talk about bringing the next billion people online, it's important to reach out to them in their own language, one they are comfortable with.” he adds.
The app, now a year old, has threefold benefits. In this age of information overload, it disseminates only relevant information, cutting out fake news. It features handpicked and verified news from over 100 websites across various categories And most importantly, it allows people to explore content in their language.
With short pieces averaging around 60 words, Namma Karavali presents news in both Kannada and English. It also has links to detailed information for further reading. Sixty percent of the content is sourced from local news portals of the Karavali region, that include three main districts - Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada. The rest comprise summarised and translated news pieces on various topics ranging from international, national, health, entertainment to sport.
The Namma Karavali app has seen over 5000 downloads on the Android platform and 500 downloads on iOS in just a year. This has been possible mostly through word-of-mouth and very little marketing.
“We have regular downloads and are one of the highest rated apps in the coastal Karnataka belt with a rating of 4.8/5,” informs Azzan.
The app enjoys the attention of a vast diaspora. From young college students who rarely read newspapers and spend more time on their phones to office goers wanting to catch up on current affairs of their region, Namma Karavali caters to them all.
The most loved, viewed and shared feature of the app, largely followed by homemakers, is the Recipes Section that gets updated on weekends. Moreover, the app enjoys a global and national outreach attracting NRIs in the Gulf who hail from the Karavali belt, and also people working in Mumbai and Bengaluru who want to stay updated on news from their hometowns.
One happy user says, “I have quit reading newspapers after downloading Namma Karavali. With news in short bites, I get to the crux of the message without having to spend much time trying to understand a foreign language.”
An average user spends around two sessions on the app with each session spanning 2.5 minutes. Currently, Namma Karavali has 3,000 active monthly users out of the 5,000 downloads. Following the favourable response, the app was registered as Karavali Media Pvt. Ltd. in July this year and is headquartered at Mangalore.
The team has grown to three content writers, two sales and marketing executives, an operations executive and two developers continuously working on improving the app. Namma Karavali also has a development centre at Mangalore, and the team dreams of creating job opportunities in Tier Two cities for local talent, thereby reducing migration to bigger cities like Bengaluru.
Improvising with growth
Azzan has ambitious plans for the future. “Initially Namma Karavali was self-funded and most of the technological help came from Pace Wisdom. Our aim is to build a bigger user base and monetise the content.”
The vision is to also take the model further and include other dialects of Kannada, covering districts of Kodagu and Malenadu. Also, with a huge potential for location specific ads on this platform, they plan to add classified ads and information about agricultural product prices locally grown in Karavali, so that farmers gain valuable information from the app.
The strategy is to also incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into the application and build a chatbot in Kanglish (Kannada language spelt in English words) for business listing and services. The idea is to upgrade Namma Karavali into a voice-based search engine, where voice commands are understood with location specific answers given. They are already working on a POC with a Facebook chatbot to turn this into reality. “If the Chinese can have Baidu, Russians the Yandex, why can’t Indians have hyper local search engines in our vernacular languages?” questions Azzan.
Targeting 5,000 new users and downloads a month, Namma Karavali wants to reach out to at least 60,000 people in the next one year.