Why social networking app Leher aims to be the Clubhouse for Tier I and II India

Bengaluru-based social networking app Leher offers live audio and video club rooms to discuss areas of interest with your network, community, or friends. The startup aims to create meaningful discussions to increase user engagement and grow its base to a million users by the end of this year.
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The last five years have seen the emergence of a slew of social media apps with one thing in common: the focus on India’s non-English-speaking population. 

The list includes ShareChat (now a unicorn), DailyHunt, Lokal, Roposo, Helo, and numerous others. Many steadily grew their user base, while others silently bit the dust. 

But Bangalore-based live audio discussion app Leher neither registered massive growth nor did it fall by the wayside. Years later, the social media app has made a mark as a made in India alternative to Clubhouse

“When we launched our app in 2018, the regional language social media apps space was in early stages. We, as an audio platform, were way ahead of the curve,” Vikas Malpani, CEO and Co-founder of Leher, told YourStory

The app was founded under Leher.AI Pvt Ltd by Vikas, a serial entrepreneur and angel investors in Unacademy, among others, and Atul Jaju, a senior engineer at Goldman Sachs. 

Leher grew its marketing spends to 10 percent from almost nil earlier. Credit: YourStory Design

Currently, Leher is getting major traction from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, among others, and Tier II cities including Agra, Ghaziabad, Ajmer, Bhopal and Chandigarh. 

Leher aims to expand beyond Tier II cities as well, but according to Vikas, the population in those cities is still behind the curve. 

“The behaviour in Tier III and Tier IV towns will mimic the behaviour of Tier I and Tier II communities. As of now, their predominant behaviour is consumption and not community engagement. Our focus is to get people with common interests to build a community and have discussion on our platform,” Vikas says.  

Leher is a live discussion social network that lets you drop into club rooms and discuss areas/topics of interest with your network, community, or friends. It invites people with similar interests to come together to “discuss ideas, learn, network, and build relationships”, and offers audio and video formats for live discussion similar to Silicon Valley-based Clubhouse. However, unlike Clubhouse, the app can be used by anyone; users only need an invite for private clubs.

The Clubhouse boom – the invite-only platform reached a valuation of $4 billion within 15 months of launch – heated up the live audio chat room space. Biggies such as Twitter and Facebook took notice and rolled out Spaces and Facebook Live Audio Rooms, as did Discord and Reddit. Internet giant and Swedish audio streaming app Spotify is also eyeing a piece of the live audio pie with its new offering, Spotify Greenroom. 

Creating a wave

Leher may have started small, but it’s aiming big on the back of its target audience, regional language internet users – a group that’s only set to grow. 

India has seen a surge of online users since 2016 due to internet connectivity being available at dirt cheap prices. The pandemic only accelerated this behaviour as many people went online to shop, play games, watch movies, and socialise online. 

In 2020, 89.5 percent people used social networking apps while 91.6 percent used chatting apps, according to Statista

Leher is banking on this rise to fuel its growth. Unlike other similar apps, which began raising funds and burned through investor money to acquire users, it has been growing gradually as the firm wants to operate their capital efficiently. 

Credit: YourStory Design

“We have never had a team of more than 10 people as we have always tried to optimise our costs. We are now hiring and there are 14 people in our team,” Vikas says. He did not reveal daily or monthly active users, but claims that out of the 2.7 lakh users, 40 percent comprises their active user base. The firm aims to reach a million users by the end of this year. 

Available on Android and iOS, the app currently has more than 100,000 downloads, according to data available on the Google PlayStore. Downloads may not be the most reliable metric as people often store an app and don’t use it, but the numbers do indicate an app’s popularity. 

Leher made Rs 11 lakh in total revenue in FY20, growing from Rs 4 lakh in FY19, according to financial documents sourced through Registrar of Companies. But the expenditure also increased to Rs 77.7 lakh in FY20, from Rs 21 lakh in the previous year. 

With at least 500 public audio and video chat rooms, Leher hosts discussion on various topics, including startups, investing, and journalism. These rooms have hosted guests including Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Lok Sabha member Salman Khurshid, Vikas says. 

To tap the growing demand for audio, the startup has grown its marketing spends to 10 percent, of total spends, from nearly zero before the pandemic. The founders say the marketing budget will grow even further - 30-40 percent - in the next couple of months. 

Vikas says he wants to drive discussions on his app through organic ways rather than hiring influencers.

“People who come for money also leave as soon as the money's gone. We would rather have knowledgeable people having engaging discussions,” he adds. 

For Vikas, the push for people to join the app would be finding discussions on topics they are interested in. The firm plans to do brand-building exercises to create awareness. 

“There are so many areas where discussions have not even started. Our aim is to push people to have these discussions organically, which will then create virality around our app. Hopefully, more people will join and increase user engagement,” Vikas says. 


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai