Nasadiya Technologies’ run self-publishing platform Pratilipi announced on Monday that it had raised $4.3 million in Series A round of funding led by Omidyar Network with participation from existing investors, Nexus Venture Partners, Atul Goel, Contrarian Capital and Times Internet Limited and new investors Shunwei Capital and WEH Ventures. The company had previously raised $1 million in its seed round in February 2016 led by Nexus Venture Partners.
Incorporated in March 2015, Pratilipi claims to be the largest Indian language self-publishing platform. Currently operational in eight Indian languages, the platform lets both professional and hobbyist writers publish their books, stories, and essays, which the startup claims is read by millions of their readers.
The company has a current team size of 31 people and was started by five co-founders, Sankaranarayanan Devarajan, Rahul Ranjan, Sahradayi Modi, Prashant Gupta and Ranjeet Pratap Singh. All of them hail from small towns so they could personally relate to the pain point that there was very little online content in Indian languages. According to the team's estimates, 90 percent of Indians can only read/write/speak in Indian languages and hence they decided to build Pratilipi to cater to this target audience.
Ranjeet, Co-founder & CEO, Pratilipi hails from a small village in Rae Bareli. Everyone in his family and neighbourhood knows only Hindi. In an earlier interview with YourStory, he said,
Even people like me who may have some grasp of English language, still feel more connected to our mother tongue. We may watch Hollywood movies, but we also love Bollywood. We love Chandrakanta as much as we love Game of Thrones!
Pratilipi was showcased at the first-ever Indian Language Digital festival, Bhasha, on March 11, 2017, in New Delhi, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and exclusive language partner Reverie Language Technologies.
The team claims that so far over 80 million content pieces have been read on the platform with over 150,000 content pieces published by over 22,000 authors in eight Indian languages - Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam.
The team noted that its Android app has over million downloads on the Google PlayStore and its daily active users(across web and mobile) spend 35 minutes a day reading on the platform.
Talking about its revenue model, Ranjeet noted that the company's current focus is on learning from users and further enhancing its product offering. He told YourStory,
We are not generating any meaningful revenue right now and we do not think this would be a focus area for us in short-term (over next 12-18 months) though we have done and will continue to do some experiments around it.
But in the long run, Ranjeet believes that when they do shift the focus to monetisation, it would primarily be a combination of two things;
1. Premium content - Making some content (5-10 percent of total content) available as premium content for which users would pay directly via transactions/subscription.
2. IP rights- Licensing and management for the most valuable original content pieces on the platform.
Siddharth Nautiyal, Investment Partner, Omidyar Network believes that 9 out of 10 of the next half a billion Indians coming online over the next five years will be more conversant in their native languages than in English. However, content for these consumers is scarce, as an estimated 99 percent of online content is available in English, despite an immense demand for local language content.
On the global front, Medium is one of the most well-known self-publishing platforms. In October 2017, Medium began monetising its platform through a $5/month subscription service. Amazon too has a self-publishing platform called Kindle Direct Publishing(KDP), a way for authors and publishers to publish their books worldwide on the Kindle and Kindle reading apps. KDP is currently available in five Indian languages.
Pratilipi will be using the funds raised to expand and strengthen the existing team in the areas of product, technology and data science and also for further growth and partnerships. It also aims to add more languages and content formats later this year.