[Funding alert] FRND raises $6.5M in Series A round led by KRAFTON
, a Bengaluru-based audio romance and friend discovery startup, has raised $6.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI) creator KRAFTON. The round also saw participation from existing investors — India Quotient and Elevation Capital.
Founded in 2019 by IIT Kanpur alumni Bhanu Pratap Singh Tanwar, Hardik Bansal and Harshvardhan Chhangani, FRND is a dating app that allows users to connect with each other through live-streamed FRND dating and audio games such as Raja Rani Chor Police, Voice Match, and many other games with a focus on creating one-on-one connections.
Its users can connect via audio in a pseudo-anonymous manner and start conversations through a matchmaker. The matchmaker-led game and chat rooms on the platforms come with certain moderation systems aimed at connecting people through safe yet engaging conversations.
Bhanu Pratap Singh Tanwar, CEO and Co-founder of FRND, said “There is a huge untapped opportunity in the Indian romance market where youngsters connect and interact with the opposite gender over the internet. We have been working towards providing a safer platform to the Indian youth, especially girls. The security features and state-of-the-art algorithms make FRND just the right app for these next billion users to have a unique experience in a controlled way.”
He further added, “We are thrilled to have received funding from KRAFTON, Inc. With this funding, we are looking at growing FRND from the current 10 Indian languages, strengthening our technology ecosystem and increasing our footprint both within India and internationally.”
FRND is currently available on Google Play Store and has over five million registered users, with an average user spending approximately 25 minutes each day using the app
Commenting on the investment, Sean Hyunil Sohn, Head of India Division at KRAFTON, Inc, said in a press release, “This investment is aligned with our efforts to intensify our commitment to the startup ecosystem in India. FRND is a unique product that is disrupting an entire category with a unique local solution that global companies will find tough to adapt to. We see great potential in this high-volume transaction digital startup and are happy to invest in its growth story. We are driven to make a difference to the digital ecosystem in this country and will continue exploring more such opportunities where we can back young and growing start-ups.”
This is the fourth investment done by Krafton Inc in the Indian startup ecosystem. Earlier, in March this year, it had made a minority investment of $22.5 million in NODWIN Gaming. In June 2021, the company invested seed funding worth $9 million in the gaming live streaming platform Loco, together with other investors.
In July, it invested in Bengaluru-based storytelling platform Pratilipi in a Series D round of $48 million.
These investments are in line with Krafton’s plans to make investments worth $100 million in India to cultivate the local video game, esports, entertainment, and IT industries.
Plans for the funds
Hailing from Kota, Rajasthan, Bhanu, along with his founders, decided to create a dating app for customers who are not from the metro cities and hail from Tier-II, III cities where the first language is not English.
“We wanted to create a product for the next billion users, so when we started, we didn't have any clue about what will be the final product which will suit them,” Bhanu told YourStory.
After conducting market research, they built FRND, named after the acronym used in India for friends. The app has AI-generated avatars, with a FRND RJ who acts as a matchmaker and a few games. These, according to the founder, revolve around the trends already prevalent in the country and the need for an ice-breaking system to give people a chance to interact using audio streaming.
“That is what we are imagining right now in the ecosystem,” added Bhanu.
FRND raised funds to scale the platform by adding more such communities to its user base and also used it to build a strong team for both technical and product design. It also has a plan to take this product overseas, possibly next year.
The startup has already started expanding its 10-member team with more focus on hiring to scale the platform.
The company earns revenue from in-app purchases and digital goods such as gifting. It started monetisation in January this year and has grown 10x.
On raising funding from KRAFTON, Bhanu adds that KRAFTON, which is known for its games like PUBG or BGMI, having it as an investor “actually gives us a lot of background as to how to navigate the scaling up of the product, what are the choices to make, scale things up in terms of guidance on hiring and market as well as the global presence which may help us in the future when we are trying to go international.”
Commenting on the vision for FRND’s future, Bhanu said that FRND would be that which gives access to those who do have access to an ecosystem. It would be a product that solves for any use case — be it in the cultural context, better technology.
“The vision for these one billion users is that we want to reach out to each and every one of them and provide whatever is required from a technology or a product perspective, we want to bring that to the table and solve for them. The vision is that we are creating dating and romance ecosystem users. It may contain multiple apps, multiple formats. That's a tremendous start, and we are committed. We are in this for long to solve this for all these users because if we do not solve for them, no one would.”