From retail brands to social media giants, everyone wants to grab part of India’s billion dollars vernacular content opportunity.
A report by IAMAI and Kantar reveals that the number of internet users active in India expected to reach 900 million by 2025, as rural user base grows three times faster and catch up to overtake the urban user base.
Seeing a chance to take advantage of this opportunity, serial entrepreneur Neeraj Bisht launched Bharatam social media networking app in July 2021. The app has already been downloaded over 9,000 from the Google Play Store and is targeting 2-3 million downloads by the end of the year.
With plans to face people like Facebook, Bharatam aims to create a more localized experience for users and enable discovery and engagement of nearby people and businesses.
Started by Neeraj’s personal savings of Rs 10 lakh, he recently bagged a $ 25,000 grant of Microsoft’s startup program.
âA lot of people confuse us with a content creation platform. We are a pure social networking app with a strong focus on location, âsaid Neeraj. Your story.
Made in India, for Indians
A law graduate, Neeraj quit his job at Thomson Reuters to assume the entrepreneurial hat in 2014 with corporate gift company giftooz.com.
Although the business didn’t take off as planned, he stayed on the hunt for another big idea and quickly launched Delivree King, a delivery and promotion service provider, and then a Tecmanic mobile development company. DelivrÃ©e King closed in 2016.
The idea of ââBharatam (parent company – Bisht Technologies Pvt Ltd) was conceived during an informal conversation about the ‘Make in India ‘ narrative and the rise of local businesses. Seeking to take advantage of the growing traction of community interactions, Neeraj conducted a survey to map the opportunity and found some interesting facts.
âAbout 90% of users outside of urban areas like to watch videos rather than create one. We have seen a greater demand for a full engagement platform for local communities compared to just videos or images, âhe said.
Inside the app
At present, the India exclusive app offers four different languages ââwhich are synced with the phone. Once registered, a user can create articles, blogs, add friends, upload photos and videos, chat through Messenger and also sell products.
The platform does not provide a business account at this time, but acts as an escrow service with the Bharatam application gateway, for transactions.
âWe are in the process of adding the corporate account functionality by September. Brand partnerships are also underway, âsays Neeraj.
Partnerships will be win-win for customers and brands located in a particular region. The latter will be notified of potential customers through the app and will be able to offer instant deals and offers while the former will offer additional incentives.
âWe have not yet found a concrete model of brand partnership. We will charge them either on the basis of customer conversions or on the referral premium, âexplains Neeraj, adding that data security and safety are key priorities.
The Noida-based app works both freemium and paid models and offers an annual membership at Rs 99. Its income channels include advertising, marketplace and paid subscriptions. Its additional features include verification badges, post boosts, custom profiles, and more.
âSome features of the app are free and once we get past one million users, we’ll start monetizing them. Interestingly, over 30% of our free users have become paid users, âsays the founder.
The app plans to offer free advertising and promotion opportunities to brands that reach a particular number of subscribers on their profiles.
Mobile snapshots of the Bharatam app
Social media is a competitive space with Big Tech running the game for years. Even local apps like ShareChat, Koo, Helo, Roposo and Josh which gained momentum after the Chinese apps ban, Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative and Internet accessibility, are riding the wave of vernacular content and aggressively vying for first place.
However, Neeraj says that the the market is big enough for everyone to coexist. Current and future Indian internet users will need to connect with their community, he says, and the opportunity is huge given that India has more than 750 languages and over 90 percent of the population converse in the vernacular.
Also, the social networking opportunity is not unique but untapped for its size. The majority of local apps are found in the short video space (like TikTok) which pits Bharatam against Sharechat, TokBiz, Koo and global giants like Facebook.
Creation of a local market
The app aims to initiate engagement between local sellers and buyers once it reaches a defined target of the user base. The power of his data will also unfold once he builds up a sizable user base.
âThe algorithms will be applied to data collected from users. This will help us locate the app. Users will be able to find the closest products, services and people, which will allow us to differentiate ourselves from the competition, âexplains Neeraj.
Over the next few weeks, the startup will aggressively market its app, while expanding its team. He’s already partnered with some social media influencers to boost engagement.
“We will hit a million by September, and then we will venture into new ventures while raising funds,” Neeraj said.
The app will launch soon on iOS and will add 60 local languages by the end of the year, he adds.
On the prospect of earning their first rupee, the founder says, âWe’re not even thinking of generating income yet. That said, we will never burn money and never invest our money in growth-oriented decisions. ”
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