The past five years have seen the emergence of a plethora of social media apps with one thing in common: a focus on India’s non-English speaking population.
The list includes ShareChat (now a unicorn), DailyHunt, Lokal, Roposo, Helo, and many more. Many have gradually grown their user base, while others have silently bite the dust.
But Bangalore-based live audio chat appneither registered massive growth nor abandoned. Years later, the social media app has established itself as a made in India alternative to Clubhouse.
“When we launched our app in 2018, the regional language social media app space was in its infancy. We as an audio platform were ahead of the game, ”said Vikas Malpani, CEO and co-founder of Leher. Your story.
The app was founded under Leher.AI Pvt Ltd by Vikas, a serial entrepreneur and angel investors in Unacademy, among others, and Atul Jaju, a senior engineer at Goldman Sachs.
Leher increased his marketing spend to 10 percent, up from almost zero before. Credit: YourStory Design
Currently, Leher gets significant traction from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad, among others, and Tier II cities including Agra, Ghaziabad, Ajmer, Bhopal, and Chandigarh.
Leher is also aiming to expand beyond Level II cities, but according to Vikas, the population of those cities is still lagging behind.
“Behavior in Level III and Level IV cities will mimic the behavior of Level I and Level II communities. For now, their predominant behavior is consumption and not community engagement. Our goal is to bring together people with common interests to build community and chat on our platform, ”Vikas said.
Leher is a live chat social network that allows you to visit club rooms and discuss areas / topics of interest with your network, community or friends. It invites like-minded people to come together to “discuss ideas, learn, network and build relationships,” and offers audio and video formats for similar live discussions at the Silicon Valley Clubhouse. However, unlike Clubhouse, the app can be used by anyone; users only need an invitation for private clubs.
The boom in the Clubhouse – the invite-only platform reached a valuation of $ 4 billion within 15 months of launch – has heated up the live audio chat room space. Big guys like Twitter and Facebook have taken notice and rolled out Spaces and Facebook Live Audio Rooms, as have Discord and Reddit. Internet giant and Swedish audio streaming app Spotify are also eyeing a slice of the live audio pie with its new offering, Spotify Greenroom.
Create a wave
Leher may have started small, but he is aiming big at the back of his target audience, regional-speaking internet users – a group that is only growing.
India has seen an increase in the number of online users since 2016 due to internet connectivity available at very low prices. The pandemic has only accelerated this behavior as many people have gone online to shop, play games, watch movies and socialize online.
In 2020, 89.5% of people used social media apps while 91.6% used chat apps, according to Statista.
Leher is banking on this increase to fuel its growth. Unlike other similar apps, which started to raise funds and spend investor money to acquire users, it has gradually grown as the company wants to manage its capital efficiently.
Credit: YourStory Design
“We have never had a team of more than 10 people because we have always tried to optimize our costs. We are now hiring and our team has 14 people, ”says Vikas. It did not disclose daily or monthly active users, but claims that of the 2.7 lakhs of users, 40% is their active user base. The company aims to reach one million users by the end of this year.
Available on Android and iOS, the app currently has more than 100,000 downloads, according to data available on the Google PlayStore. Downloads might not be the most reliable metric, as people often store an app and not use it, but the numbers indicate how popular an app is.
Leher achieved a total turnover of Rs 11 lakh in fiscal year 20, rising from Rs 4 lakh in fiscal year 19, according to financial documents from the Registrar of Companies. But expenses also increased to Rs 77.7 lakh in FY20, up from Rs 21 lakh the previous year.
With at least 500 public audio and video chat rooms, Leher hosts discussions on a variety of topics, including startups, investing, and journalism. These rooms have hosted guests, including Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm and Salman Khurshid, a member of Lok Sabha, Vikas said.
To tap the growing demand for audio, the startup increased its marketing spend to 10% of total spend, down from nearly zero before the pandemic. The founders say the marketing budget will increase further – 30 to 40 percent – over the next two months.
Vikas says he wants to drive discussions about his app through organic means rather than hiring influencers.
“People who come to collect money also leave as soon as there is no more money. We would prefer well-informed people to have engaging discussions, ”he adds.
For Vikas, the push for people to join the app would be to find threads on topics that interest them. The company plans to do brand building exercises to create awareness.
“There are so many areas where the talks haven’t even started. Our goal is to get people to have these discussions organically, which in turn will create a virality around our app. Hopefully more people will join and increase user engagement, ”Vikas says.
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