Apps like Instagram are largely reaching the first 150-200 million users. We are going after mass market users who consume content in regional languages.
Regional language social media platform ShareChat plans to scale up its business post the $100 million funding from Twitter and TrustBridge Partners. Foremost on its agenda, Sunil Kamath tells Venkata Susmita Biswas, is to monetise the platform, which may not be easy with the burgeoning popularity of TikTok and other social media platforms. Edited excerpts:
Considering that Indian users already have Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Helo and TikTok, where does ShareChat fit in?
ShareChat is popular because regional language users do not have a social network of their own. Our users can share content in 15 Indian languages. Helo is similar to us, but has third-party publisher content on the app. Apps like Instagram are largely reaching the first 150-200 million users. We are going after mass market users who consume content in regional languages.
WhatsApp drives consumption for us. The WhatsApp sharing feature on our platform is very engaging; it helps new users discover our content. Unlike some other apps, we do not want to get into content acquisition. Instead, we want users to create content on the platform. We will have partnerships and alliances, but those will be centred on user generated content (UGC).
For discoverability and reduced user acquisition cost, we also have tie-ups with OEMs like Xiaomi, Samsung and OPPO for pre-loading the app on handsets.
Most users seem to cross-post video content from other social media platforms onto ShareChat. How are you addressing this?
We are strengthening our tools — the camera for instance — and offering value additions that will make UGC experiences seamless. The camera tool is crucial as it will drive creation, consumption and word of mouth. We are also training users to help them create better content and become popular through our platform. We want ShareChat users to become influencers for brands.
Why haven’t you started monetising the platform yet?
Now that we have hit 60 million monthly active users, we are opening up the platform for monetisation. There is interest from sectors such as BFSI, FMCG and OTT that want to target regional audiences via ShareChat. We are also excited about brands co-creating content with our users, as they realise that our users can drive significant share of voice at the local level.
How different will ShareChat be as an advertising vehicle for brands?
We differentiate ourselves on the basis of our unique audiences. We do not serve English content and are clear in our mind about serving the underserved vernacular language users. Our target audience is not the first 150 million internet users, but the next 500 million, whose primary language is a vernacular one. Our TG does not use the mobile phone as a utility device, but as something that offers entertainment.
UGC brings with it concerns of brand safety and fake news. How equipped is ShareChat to deal with these?
We have a four-step process to tackle these issues. We work with global API partners to scan content; a lot of content filtering takes place at this stage. Content that is flagged as violating our guidelines is sent to one of our 120 call centres in India, where our executives manually filter out content. If they are unable to take a decision, it is sent to our 60-member internal committee, and the buck finally stops at me or one of our co-founders.
ShareChat Talkies was launched last year to collaborate with creators for original regional language content. That does not seem to have taken off… The learning from ShareChat Talkies was that to drive consumption in original content and scale it up, we need to be a content house, or invest in a content company. Strategically, this did not make sense for us; therefore, we are slowing down the pace on ShareChat Talkies. You may not see anything from the original content space from us in the next one year.
Is the funding from Twitter a precursor to an impending acquisition?
I know the world looks at this transaction differently, but it is mainly a financial transaction. The intent is to see how we can build synergies at a business level. Twitter has the same DNA as ShareChat; we see this as an opportunity for knowledge sharing. From a tech standpoint, we can learn a lot from Twitter as we scale up.