India’s ShareChat valued at $2.88 billion in $145 million fundraise

Indian social media platform ShareChat said on Tuesday it has raised an additional $145 million and is now valued at nearly $3 billion, less than three months after it secured $502 million at a valuation of $2.1 billion.

Temasek and Moore Strategic Ventures led the new tranche of investment while Mirae-Naver Asia Growth fund participated in the new financing round (Series F), the Bangalore-based startup said. TechCrunch reported earlier this month that six-year-old ShareChat was in talks to raise at around $2.8 billion valuation. ShareChat has now raised over $911 million to date.

“This additional investment for Series F is a validation of our market leadership and a reflection of investor trust in our execution capabilities. We are immensely proud of what we have been able to achieve with Moj and ShareChat in the last 12 months,” said Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of video app Moj and ShareChat.

“We have been very fortunate to attract a bunch of very high quality names in our series F and the list just got longer with Temasek, MSV and Mirae-Naver joining hands with us.”

In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Sachdeva said the short video app Moj, which the startup launched last year shortly after New Delhi banned TikTok citing cybersecurity concerns, is the fastest growing product within the firm and he expects it to be bigger that ShareChat one day.

ShareChat, which claims to have more than 160 million users, offers its social network app in 15 Indian languages and has a large following in small Indian cities and towns, or what venture capitalist Sajith Pai of Blume Ventures refers to as “India 2.”

Very few players in the Indian startup ecosystem have a reach to this segment of this population, which thanks to users from even smaller towns and villages — called “India 3” — getting online has expanded in recent years.

Moj, on the other hand, competes with a handful of players, including Times Internet’s MX TakaTak, as well as Glance’s Roposo and DailyHunt’s Josh — both of which received funding from Google late last year. The search giant was also in talks to invest in ShareChat late last year, TechCrunch reported earlier.

“With a monthly active user base of 160 million and 50+ million strong creator community, Moj in a year has grown into India’s number one short video app. To strengthen our leadership position, we will continue to invest in our AI capabilities, scaling our global AI org, building advanced editing tools and helping our creators monetize on the platform,” said Sachdeva, adding that the short video app clocks 4.5 billion views each day and a user typically spends about 34 minutes with the app daily.

TechCrunch also reported earlier that Twitter had held talks to acquire majority stakes in ShareChat and expand the Moj app globally.

“We are excited to partner with Moj as they build India’s premier short form video platform, and have been impressed by this management team’s speed and agility in capturing the opportunity. This round will help to accelerate that growth and allow Moj and ShareChat to continue to develop the best ecosystem for content creators and consumers alike,” said James McIntyre, Senior Managing Director and COO at MSV, in a statement.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #sharechat, #social, #temasek

Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and other internet giants comply with India’s IT rules

Google, Facebook, Telegram, LinkedIn and Tiger Global-backed Indian startups ShareChat and Koo have either fully or partially complied with the South Asian nation’s new IT rules, according to two people familiar with the matter and a government note obtained by TechCrunch.

India’s new IT rules, unveiled in February this year, required firms to appoint and share contact details of representatives tasked with compliance, nodal point of reference, and grievance redressals to address on-ground concerns. 

The aforementioned firms have complied with this requirement, the government note and a person familiar with the matter said. The firms were required to comply with the new IT rules by this week.

Twitter has yet to comply with the rules. “Twitter sent a communication late last night, sharing details of a lawyer working in a law firm in India as their Nodal Contact Person and Grievance Officer,” a note prepared by New Delhi said, adding that the rules require for the aforementioned officials to be direct employees.

Tension has been brewing between Twitter and the government of India of late. This week, police in Delhi visited Twitter offices to “serve a notice” about an investigation into its intel on classifying politicians’ tweets as misleading. Twitter called the move a form of intimidation, and requested the government to respect citizens’ rights to free speech.

WhatsApp has complied with the aforementioned rules, but not with the requirement about traceability, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. WhatsApp sued the Indian government earlier this week over the requirement about bringing a way to trace the originator of messages.

It is unclear at this point whether Apple, which operates iMessage, and Signal have complied with the rules.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on Wednesday had asked the social media firms for an update on their compliant status, TechCrunch first reported.

India is a key overseas market for several technology giants including Facebook and Google, both of which identify the nation as its biggest market by users. Pakistan, which had proposed similar rules as India last year, had to withdraw them after tech giants united and threatened to leave the nation.

