Sex is a great way to start a business, not to build one: Dailyhunt president


Content businesses, especially those that focus on users coming online for the first time, need to be built with quality content, says Umang Bedi, Dailyhunt President.

Content is king - With over 460 million internet users, India is the second largest online market, ranked only behind China. And with this number expected to go up to 635.8 million by 2021, the demand for content will soar.

So, how does one target the next 500 million Indian users? "Definitely not with porn," said Virendra Gupta, Founder and CEO, and Umang Bedi, President, of Dailyhunt, the app that publishes and aggregates news in 17 languages.

Speaking to YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma at the ninth edition of TechSparks, the duo tried to define what makes content businesses in India tick. Especially now that there's a new buzzword in town - Bharat or India 2.

“Today, there is this new craze for content in Bharat, but when you open any of the content in these apps, the quality is low, and many times there is adult content. What is happening?” Shradha began.  

Umang, who was the head of Facebook India before joining Dailyhunt, chose to respond by asking the audiences candidly: “How many of you choose to see video adult content?” A brave few raised their hands. Umang said:

“Sex sells, and it is great way to start a business, but not a great way to build a business. If you look at all the different new apps that are coming up, the kind of content that is coming is racy and raunchy or super-low quality."

He added that investor focused on DAUs (Daily Active Users) and MAUs (Monthly Active Users) and did not understand that businesses, especially in content and with a focus on the users who are coming online for the first time, need to be built with quality content. 

Started as NewsHunt in 2009 by ex-Nokia employees Chandrashekhar Sohoni and Umesh Kulkarni, the platform was acquired by Verse Founder Virendra Gupta in 2012. The struggle for screen space and time spent was tough, but is one that Dailyhunt can claim to have conquered.

Dailyhunt has, since the very beginning, aimed to be the largest Indic platform, empowering the next billion Indians who come online to “discover, socialise, and consume content that informs, enriches and entertains”. 

Build a business on a long shot 

In July 2018, Dailyhunt added over 12 million net new monthly active users; in August, it beat the previous month’s performance with the addition of 15 million net new monthly active users. The total monthly users on all platforms put together as of September 2018 was 138 million, of which Dailyhunt accounted for 100 million. Moreover, the time spent per daily active user is over 27 minutes per person per day.

The idea is to take a long shot in the next five years. You need to look at India from its social fabric perspective and not build anything looking at the West. We, as Indian founders, understand our business better and need to build our business accordingly. Just because Jio has made data cheaper and there's a new world to conquer doesn’t mean we don’t build our business with a long-term vision,” Virendra said. 

“But all said and done, every startup needs funding and to get the investors, you need the DAUs and MAUs. So when you have raunchy content, the cost of acquisition of customers becomes lower and makes it easier to get customers, isn’t it?” Shradha asked. 

Umang responded, “Keeping the issue of data privacy aside, if you look at Facebook and Google, they have built great businesses with time. They have issues of their own - live user-generated content, which could at times be illegal or immoral, needs to be monitored regularly and consistently. They have made a bunch of investments in AI, ML, and technology to ensure the content is moderated.” 

Don’t be myopic 

The problem, according to Umang, is that investors are being “myopic.”

“How can you build a business with content like that? It will just get the initial MAUs, but will any advertiser or brand want to advertise their brand where there is raunchy content? Is there any model of monetisation? And how are you valuing entities with a fad like this?” he asked. 

The user base for non-English content is high. Reports suggest India’s internet community adds over 1 crore, or 10 million, daily active users (DAUs) each month. From autorickshaw drivers to shopkeepers, from college students to homemakers, content consumption on the mobile is on the rise, and skewed towards video and news. 

The number of users on Dailyhunt grew by 25 percent month on month, and 145 percent year on year. At this rate, Dailyhunt could comfortably cross 150 million MAUs by March 2019, and over 200 million by October 2019. It is currently in the process of raising Series E funding round, and is valued at a pre-money valuation of $400-$500 million.

“To monetise the content for this segment you need to take a long shot and focus on content you know businesses and consumers will pay for,” Virendra said. 

Focus on quality 

Dailyhunt has a strong focus on video, including auto-play video in feed, unique video content, and content partnerships that help drive growth. Dailyhunt’s strategy entails not only providing informational news content, but also content across diverse genres like entertainment, lifestyle, astrology, Bollywood, sports, divinity etc.

Umang said personalisation goes a long way in creating value for the customer and Dailyhunt is doing this with AI, ML and deep learning technologies. Today, the platform has over 1,500 publishing partners, and hosts over 2.5 lakh articles and videos a day, of which 1 lakh are new articles and videos. 

“The idea is to build a great business in the long term and focus on giving new internet users good high-quality content,” the Dailyhunt duo stated. 

YourStory's annual extravaganza TechSparks brings together the best and the brightest from the startup ecosystem, corporate world, policy makers, and of course, the investor community. Over the years, it has grown to become India's most loved tech and startup platform for knowledge sharing and networking. The ninth edition of TechSparks also marks YourStory's 10th anniversary. A big thank you for all your support over the years and keep reading and watching YourStory.