Vokal, Bengaluru-based Indian language knowledge sharing platform founded by Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka has raised $5 million Series A funding led by Shunwei Capital, existing investors - Blume Ventures, Accel India and 500 startups. Vokal is a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform for India’s non-English Internet users.
Most non-English speaking Indians either rely on family and friends, or a few content platforms. Aprameya believes there isn’t much high-quality content in Indian languages that can cater to the masses. A person who doesn’t know English in India has a huge problem of accessing relevant answers to his questions.
Aprameya added that the economic disparity in the country is primarily because of ‘knowledge disparity.’ In a press statement released on the funding, he said:
“India is a large market and the language Internet users are underserved today. We are bullish on Vokal’s ability to create an information and knowledge platform to cater to this segment of users. They are proven entrepreneurs and have built large Internet businesses before. We are happy to be partnering them in this mission.”
Founded early this year, Vokal claims to have over 2,00,000 questions with thousands of questions pouring in everyday on varied topics that are very unique to India. Vokal is currently available in Hindi and will soon launch in multiple languages. It also has a live video streaming feature where experts share their knowledge with users.
Aprameya believes non-English speaking Indians behave differently on the internet than English speaking Indians. We use WhatsApp to communicate. For the non-English speaking Indian, communication is calling and WhatsApp is for sharing, not communicating. They aren’t conversing. While many might even have accounts on Facebook, they don't express there.
India is one of the few countries with large language diversity. The Indian vernacular segment is poised to be almost twice the size of the US. Mayank believes their internet experience is broken with basic translation widgets available as solutions for their information and knowledge needs.
"We are creating a product ground-up that they can use everyday. This is an Indian problem that needs an Indian solution. Translation of existing content is a non-solution for a country that thrives on audio-visual media as their preferred consumption mode.”
Starting with the premise that while people knew that they wanted to say and express, few actually create content. People, Aprameya and Mayank realised, needed to be nudged towards creating content, and in that sense a question-answer format worked as the best context setter.
Vokal’s current target audience comes from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan and the team is setting the playbook in Hindi, which will be replicated in other languages.
Anand Daniel, Partner, Accel Partners said, “Language diversity is an Indian problem and Vokal is building India-specific solutions to cater to the information and knowledge needs of the non-English users. We are happy to support Vokal’s mission of creating a destination for the vernacular audience. The market is expected to balloon to over 550 million users over the next couple of years.”