This is a developing story. More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #google, #government, #india, #koo, #sharechat, #twitter, #whatsapp

Indian fintech Zeta turns unicorn with SoftBank-led funding

Bangalore-based fintech startup Zeta has clinched the much sought-after unicorn status after finalizing a new financing round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 has led a ~$250 million Series D round in the five-year-old Indian startup, the sources said. The new round valued the Indian startup, co-founded by high-profile entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia, at about $1.3 billion, up from $300 million in its maiden external funding (Series C) in 2019.

A SoftBank spokesperson declined to comment. Turakhia didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Five-year-old Zeta helps banks launch modern retail and fintech products. The thesis is that banks — largely operating on antiquated technologies — today don’t have the time and expertise to offer the best experience to hundreds of millions of customers and fintech firms they serve.

Zeta is attempting to help banks either use the startup’s cloud-native, API-first banking stack as its core framework or build services atop it to offer better a experience to all customers — think of improved mobile app and debit and credit features. It also offers API, SDKs and payment gateways to banks to work more efficiently with fintech firms.

The startup has amassed clients in several Asian and Latin American markets.

Turakhia, with his brother Divyank, started his first venture in 1998. Along the way, they sold Media.net for $900 million. In 2014, they sold four web companies to Endurance for $160 million. Zeta is the second startup Bhavin has co-founded since then — the other being business messaging platform Flock.

Zeta is the seventh Indian startup to become a unicorn this month. Last week, social commerce Meesho — also backed by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 — fintech firm CRED, e-pharmacy firm PharmEasy, millennials-focused Groww, business messaging platform Gupshup and social network ShareChat attained the unicorn status.

#asia, #cred, #finance, #funding, #groww, #gupshup, #india, #meesho, #pharmeasy, #recent-funding, #sharechat, #softbank, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #startups, #zeta

Tiger Global goes super aggressive in India

Recent roars from an investment firm, credited to put Indian startups on the global map in the past decade and a half, are turning local young firms into unicorns at a pace never seen before in the world’s second largest internet market.

Tiger Global has written — or is in late stages of writing — more than 25 checks, spanning from a few million dollars to over $100 million, this year alone. About 10 of its investments have been unveiled so far with the rest still in the pipeline for the coming weeks and months.

The New York-headquartered firm, which recently closed a $6.7 billion fund, last week led investments in social network ShareChat, business messaging platform Gupshup, and investment app Groww, and participated in fintech app CRED’s round, helping all of these startups attain the much sought after unicorn status.

(A report in India speculated that Tiger Global plans to invest $3 billion of its new fund in Indian startups. TechCrunch understands the $3 billion figure is way off the mark.)

Tiger Global also invested in Infra.Market and Innovaccer, two other Indian startups that turned unicorn earlier this year. (India has delivered 10 unicorns this year already, up from seven last year and six in 2019.)

Tiger Global is currently in advanced stages to back epharmacy firm PharmEasy, which also turned into a unicorn last week, fintech firm ClearTax (at possibly $1 billion valuation), crypto exchange CoinSwitch, insurer Plum, B2B marketplace Moglix (at over $1 billion valuation), social firms Kutumb and Koo (at over $100 million valuation, per the CapTable), healthtech firm Pristyn Care, and Reshamandi, according to people familiar with the matter.

No other investment firm has written checks of this magnitude to Indian firms this year, and the frenzy has reached a point where dozens of startup founders are scrambling to get an intro with Tiger Global partners.

Tiger Global’s confidence in young Indian firms isn’t newly found. Its investment in Flipkart in 2009 and Ola in 2012 showed the opportunities and level of risk-appetite the U.S. firm was prepared to operate with in India, at a time when both the firms were struggling to raise money from some Indian investors.

Under its former partner Lee Fixel, the investment firm backed several young firms including online grocer Grofers, logistics startup Delivery, fashion e-commerce Myntra, news aggregator InShorts, electric scooter maker Ather Energy, music streaming service Saavn, fintech Razorpay, and web producer TVF.

A handful of startup founders, on the condition of anonymity, recalled their investments from Tiger Global, which they all said concluded within two to three weeks after the first call from the investment firm.

