How HT Labs is customising content with its hyper-personalised recommendation apps
Wednesday December 08, 2021,
11 min Read
We are so spoilt for choice today that it takes us more time to choose what we want than actually getting it. We spend more time deciding what to watch on OTT platforms, what books to read on Kindle, and what food to cook, than actually spending some time doing what we want to. While the plethora of choices has made life more convenient, they have also played a major role in wasting a lot of our time.
But now, making choices is becoming much easier, thanks to HT Labs. Termed as Hindustan Times Media’s ‘Startup Factory’, HT Labs is dedicated to solving contemporary need gaps in the consumer space. The idea behind HT Labs is to create cutting-edge digital products driven by deep tech and artificial intelligence to offer audiences niche content like food, entertainment, and personal finance, with a twist.
While most contemporary apps in the digital space try to solve all of our problems, there are some things that they are still unable to fulfil. Apps related to education are unable to address subjects beyond traditional learning, apps related to food recipes are unable to focus on the health needs of consumers and so on. Enter HT Labs, which aims to address such various contemporary need gaps that exist in the B2B and B2C space.
Launched in May 2020, HT Labs is essentially an innovation hub that is responsible for keeping the needs of the audience in mind, and the team behind it is committed to developing digital solutions for the same. Their products aim to offer customised content based on the users’ preferences, something that most content aggregators fail to do.
In the present day, the start-up factory comprises a team of more than 150 professionals working remotely on technology, product, design, content, marketing and editorial content. At a young age of about one and a half years, the hub has already produced five diverse products and has several other products lined up to be released soon.
Avinash Mudaliar, the co-founder of HT Labs explained the thought behind HT Labs, “HT Labs was built to cater to several pressing contemporary need gaps that were identified during the pandemic, our aim has been to plug those need gaps in the B2C and B2B consumer space by offering solutions that understand users’ needs and preferences. Our products are built to democratize and personalize content discovery across genres, improving the overall experience of users and helping the entire ecosystem.”
To watch or not to watch
Choosing a movie or show to watch can be difficult sometimes. Users’ tastes range from various actors and filmmakers to various genres, and most of the time, they fail to explore the content of their preferred platform beyond what is recommended on OTT platforms.
But the introduction of OTTplay has made the choice of shows easier for people. Essentially a content discovery and recommendation platform, OTTplay provides customised curation of shows and movies based on the users’ preference of language, genre, platform, actor, filmmaker, and more.
Choosing from a library of more than 65,000 titles ranging across 10 languages and more than 55 OTT platforms, OTTplay also doubles up as a single-stop discovery gateway. Most people end up watching shows and movies that are promoted on their OTT platform’s homepage or patch wall which accounts for a fraction of the content on any platform.
By helping users discover shows and movies based on what they have watched, liked, and would like to watch more of, OTTplay aims to democratise their watching and discovery experience. The app also enables users to search for movies and shows using voice inputs, and find out which OTT platform has the particular movie/show available for streaming.
OTTplay is slowly establishing itself as the one-stop destination for users to explore happenings around the world of OTT like reviews, listicles, and news pieces. While this content is produced internally by a dedicated team, it is also supported by credible sources like DesiMartini, Livemint, and Film Companion.
Personalising food choices
While it’s hard to find content to watch, it’s even harder to decide what to eat most of the time, especially when there are other people in a group. It’s important to come to a decision based on everyone’s choices, and it takes a lot of time to choose the right thing to cook.
Slurrp is another app developed by HT Labs that aims to revolutionise cooking and meal planning by providing hyper-personalised recipes that are curated based on the users’ choices of cuisine, health considerations, regional choices, ingredient preferences, and even allergy considerations.
According to HT Labs, it is India’s first AI-powered recommendation engine for recipes that offers recommendations to users from a database of more than 3 lakh recipes. It applies artificial intelligence to the world of food and drinks and allows users to discover recipes from around the world, which are included by Slurrp’s group of food editors.
Every ingredient that goes into the recipes recommended by Slurrp is carefully analysed and mapped to a nutrition database that determines the data of its macro and micronutrients, allowing users to get a detailed breakdown of nutrition and calories in their diet.
For everyone who likes to personalise their drinks while kicking off their leisure time, the product also includes a collection of beverage recipes and offers something called a cocktail sifter, which is India’s only pantry-based cocktail DIY recipe guide. Containing more than 10,000 cocktail recipes, the sifter helps users create cocktails based on their choice of spirit and preferred ingredients.
Apart from the inclusion of more than a hundred cuisines on the app, Slurrp also offers a feature called The Nutrimeter that caters to health enthusiasts. This feature ensures that the recipe being used by the person doesn’t overshoot their limit of calorie intake for the day based on their daily meal intake and Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and provides meal recommendations accordingly.
