The funds will be used to strengthen the Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence efforts of the company, with a focus on expanding the technology divisions.
Indian language social platform ShareChat raised $18 million in Series B funding from Shun Wei Capital and Xiaomi Singapore. Existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Saif Partners, India Quotient and VH Capital also participated in the fundraising.
The funds will be used to strengthen the Machine Learning and AI efforts of the company, to expand the technology divisions.
Founded in October 2015 by IIT Kanpur alumni Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh, and Ankush Sachdeva, ShareChat is looking to build the largest social content network in India with a focus on small-town users, and vernacular content. ShareChat started as a content repository app to share on WhatsApp, and has now evolved into a full-fledged social network.
With a monthly user base of more than 8 million, ShareChat plans to utilise the funds for expansion, and efficiently manage increasing cloud infrastructure costs.
Ankush Sachdeva, Co-founder, ShareChat said:
“Vernacular content consumption in India has witnessed a meteoric rise in the last 2 years growing from 42 million in 2011 to 234 million in 2016. These numbers are a great indication of the huge opportunity available for products, focused on the vernacular audience.”
He added, “Therefore, to capitalise on this, we at ShareChat, aim to use innovative technology in order to optimise social media content for this new set of Indian users. In a bid to solve day to day problems of consumers dealing with technology, our algorithms are efficiently designed to reduce language hassles and make the platform intuitive and convenient for all.”
“The faith of our investors has further validated our model and boosted our confidence that we are creating a valuable solution for India. We will use this fresh round of funds to build an even stronger tech team and expand our operations deeper into the country,” said Farid.
ShareChat is available in 10 languages - Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Odia, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. The app has been downloaded 21 million times, with roughly 8 million monthly active users on the platform. On a daily level, 5 million content pieces get shared per day from ShareChat.
Mayank Khanduja, from SAIF Partners, said, “ShareChat is geared to become a unique problem solver for the mass vernacular audience in India. Having closely worked with the team over some time now, we are extremely pleased with their focus on using technology to connect these new internet users, and we are pleased to partner with them in their next phase of growth.”
Akshay Bhushan, from Lightspeed India Partners, added, “As early investors in ShareChat, we’re excited to welcome Shunwei and Xiaomi as co-investors who bring a wealth of experience and learning from the Chinese internet ecosystem and affirming our belief in founders Farid, Ankush and Bhanu in making ShareChat the defacto platform and voice for the next billion Internet users.”
Anand Lunia, from India Quotient, said, “Since the beginning of the startup boom in India, we have been told by the wise that we have to learn from FaceBook. Hope now they will say 'learn from ShareChat'. We at India Quotient firmly believe that our country of 1.25 billion can produce many many world-class consumer products.”
Google estimated that the digital media would grow at 26 percent, vernacular users poised to grow at 18 percent CAGR. For years, the vernacular digital space was untapped due to low literacy rates, lack of technology, low income, mobile and Internet penetration in India.
However, with growing Internet usage, backed by cheaper data and rise in smartphone penetration, a clutch of startups and companies have entered the vernacular language space.
In December last year, Noida-based content discovery app Inshorts had raised $5 million funding from Tiger Global Management’s Singapore investment vehicle, Internet Fund III Pte Holdings.
In late 2016, local language app Dailyhunt had raised $25 million in Series D funding led by ByteDance, a global tech company operating content platforms worldwide. Other investors, Matrix Partners, Sequoia Capital India, Falcon Edge, Omidyar and former CEO of Vodafone, Arun Sarin, participated in that round of funding.