But the firm slowed down its investment pace when Fixel departed in 2019, and for nearly a year focused largely on backing SaaS startups.

Things have changed in recent quarters and Tiger Global has become more aggressive than ever before, said a venture capitalist, who has invested alongside Tiger Global in a few startups, on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak candidly.

The firm is now also exploring investment opportunities in months-old startups. Reshamandi, for instance, is still in its ideation phase.

The investor quoted above pointed to Infra.Market as another example of Tiger Global’s new strategy. It wrote its first check to Infra.Market in 2019, when the B2B startup was just two years old.

“Tiger then wanted to see if the startup can grow and convince other investors to back them. So in December, Infra.Market raised money at about $250 million valuation. Two months later, Tiger Global closed the new round at $1 billion valuation,” the investor said.

While great for startups, it creates a challenge for some investors, another investor said.

When Tiger Global values a startup at a level that much of the industry can’t match, and tends to not lead the subsequent round, there are very few firms that can invest in the following financing round, the investor said.

On private forums and in recent weeks, Clubhouse, a number of investors have cautioned that the recent optimism shared by some investors could prove challenging to materialize. “Tiger Global has traditionally got very optimistic in India every two to three years. The problem is that when it’s not optimistic, we are supposed to pick the tab,” one investor said.

“Under Scott Shleifer [MD at Tiger Global and pictured above], things may be different,” the investor added. Looking at Tiger Global’s recent activities elsewhere in the world, things sure look consistent — and India is positioned to be a key global playground for the firm — and several others — in the next few years.

India, the world’s third largest startup hub, is poised to produce 100 unicorns in the coming years, analysts at Credit Suisse wrote in a report for clients last month. “India’s corporate landscape is undergoing a radical change due to a remarkable confluence of changes in the funding, regulatory and business environment in the country over the past two decades. An unprecedented pace of new-company formation and innovation in a variety of sectors has meant a surge in the number of highly-valued, as-yet unlisted companies,” they wrote.

“The growth in highly valued companies has been enabled by a range of factors: (1) the natural shortage of risk capital in an economy with low per capita wealth has been addressed by a surge in (mostly foreign) private equity: these flows have exceeded public market transactions in each year of the last decade; (2) increase in teledensity and smartphone and internet penetration. Till 2005 less than 15% of Indians had a phone, versus 85% now; 700 mn-plus people have internet access now due to cheap data and falling smartphone prices (40% penetration now).”

“(3) deep-rooted physical infrastructure changes: nearly all habitations are now connected by all-weather roads compared to only half in 2000, and all households are electrified now vs. just 54% in 2001; (4) financial innovation is accelerating, courtesy the world-leading “India stack”, which has innovative applications like UPI built on a base of universal bank account access, mobiles, and the biometric-ID (Aadhaar), helped by greater data availability; and (5) development of ecosystems in several sectors that now provides a competitive advantage versus global peers; for example in technology (4.5 mn IT professionals) and pharma/biotech (several Indian firms can now afford US$200-300 mn of annual R&D).”

#asia, #cred, #funding, #groww, #india, #pharmeasy, #sharechat, #tiger-global

Twitter explored buying India’s ShareChat and turning Moj into a global TikTok rival

Twitter recently held talks to acquire Indian social media startup ShareChat as the company explored ways to expand its presence in the world’s second largest internet market and build a global rival to TikTok, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The American firm, which is already an investor in Bangalore-based ShareChat, offered to buy the Indian startup for $1.1 billion and had committed an additional investment of $900 million, two of the sources said.

The talks are no longer ongoing, two sources said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private. TechCrunch could not determine why the talks did not materialize into a deal.

Two sources said Twitter had expressed intention to take Moj, a short-form video app that ShareChat owns, to international markets and position it as a rival to Chinese app TikTok.

Twitter declined to comment and ShareChat did not respond to a request for comment.

India’s ban on TikTok last year prompted scores of local startups and international giants to try their hands at short-form video format.

Moj, with over 80 million users already, has emerged as one of the largest players in the category. Earlier this month, Snap inked a deal with ShareChat to integrate its Camera Kit into the Indian short video app. This is the first time Snap had formed a partnership of this kind with a firm in India.