Slurrp is doing its part in making sure that users have the inspiration and information to know what to cook, how to cook it, and plan their meals based on their health goals. The platform also allows them to plan a shopping list if they are out of ingredients and even share their unique recipes with the world.
Learning beyond classrooms
In the quest of following ones’ passion, students need the opportunity to try their hands in multiple fields before they realize their one true passion. EdTech platforms in the present day tend to focus on a specific niche, which is usually limited to the school curriculum. This takes away students’ freedom to explore various extra-curricular activities and to do what they love.
To address this conundrum, HT Labs has introduced HT School, a tech-powered platform that aims to ensure the holistic development of students, and abides by its motto ‘Learning For Everyone’. With a wide range of more than 50 reputed courses and programs that expand the development of students beyond school curriculums, the platform engages with students from classes 5 to 12 and covers a wide range of interests like robotics, coding and blogging.
HT School arms students with the tools and resources to help them master new skills, some of which include courses such as the John Maxwell’s Leadership - Laws of Growth, International Graded Guitar Exam, and certified courses for singing by Shaan, dancing by Ganesh Acharya, acting by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, communication skills by Sabira Merchant, cooking by Ranveer Brar, and many more.
Codeathon, an annual event by HT School helps students learn and build a strong foundation in coding through its fun and age-appropriate modules of web development, game development and app development. Apart from that, the HT Media Group has used years of its media experience to start a unique course on Radio Jockeying for children aged 9 to 15.
With several content publishers producing amazing content in the present day, it has become increasingly important to encourage their creativity and provide them with a platform to showcase their content. And while these publishers are great at coming up with good content, they face hurdles in developing and managing their websites.
Although there are several platforms in the market that allow these users to build their own website and manage it, they usually take a long time to be set up, need additional plug-ins, and require monetization for ads, which is available only in premium plans.
That’s where UPublish has made its mark in the ecosystem, a unique digital publishing platform that lets one create a website within minutes as it takes care of the server, infrastructure, content management system, traffic, and page performance. This enables content creators to focus more on their area of expertise and to worry less about the technological and back-end operations of publishing.
This product by HT Labs is making waves in the B2B space as it has managed to solve all these issues for small scale and medium publishers. The platform simplifies the process of starting a media website for these users by providing them with readymade website designs that fulfil the requirements of the SEO ecosystem.
Apart from having a multi-language capability, advertisement management, subscription paywall, and AMP for mobile and web pages, it also enables publishers to reach a wider audience with its all-in-one publisher feature for digital publishing. A packaged SaaS product, the app helps in creating new websites within minutes without involving a developer or a need for any programming knowledge.
With an intuitive and easy-to-use user interface, UPublish serves as a one-stop technology solution and helps publishers by managing interface, obtaining necessary tools, and providing support and guidance. The app also provides strong customer support over the phone and WhatsApp and helps publishers who have excelled in the offline space seamlessly translate their legacy in the digital space.
By taking care of the server, infrastructure, content management system, traffic and page performance, UPublish simplifies the process of starting a media website. It provides publishers with professionally-crafted website designs and empowers content creators to focus more on the area of their expertise.
Investing in financial growth
The stock market is a volatile space to explore, and new-age investors are starting to realise the perils of investing their money, especially with the advent of cryptocurrency and the likes. Once again, proper guidance is important for successful investments, the lack of which can make investments feel people like they’re walking on fire.
While investors are keen on investing their money, the fear of losing it is omnipresent, which usually happens when they are in the learning phase. MintGenie aims to address this gap by acting as a virtual guide and financial advisor.
Apart from providing live and real-time data, it will also provide a virtual trading game that will allow investors to trade in stocks and invest in mutual funds with virtual money at zero cost and help them learn tricks of the trade. Once the newbie investors understand how the market works, they can start investing real money and explore the market at their will.
As the name Genie suggests, the platform will act as a personal helper to users’ financial needs and moves and will provide users with everything they need for investment and trading. MintGenie will use psychometric profiling to create a unique profile of users and prompts them regularly to answer certain questions to understand their risk capacity, personal investment behaviour, and current financial situation. Using this information, the app will enable the users’ journey by giving them recommendations, alerts and suggestions which helps them to make suitable changes to their investment style.
Intending to democratize the finance and investment space, MintGenie offers the Play, Learn and Invest feature, and is the only investment platform in India that will offer both virtual trading for learning, and real market tracking, recommendations, trading for the investment of equities, mutual funds, insurance and digital gold.
With so many products having been launched to ensure that the problems of users are solved, HT Labs is slowly establishing itself as the go-to brand for all to personalise daily needs, thus making life easier. These digital innovations have the potential to plug the gaps that most contemporary apps fail to do, while also enabling users to explore new avenues that can contribute to the requirements for their holistic development.