[Startup Bharat] Why these 2 college students decided to start a hyperlocal Hindi news app

Udaipur-based media tech startup Namaste Gaon focuses on providing hyperlocal news from cities, towns, and villages across Rajasthan. After raising seed funding, the founders plan to expand to other states in the coming year.
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While doing their B Tech course at Amity University, Jaipur, classmates Shubham Soni and Pulkit Khatri visited their home town, Udaipur, every four to six months. Each visit brought to light something new happening in the small towns and villages nearby.

This also led to the sobering realisation of the lack of availability of local news across the state.

“We understood that people in every small town depended heavily on newspapers for updates. But newspapers have limited coverage of geographical areas, and it is often difficult for people staying outside the district to stay updated,” Shubham says.

This led the duo to start a pilot version of Namaste Gaon in Udaipur in March 2018. Three months into pilot, they got registered and incubated under iStart, an initiative by Rajasthan government to support startups.

Six months into the pilot, with the help of local government, they launched the Namaste Gaon platform. Registered in 2019, the startup launched an app that offers hyperlocal news from across the state. As of now covers news in 25 places across six districts in Rajasthan.

The hyperlocal Hindi news app provides breaking news in all sectors: politics, crime, sports, business, technology, agriculture, and entertainment.

It also provides updates on gold, silver, and petrol rates, information on government jobs, and more. Users can also participate in a daily quiz contest on general knowledge and current affairs to win gifts.

Shubham and Pulkit, who started the platform while in college and graduated last year, are now fully involved in the startup.

Before starting Namaste Gaon, the friends – in their second year of college then - had launched Notesbundle, an online college notes provider portal. NotesBundle was selected for iB hubs Startup School in the year 2017.

News you can use

Namaste Gaon now has a team of 41 people with about 35 ground reporters who collect news for the company.

Available as both a website and mobile application, readers can get personalised content by registering on the platform and selecting the places – cities, towns, and villages –they want to track.

Apart from local news, the platform also shows general news of interest, including information related to the government, agriculture, upcoming elections, and more.

A screenshot of the website

The 24-year old founder says their differentiator is the availability of exclusive local news.

“Many major newspapers also cover local news. But they cover selected and breaking articles. We gather every bit of local news that people are interested in. They can rely on our platform for information in real time,” Shubham says.

He adds that all content on Namaste Gaon is verified and complete.

At present, the team is experimenting with all kind of content on the platform. “As of now, we publish every kind of news regardless of the sector. However, the most-read ones include politics, crime, government, and jobs - these are the major interests in our area,” Shubham says.

The market and the future

According to Statista, India's digital media market was valued at Rs 221 billion in 2019, with estimates projecting it would reach Rs 414 billion by 2022. Overall, the digital media industry in the country is poised for a strong growth of 23 percent compounded annually in this time frame.

COVID-19 proved to be a game-changer for Namaste Gaon, which competes with news apps such as Inshorts, Shortpedia, and ViralShots.

Shubham says many people stopped buying newspapers and started consuming news digitally amidst the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. “This helped us double our user base.

Namaste Gaon Co-founders Pulkit Khatri (L) and Shubham Soni I Image credit: Namaste Gaon

Namaste Gaon claims to have more than one lakh monthly active users on its platform, mostly from the website. The app has notched up over 10,000 downloads so far. The app is free and the company aims to earn through advertisements.

The media tech startup raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding in March 2020 from iB hubs.

“We now wish to expand to more cities in Rajasthan and enter other states such as Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana in the next 1.5 years,” Shubham says.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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