With the buyout offer no longer being entertained, ShareChat has resumed talks with other investors for its new financing round. These investors include Google, Snap, as well as Tinder-parent firm Match Group, the sources said. TechCrunch reported in January that the Indian startup was talking to Google and Snap as well as some existing investors including Twitter to raise over $200 million. A potential acquisition by Twitter prolonged the investment talks.

ShareChat, which claims to have over 160 million users, offers its social network app in 15 Indian languages and has a large following in small Indian cities and towns, or what venture capitalist Sajith Pai of Blume Ventures refer as “India 2.” Very few players in the Indian startup ecosystem have a reach to this segment of this population, which thanks to users from even smaller towns and villages — called “India 3” — getting online has expanded in recent years.

In an interview with TechCrunch last year, Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of ShareChat, said the startup’s marquee app was growing “exponentially” and that users were spending, on an average, more than 30 minutes a day on the service.

Twitter, itself, has struggled to make inroads outside of bigger cities and towns in India. Its app reached about 75 million users in the country in the month of January, according to mobile insight firm AppAnnie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. It inked a deal with news and social app Dailyhunt to bring Moments — curated tweets pertaining to news and other local events — to the Google-backed Indian app.

The American social network has broadened its product offering in the past year amid pressure from activist investors to accelerate growth.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #google, #india, #instagram, #match, #moj, #sharechat, #snap, #social, #tinder, #twitter

Snap partners with ShareChat’s Moj to roll out Camera Kit

Snap has partnered with ShareChat’s Moj app to integrate its Camera Kit into the Indian app as the American social giant looks to accelerate its growth in the world’s second largest internet market.

This is the first time Snap has partnered with an Indian firm for its Camera Kit technology, which unlocks a range of augmented reality features, the two companies said. (Snap has partnered with a handful of firms including Triller for Camera Kit globally.)

Eight-month-old Moj creators will be able to use Snap’s AR technology from within the app, while some of the lenses their creators produce will be made available to Snap users, executives with the firms told TechCrunch in an interview.

Wednesday’s move comes amid an ongoing fundraise effort by ShareChat, which operates Moj and is a popular social network in India that caters to users in over a dozen local languages, which is in talks with Google, Snap, Twitter and other investors, TechCrunch reported last month.

Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships at Snap, said in an interview that today’s collaboration is the beginning of a relationship between the two firms, but declined to comment on any investment talks.

Schwerin said the collaboration with Moj will enable Snap to expand the reach of its AR technology to more users in India. Snap, which for years struggled to make inroads in India, has seen an impressive growth in the country in recent quarters. Snap had about 80 million monthly active users in India in the month of December (according to mobile insight firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch), up from about 25 million a year ago.

ShareChat has amassed over 160 million monthly active users in India, while its Moj app, which was launched after New Delhi banned TikTok in June last year, had about 80 million users in September last year, according to the startup.

Scores of startups in India are attempting to cash in on TikTok’s ban in the country. Indian conglomerate Times Internet’s MX Player has launched MX TakaTak, and news aggregator DailyHunt has expanded to short-form video with Josh. Their parent firm last week announced a fundraise of over $100 million, two months after Google participated in another over $100 million round into the startup.

Global giants are also not shying away from the opportunity. Facebook launched Instagram Reels in India last year, and YouTube launched Shorts, which is already garnering over 3.5 billion daily views in India, it said last month.

Moj, which has released 30 Snap-powered lenses for its community at the launch, will develop over 400 lenses in the coming years, some in collaboration with Snapchat Official Lens Creators in India, it said.

“There’s going to be an incredible selection of AR lenses that are customized and localized for Moj’s audience, and we think there’s going to be lots of innovation and usecases that we couldn’t have seen on Snap alone,” said Schwerin, adding that creators have developed over 1.5 million lenses for Snap.

Gaurav Mishra, SVP of Product at ShareChat, said in an interview the partnership will enable Moj users to engage much more deeply with the community and stand above the crowd. He declined to share the level of resources ShareChat was planning to deploy for the creation of lenses. Both the firms declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

Hardik Shah, who works at SuperFan Studio, one of the largest AR creative firms in India, told TechCrunch the proliferation of Snap’s AR tech will improve the quality of lenses and filters most people in India have access to.

“Brands need to realise that ‘What Disney characters are you’ is very 2019 and should be discarded as an idea in 2021. It’s OK not to do an AR Experience than going ahead with outdated and stale production,” he said.

