Our secret sauce is our ability to harness vernacular languages: Umang Bedi
In conversation with President, Dailyhunt, who recently won e4m Influencer of the Year award
Published - 06-December-2018
Umang Bedi, President, Dailyhunt, was awarded the exchange4media Influencer of the Year in November, 2018, for his pioneering efforts to scale a local language content platform. Even before Google and other digital platforms began focussing on vernacular as the key driver of the Internet in India, Dailyhunt had identified a need-gap and began work to create a robust platform for Bharat and Made in India.
In an interview to exchange4media, Bedi spoke about how Dailyhunt as a platform was successful in harnessing vernacular languages and yet build a scalable platform that is supported by all technologies. Speaking about Dailyhunt’s vision Umang said, “Our mission is to be the Indic platform empowering a billion Indians to discover, consume and socialize with content that informs, enriches and entertains.” Edited excerpts:
What is your vision for Dailyhunt?
Dailyhunt aims to become the largest Indic platform empowering a billion Indians to discover, consume and socialize with content that informs, enriches and entertains in multiple formats. We aim to become the largest Indic platform in India by 2020. Hence, the vision is essentially a roadmap that we want to walk on.
Traditional definition of news has evolved, and, along with it, the way in which the news & entertainment content is consumed. Over the last year, we have pivoted strongly from text to video. We are adding various additional signals across discovery and socialize dimensions which help the consumer spend more and more time with us and we become more relevant to large parts of Bharat.
Overall, this helps us serve immersive experiences across content genres; new age formats with razor sharp focus on video, wider distribution and deeper personalization for the customer so that we serve a meaningful and intuitive experience.
What role does advertising play for Dailyhunt?
Advertising is our only source of revenue. Before rebranding as Dailyhunt in 2015, our revenue came from content sales in the form of e-books and other small content pieces. We have been continuously investing in technology so that we can provide higher CTRs and flow-through rates for advertisers. We recently launched our self-serve advertising platform in Beta, which will help small businesses to grow. In the next 18 months, we plan to triple our user base; double the time spent and release five times more inventory, which we are looking to monetize in a big way through video advertising. At present, Dailyhunt has 157 million MAUs, we are poised to hit the 250 million users mark by June 2019.
With fake news remaining a major challenge, how is Dailyhunt differentiating the real from the fake?
At Dailyhunt, we tackle this challenge in multiple ways. We ensure that we only work with high-quality, known, large publishers; we then work around professionally generated content providers and license their content. Additionally, we also follow a publisher rating system, from views and feedback on whether the content is disturbing, or the imagery wasn’t accurate. We create a score, which is calibrated in real time for each publisher, and we transparently share that feedback with the publisher to differentiate real news from the fake easily.
What are some of the major challenges for a platform like Dailyhunt?
Our challenges are two-fold. The first challenge lies in the number of devices that are present in the Indian market. Today, there are nearly 350-400 million smartphones, growing at the rate of 30 per cent every year. Most Indians access the Internet via their mobile devices. However, in a country of 1.35 billion people, there are only 400 million smartphones. The growth of smartphones must happen much faster. The macro ecosystem challenge of adding more and more smartphones must be dealt with on priority. And, the second challenge is that we must continue to have more locally relevant content, as people are attracted to content in their local languages.
What are your thoughts on the growing Internet user base in India? How can Dailyhunt leverage it?
The Indian market has 400 million Internet users, making the country the largest online market today, second only to China. It has led to a sudden upsurge of low-cost smartphones and affordable Internet data. As per a report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the number of Internet users in India is estimated to increase 1.6 times from 481 million in 2017 to reach 762 million in 2022. Driven by the government’s digital initiatives, this Internet growth has also percolated into rural areas, sometimes, even exceeding the content consumption in the metros.
There has been a massive spike in the number of digital-only consumers of content–an extremely favorable trend for a platform like ours. We will leverage our advantage of being an early adopter of the vernacular approach and learn from our experiences.
How do you battle the duopoly of Facebook and Google, as it attracts almost 80 per cent of the digital ad spend, leaving very little for other platforms?
Global giants such as Facebook and Google have built great technology platform-based businesses employing the latest AI and machine learning technologies. The platform approach of these businesses gives them true scalability. Digital platforms that reached only 250 million people till 2017 were able to target the English language audience alone. As per the latest Google KPMG report, the future lies in the growth of India’s Internet, which is poised to reach 800 million people of which 600 million are going to be vernacular.
80 per cent of monetization across the print media happens for non-English publications. The report also states that 65-70 per cent of all advertising on online media will shift to vernacular, and we would find ourselves as the largest platform in that space. Therefore, we believe that our secret sauce truly lies in our ability to harness vernacular languages and yet build a scalable platform, which is supported by all the latest technologies. We would also focus our energies on adopting block chain technology and drive meaningful, personalized, intuitive experiences for local language audiences.
What key role can Dailyhunt play in the upcoming 2019 general elections?
I would like to answer this in two parts. First, it is important to explain the rationale behind associating us with the theme of elections and second, I would like to elucidate the potential role Dailyhunt could play in an election-bound country.
It is crucial to note that Dailyhunt is one of India’s most prominent news and local language content applications with over 227 Million app installs offering 100,000 new news and content artifacts every-day in 14 languages licensed from over 1000+ publication partners. Over the years, our platform has progressed to become country’s fastest growing news app in the world adding over 15 million new MAUs for the last 5 months. With the recent #DailyhuntTrustoftheNation survey, best described as India’s largest and most definitive independent political digital survey conducted in the country, we accessed 95%+ of pin-codes of India with over 70% from tier 2, 3 and 4 every day. The resounding success of this survey truly reaffirmed our intention and overall objective of becoming a quintessential platform, a unique facilitator for online segment in a nation where large majority of people not just in urban areas but tier 2 and 3 cities and towns are hungry for more and more information in their own native language.
As far as upcoming elections are concerned, I would like to reiterate that our focus is to leverage our robust content partnerships and upgraded technological infrastructure and become one-stop destination for consuming news content from varied trusted news sources and help Indians make a choice as per their own understanding and political leanings.
Do you consider other news apps as strong competitors in the market?
All kinds of digital platforms are yet to monetize. We are acquiring more MAUs and DAUs than any such player. We are adding around 10-15 million net MAUs on a month-on-month basis.
Only Google and Facebook, who today have a duopoly in the digital ad market, are the companies, which are following a strategy of acquiring and monetizing users. Today, the Internet is pivoting to local languages at a much faster rate than anyone can imagine. It is estimated that there will be 800 million people on the Internet, 600 million people will consume content in local languages while the English base, which is at 180 million will only grow to 200 million by 2022.
According to a 2017 report by KPMG and Google, “Indian Languages — Defining India’s Internet”, there were 234 million Indian-language Internet users and 175 million English users in 2016. By 2021, the gap between the two groups is expected to widen. Users of Indian languages are expected to more than double to 536 million, while English users will increase to only 199 million.
In television, 90 per cent of advertising is vernacular. The Top 10 television channels are vernacular. Therefore, when the Internet hits the 800 million people mark – like the reach of television today, we expect most of the advertising to move to vernacular. We will keep employing AI, machine learning and deep learning technologies on vernacular users and focus on working on years of historic vernacular data.
What are your leadership tips for young entrepreneurs?
Push yourself to empower people’s lives and help them grow and achieve success. The idea here is to empower them to galvanize their passions and support them to grow. Identify a mission and be mission-driven, have a defined purpose and be crystal clear about the purpose.
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