Forget Facebook, YoBlunt is the next big social network that lets ‘you be you’Athira Nair
At a glance
Founders: Ashish Bais, Manish Bais, Rishita Varma
Year of launch: 2017
Where it is based: Faridabad
Problem it solves: A platform where you can post selfie videos anonymously
Funding: Seed fund undisclosed
Online social networks are the perfect platform to show the world how colourful and happy our lives are, as we celebrate our vacations and social lives on Facebook and Instagram. But sometimes, this is just a façade. Behind the smiles and jokes we share on social media, we are still human – with everyday problems. We have our struggles – in our careers, family, relationships, with sexuality, in society, and with our own selves.
Oftentimes, we don’t want to reveal these struggles for the world to see – we fear judgment, derision, and that others are secretly happy to see our unhappiness. In a world where the use of internet and mobile phones is a given, what if there was a way to express your real emotions without being judged? This was the thought that led to YoBlunt.
Ashish Bais, 33, noted how some of his own friends and family members who otherwise were dealing with serious personal issues, showcased their best faces forward - lovely, problem free, and successful lives on social media.
“Being positive is good but having real emotions buried within and projecting to be happy to maintain your social footprint, is not,” he says.
Ashish, along with his brother Manish, 31, started looking for a way to enable people to express their real emotions and not be judged by the society, and get empathic support. They were joined by Ashish’s wife Rishita Varma.
Both Ashish and Manish are seasoned techies. Ashish worked for five years as a Business Intelligence Consultant in the US, and has a Masters in Information Systems from Illinois State University. Manish has worked as an EU Compliance Specialist in the European headquarters of Amazon at Luxembourg. He is a graduate from HEC Paris and IIT Kharagpur.
At a brainstorming session, the team decided on a name that focused on sharing honestly (Blunt) without any pressure of making it just interesting, and feel cool-fun (Yo) about it! The amalgamation made it the YoBlunt- Selfie video to express, anonymously.
YoBlunt was launched in mid-2017, as an anti-Facebook proposition. It is a platform restricted to selfie narration videos only and this is ensured by using technology. YoBlunt has developed a patent-pending Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to make a person anonymous within a selfie video post.
This Faridabad-based startup is clear about its target audience:
High targets - Young college students from age 19 to 24, as they are more open to new internet applications and have more drive for digital content.
Medium targets - Corporate employees from age 25 to 35.
Low targets- Age group 34-50 as they are slow adopters and ride the wave at later phase.
The need for a generation
Being located in the Delhi-NCR region is an advantage for YoBlunt. Ashish says it was comparatively easy to approach legal professionals for patent formality. It was also easy to approach young students to test the beta version and get user feedback.
YoBlunt App positions itself as a platform to express and share real emotions in the form of videos and seek community engagement and support. For this purpose, YoBlunt provides a UI and flow which takes least effort and provides seamless user experience.
Users can blur out their face in self-videos, and can also comment via video or text. There is an option to show ‘support’ as well.
One of their testimonials reads thus: “This app really helps when people wanna just let out their frustrations and not be judged for it, rather get support. Recommend it.”
YoBlunt collects user feedback through Google reviews and social media, and keeps on improvising. For instance, time was not a limit in the beta stage, but the videos usually received were mostly around 30 seconds.
Users emphasised that a shorter duration and a timer be incorporated. Instead of risking losing a significant portion of viewers after one minute, YoBlunt understands shorter videos help ensure users will complete them.
Ashish claims that the 30-second length also gives video makers optimum time to communicate their message and influence the audience to reply with their own videos.
It was not an easy task to get the audience on board.
YoBlunt regularly collaborates with influencers who understand the importance of mental wellbeing and sharing real feelings without the fear of judgment. MTV Roadies and Splitsvillan Kavya Khurana, MTV VJ Varun Sood, TV Actors Paras Kalnawat and Urfi Khan, Youtuber Radhika Bangia, Bigg Boss celebrity Arshi Khan are among them.
“Although what YoBlunt is doing is basic simple human emotional communication establishment, the message itself is little too new to society. So the biggest challenge is to get the message across about its benefits, but once a user uses the platform, she becomes addicted,” Ashish claims.
He says their biggest success is the kind of content they receive. He gives a few examples:
- Lost ones: “I feel I am bi-sexual. My parents are from the educated strata of society - they understand and support LGBTQ community. Gay is acceptable until is not their son.”
(Users say they gain confidence from support to accept reality.)
- Vulnerable ones: “I am in a relationship with a guy three years elder to me. He loves me but physically assaults me at times. But he makes up by treating me with fabulous night outings.”
(This one received reply videos of advice. After all, sometimes a nudge is required to accept the fact and gain self-confidence to break a bad habit.)
- Silent shouts: “I am a Muslim. Proud of my religion but it’s unacceptable to me to see my three-year-old forced to wear hijab.”
(With no identity, YoBlunt empowers to voice opinion on “unspeakable” topics.)
Ashish adds that there are many other kinds of content that people express on YoBlunt which cannot be found elsewhere on the internet. It includes people sharing issues in their personal and professional lives, as well as their views on politics and culture.
With social media marketing, YoBlunt aims to create brand awareness and position the app in a way that users prefer it as a go-to place for candid sharing and get support from like-minded people. Users often share inspiring or funny videos. The app lets you create your own groups as well as follow others.
Growth as a startup
YoBlunt, which was launched as a bootstrapped startup, has raised a seed fund through an NRI investor for developing the tech suite. But the founders are not concerned about revenue generation at the moment.
“YoBlunt is currently focusing on its social impact. Monetisation has not been planned. We believe if something really impacts society in a positive way, money follows,” says Ashish.
YoBlunt’s larger ecosystem partners include media houses, NGOs specifically working for teens and emotional well-being, and technology suite providers. “We also have a plan to provide an organisation system to institutes in a later stage,” Ashish adds.
The technologies used in YoBlunt are the internet, Android, mobile device component access, API from third-party for geo-location, data hosting, and conversion and transmission services. After initial penetration, YoBlunt will expand on its Artificial Intelligence capabilities to provide valuable marketing services to its customers.
YoBlunt app is currently available in Android version in Google Playstore while its iOS version is under development. Along with interns, YoBlunt is a nine-member team, which works in operations, product enhancement, technology, architecture, and marketing.
YoBlunt has competitors only outside India. California-based Whisper is a mobile app that lets users anonymously post messages as text superimposed over an image. Founded in 2012, Whisper has more than 10 million monthly active users. Another one from California, AfterSchool app – founded in 2014 - is an anonymous and private message board for high schools.
In India, the scope is huge for YoBlunt, and not just because there is no competitor. The country currently has 500 million internet users. Census estimates say that by 2020, the average age of Indian will be 29.
Needless to say, this gives a perfect, large customer base for YoBlunt. Ashish says the app already has 50,000 downloads.
After all, who would pass an opportunity to whine anonymously and get attention without revealing one’s identity?