#apps, #asia, #augmented-reality, #sharechat, #snap, #snapchat, #social

Google and Snap in talks to invest in India’s ShareChat

ShareChat, which added Twitter as an investor in 2019, is in talks to add two more American giants to its captable.

The Indian social network is in advanced stages of talks to raise money from Google and Snap, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The new financing round — a Series E — is slated to be larger than $200 million with Google alone financing more than $100 million in it, the sources said, requesting anonymity as the talks are private. The round values ShareChat at more than $1 billion, two of the sources said.

Twitter as well as a couple of other existing investors are also engaging to participate in the round. ShareChat, Google, and Snap did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ShareChat has raised about $264 million to date and was valued at nearly $700 million last year.

The terms of the deal could change and the talks may not materialize into an investment, the sources cautioned. Local TV channel ET Now reported last year that Google was in talks to acquire ShareChat.

ShareChat’s marquee and eponymous app caters to users in 15 Indian languages. In an interview with TechCrunch last year, Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of ShareChat, said the app was growing “exponentially” and that users were spending, on an average, more than 30 minutes on the app each day.

If the deal goes through, it would be the first investment from Snapchat’s parent company into an Indian startup. Google, on the other hand, has been on a spree of late. The Android-maker last month invested in DailyHunt and InMobi’s Glance, both of which operate short-video apps.

Like the two, ShareChat also operates a short-video app. Its app, called Moj, had amassed more than 80 million monthly active users as of September last year, the startup said at the time.

Last year, Google said it would invest $10 billion in India over the course of five to seven years. Days later, the company invested $4.5 billion in Indian telecom giant Jio Platforms.

More to follow…

#apps, #asia, #funding, #google, #india, #sharechat, #snap, #snapchat, #twitter

Indian startups explore forming an alliance and alternative app store to fight Google’s ‘monopoly’

Google, which reaches more internet users than any other firm in India and commands 99% of the nation’s smartphone market, has stumbled upon an odd challenge in the world’s second largest internet market: Scores of top local entrepreneurs.

Dozens of top startups and firms in India are working to form an alliance and toying with the idea of launching an app store to cut their reliance on Google, five people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The list of entrepreneurs include high-profile names such as Vijay Shekhar Sharma, co-founder and chief executive of Paytm (India’s most valuable startup), Deep Kalra of travel ticketing firm MakeMyTrip, and executives from PolicyBazaar, Sharechat and many other firms.

The growing list of founders expressed deep concerns about Google’s “monopolistic” hold on India, and discussed what they alleged was unfair and inconsistent enforcement of Play Store’s guidelines in the country.

The conversations, which began in recent weeks, escalated on Tuesday after Google said that starting next year developers with an app on Google Play Store must give the company a cut of as much as 30% of several app-related payments.

Dozens of executives “from nearly every top startup and firm” in India attended a call on Tuesday to discuss the way forward, some of the people said, requesting anonymity. A 30% cut to Google is simply unfeasible, people on the call unanimously agreed.

Vishal Gondal, the founder of fitness startup GOQii, confirmed the talks to TechCrunch and said that an alternative app store would immensely help the Indian app ecosystem.

TechCrunch reached out to Paytm on Monday for comment and the startup declined the request.

In recent months, several major startups in India have also expressed disappointment over several of the existing industry bodies, which some say have failed to work on nurturing the local ecosystem.

The tension between some firms and Google became more public than ever late last month after the Android-maker reiterated Play Store’s gambling policy, sending a shockwave to scores of startups in the country that were hoping to cash in on the ongoing season of Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

Google temporarily pulled Paytm’s marquee app from the Play Store citing repeat violation of its Play Store policies. Disappointed by Google’s move, Paytm’s Sharma said in a TV interview, “This is the problem of India’s app ecosystem. So many founders have reached out to us… if we believe this country can build digital business, we must know that it is at somebody else’s hand to bless that business and not this country’s rules and regulations.”

Google has sent notices to several firms in India including Hotstar, TechCrunch reported last month. Indian newspaper Economic Times reported on Wednesday that the Mountain View giant had also sent warnings to food delivery startups Swiggy and Zomato.

Vivek Wadhwa, a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, lauded the banding of Indian entrepreneurs and likened Silicon Valley giants’ hold on India to the rising days of East India Company, which pillaged India. “Modern day tech companies pose a similar risk,” he told TechCrunch.

