Inshorts, takes the news reading experience to an all new level by putting a news piece in 60 words. So how was the journey from birth of this idea in an IIT room to its ranking in Forbes' List, Financial Express gives you an exclusive view in conversation with Azhar Iqubal, one of the three co-founders of Inshorts.
Three years ago, 3 IITians created a Facebook page to disseminate their business model of curating news into 60 word summary. And within an year, these entrepreneurs entered into the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, bagged the award for the ‘Best Innovation App’ by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Inshorts, takes the news reading experience to an all new level by putting a news piece in 60 words. So, how was the journey from birth of this idea in an IIT room to its ranking in Forbes’ List? Azhar Iqubal, one of the three co-founders of Inshorts speaks to Financial Express online in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:
Q. What encouraged you to develop an interface like Inshorts, where news is notified in 60 words or less?
A. Being a student at IIT, I noticed how students were engrossed in books and somehow lost on the news or the daily happenings of the world. I, and our other two co-founders Deepit Purkayastha, Anunay Pandey noticed that on an average, people who read newspapers, read the headline of a story and a few more lines after it. And with the prevalent scenario, people have less time to go into the details and prefer things that are on the-go. So we thought why not develop an app that combines brevity with speed, links a small summary to a detailed news article. That’s when News in Shorts, now known as Inshorts was born.
Q. After the app was devised, how did you take the process ahead?
A. The Facebook page that was created before the app in 2013, got an overwhelming response. It was evident that people liked our idea. In September 2013, we launched our Android app and in 2014 TLabs incubated us. More than 10,000 downloads were registered by the end of 2014. Sachin Bansal, co-founder Flipkart appreciated our app and approached us as an investor.
Q. Diverse issues such as the recent JNU row or Vijay Mallya’s case cannot really be put in 60 words. Do you feel that this puts you at a disadvantage? And would you say that you are bringing an alternate journalism model in the market?
A. We present the events factually. Our aim is to notify the user on what is happening and what all has happened. For a detailed report on the same, we give a link in the end of our summary. We believe that short summaries of events are becoming important today. Perhaps, by linking the short with the long, we have introduced an alternative journalism today.
Q. Inshorts doesn’t have an opinion section. Do you plan to introduce one in your interface anytime soon?
A. When an event takes place, there are two ways to talk about it. Either in-depth or in terms of facts. We at Inshorts aim at notifying the users about the day-to-day events and hence the factual report. We don’t plan to have an opinion section as of now and think we will stick to the factual account.
Q. You recently introduced the Hindi version of your app and also TOSS , a social notification feature. What is next on cards?
A. We might be introducing more language options. The other trend that we have recently started is that apart from telling our users what is happening around the world, we also tell them what all is happening around the web. What is being talked about, what is the most shared news etc. We also include restaurants, movies that is being talked over on the internet.
Q. One cannot ‘Like’ or post a ‘Comment’ on your shorts (60-word descriptions) and neither does your app have a ‘search’ option in it. Any comments?
A. Search option has been requested by a lot many people recently. For that, work is under progress. And, for all you know, the ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’ option might be out soon.
Q. Who is supporting you in your growth? And who all are you in partnership with?
A. Tiger Global invested $4 million in 2015. Other investors include Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal and Rebright Partners. The second round of funding in 2015 rounded upto $20 million. Tiger Global was again the lead investor. Our seed investors were Ankush Nijhawan, Gaurav Bhatnagar and Manish Dhingra. As for tie-ups, to name a few- PTI, ANI, Indian Express, India Today, TechCrunch.
Q. How has been the journey so far? One year down the line, how do you expect Inshorts to look like?
A. Its been interesting and satisfying. We crossed the 3 million mark (in terms of downloads) in February 2016 and hope to make it 30 million by the year end.