‘We want to own the mindshare, timeshare & revenue share of local language users’

Dailyhunt Founder Virendra Gupta & Co-founder Umang Bedi spoke to Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, e4m, BW Businessworld, and Nawal Ahuja, Director, e4m about the new short video app Josh

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Oct 5, 2020 8:36 AM

After winning the local market, Dailyhunt recently launched a short video app — Josh — which has seen a massive traction in its first few weeks itself.

Umang Bedi, Co-founder, Dailyhunt, and Virendra Gupta, Founder Dailyhunt, recently spoke to Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media & BW Businessworld, and Nawal Ahuja, Director, exchange4media, about their new offering, the growing focus on the Indian app ecosystem and the way forward for digital content publishers.

Edited excerpts: 

What was the idea behind the launch of the new short video app Josh at this time?

Umang Bedi: We are on a mission to include a billion people in the nation's digital narrative, powered by one fundamental—local languages. We believe that with Dailyhunt, a social revolution around local languages is taking place.

We want to be the largest digital media that is empowering a billion Indians to distribute and consume content that informs, enriches and entertains.

Our strategic intent is to create a third platform of choice via a thriving ecosystem for our users and consumers, publishers and partners, advertisers and other partners who are focused on local languages to counter the duopoly. We are very clear that we want to own the mindshare, timeshare and the revenue share of local language users.

In the last two years we have witnessed a massive growth. Ever since March, when the country went into lockdown, Dailyhunt started prioritising and building a lot of content. When the Prime Minister spoke about India becoming Atmanirbhar it provided Dailyhunt the impetus and an added responsibility. As we said, we want to own the mindshare, timeshare and the revenue share of local language users via the format of short videos.  We launched Josh literally in two weeks’ time. Our short video app is proudly made in India, and the fastest growing and most engaged app in the country.

It has been a few weeks since you launched. How has the response been so far?

Umang Bedi: Josh is a mega confluence of the country's top 200 creators who have a collective user base of 300 to 400 million across social media platforms. 

The response to Josh has been magical. Literally in 45 days we have become the top rated app with 50 million downloads and 23 million people coming to the app every day and spending 21 minutes. It has a billion video plays a day and 5 million people creating content.

With the current rate of growth, we expect that in the next 60 to 90 days we will double all the numbers. 

So we are truly made in India, made in Bharat for Bharat by Bharat in 14 Bharatiya languages and we believe it has already replaced TikTok by getting a large chunk of that user base. 

Virendra Gupta: Dailyhunt has been serving the local language Bharat market when foreign companies thought India only speaks English. 

So we have been in this market since long and people did not know that Bharat is all about local languages. We have built tools, technologies and content to serve this market. This is an underserved market and we have cracked the code of engagement with our offerings, Josh being the latest.

The Indian app ecosystem is getting competitive by the day. How are you staying ahead?

Virendra Gupta: It is a great thing that a lot of Indian companies are building new apps. We need to imagine a new Bharat. We know what it takes to win this game. I think if more players enter the market it will help it grow and we will learn from each other. This will also have a rub off effect on short video apps and other apps where young entrepreneurs are coming with bold ideas to win the Indian app ecosystem and export it to the world.

Umang Bedi: I'm very encouraged and enthused by the Indian start-up ecosystem. I always say that being an entrepreneur in India is not for the faint hearted. 

This market is crowded, but in every vertical whether it is automobiles, handsets, telecom, ecommerce, retails, two players emerge with dominant shares of the market.

I think this market is going to be defined in the next six months. If you look at some of the big tech companies that have addressed the local languages in their markets, what is that which gives them the right to win?

The first is the deep understanding of content in different formats, in different languages with audio/video and disparate local languages. Having the AI to understand the content and the context of that content and do it at scale. The other point is using that to drive very deep personalisations. Third is their ability to build monetisation at scale. It's not a game of MAUs and DAUs.

We have great respect for how the global giants have built their businesses but we are very clear that they serve the crème de la crème of India. Our differentiator is that we understand Bharat, we understand local languages, we get traffic from 19,000 out of 21,000 PIN codes in India. We understand local content and context. We are playing on our strengths and I think the market is large enough for two players to win and we feel very confident about our pedigree.

What would be your strategy if TikTok re-enters the Indian market or if Jio launches a competitive product since it is aggressively scaling up?

We are not worried about the competition. We welcome competition and we compete in a market where the duopoly dominates when it comes to digital advertising.

We have competed with the Chinese big boys and we have won that battle too. Now if TikTok has to come back as TikTok or under something else, we are more than happy. We think this market is large enough for two or three players and we are confident that we will be among those two players.

In your view, have ad spends got rejigged post March 2020, what's your reading of the market?

Umang Bedi: The moment you come on to digital, every marketer is demanding performance — whether it is reach and frequency, whether it is uniques or click through rates or whether it is performance of advertising.

How many platforms are there apart from Google, Facebook and Dailyhunt where you can even buy an ad on a performance objective in India? The way I look at it is that we grew revenue in a Covid quarter by 100 per cent year on year because by that quarter 70 per cent of the revenue was on performance-based advertising. 

Now what we are seeing is a massive resurgence of brand advertising. Even the brands are getting very particular about performance in terms of unique reach, click-through rates, and performance on viewability. So essentially the Holy Grail is to build a performance advertising business. 

I think performance is a journey and we have built data integrations with over 100,000 publishers and people who are giving us content. On the performance side we have 250 advertisers with whom we have full-funnel data integration by which we can track the user and do retargeting. And which is why we are the third largest by revenue in terms of a single destination after Google and Facebook in the country.

We are still very far away because those companies are way larger in terms of revenue and scale in India. I'm very confident that in the next three years digital will overtake or become equivalent to TV in India. It is inevitable. 

Virendra Gupta: We will have 500 million local language users spending two hours every day on Dailyhunt’s family of apps. And when you do this, I believe ad dollars will follow because this is Bharat and this is an underserved market. As we know, ad money moves with scale and that is where we are moving towards.

What is the way forward for the digital news publishing ecosystem in India as far as monetising content is concerned?

Umang Bedi: If you think about India and the internet ecosystem, till date we have believed in open and neutral internet. We have supported multi stakeholderism. But is it the right strategy? I think a serious debate needs to happen there. 

Also, TV has created content that is unique and differentiated. When I watch the news on 5 different channels it's very opinion-driven, it's not facts. It's the analysis of the news and the opinion about that news. I think we as a publishing ecosystem need to drive inspiration from it.

In my opinion, ecosystems thrive when one person or platform does not win disproportionately. The way we think ecosystems need to be built is that it should allow everyone to thrive. It should not be that some platforms alone are getting the benefit because they are global. Whenever ecosystems have lopsided effects they fail. 


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