Some of the participating members are also hopeful that the government, which has urged the citizens in India to become self-reliant to revive the declining economy, would help their movement.

Other than its reach on Android, Google today also leads the mobile payments market in India, TechCrunch reported earlier this year.

The giant, which has backed a handful of startups in India and is a member of several Indian industry bodies, invested $4.5 billion in Mukesh Ambani’s telecom giant Jio Platforms earlier this year.

India’s richest man Ambani, who runs oil-to-retails giant Reliance Industries, is an ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Jio Platforms has attracted over $20 billion in investment from Google, Facebook, and 11 other high-profile investors this year.

The voluminous investment in Jio Platforms has puzzled many industry executives. “I see no business case for Facebook investing in Jio beyond saying we need regulatory help,” said Miten Sampat, a high-profile angel-investor on a podcast published Wednesday.

“This is a white-collar way of saying there is corruption involved, and if the government gets upset, I have invested somewhere with some friend of the government. All of us are losing at the benefit of one company,” he said. Sampat’s views are shared by many industry executives, though nobody has said it on record and in such clear terms.

Google said in July that it would work with Jio Platforms on low-cost Android smartphones. Jio Platforms is planning to launch as many as 200 million smartphones in the next three years, according to a pitch the telecom giant has made to several developers. Bloomberg first reported about Jio Platform’s smartphone production plans.

These smartphones, as is the case with nearly 40 million JioPhone feature phones in circulation today, will have an app store with only a few dozen apps, all vetted and approved by Jio, according to one developer who was pitched by Jio Platforms. An industry executive described Jio’s store as a walled-garden.

A possible viable option for startup founders is Indus OS, a Samsung-backed third-party store, which last month said it reaches over 100 million monthly active users. As of earlier this week, Paytm and other firms had not reached out to IndusOS, a person familiar with the matter said.

#apps, #asia, #facebook, #google, #india, #jio-platforms, #payments, #paytm, #reliance-jio, #sharechat

India’s ShareChat raises $40 million, says its short-video platform Moj now reaches 80 million users

ShareChat, an Indian social network that focuses entirely on serving users in non-English languages, said on Thursday it has raised $40 million from a clutch of investors after the Indian startup added tens of millions of new users in recent months.

The five-year-old Bangalore-based startup said Dr. Pawan Munjal, chief executive and chairman of giant two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp, Ajay Shridhar Shriram, chairman of chemical manufacturing company DCM Shriram, and existing investors Twitter, SAIF Partners, Lightspeed Ventures, and India Quotient financed the new round of capital.

Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of ShareChat, told TechCrunch in an interview that the startup’s new fundraise is part of its pre-Series E financing round. TechCrunch understands the startup is engaging with several major VC funds and corporate giants to raise more than $100 million in the next few months.

The new capital will help ShareChat better support creators on its platform, Sachdeva said. ShareChat launched the short-video app Moj in early July, days after New Delhi banned TikTok, which at the time had about 200 million users in India.

In the weeks following TikTok’s ban in India, scores of startups have launched short-video apps in the country. DailyHunt has launched Josh, and Times Internet’s MX Player has launched TakaTak. But Moj has clearly established dominance1 among short-form video apps.

ShareChat said Moj has amassed over 80 million monthly active users, who are spending about 34 minutes on the platform each day.

ShareChat’s marquee and eponymous app, which caters users in 15 Indian languages, itself has grown significantly. The app has amassed 160 million monthly active users 2, up from 60 million during the same period last year. A user on an average spends about 31 minutes on the app each day, the startup said.

“ShareChat has grown phenomenally this calendar year,” he said. The growth of ShareChat in the social media category is a rare success story for the Indian startup ecosystem.

“India could never have dreamt of having a homegrown social media platform, had ShareChat not embarked on the impossible in 2015. ShareChat’s success has given immense hope to India’s startup fraternity, and motivated entrepreneurs to take audacious bets in India’s internet ecosystem,” said Madhukar Sinha, Partner at India Quotient, one of the earliest backers of ShareChat.

In yet another move that is not very common among Indian startups, ShareChat announced earlier this week that it was adding $14 million to its employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) pool, taking the total to $35 million.

Sachdeva told TechCrunch that for a startup of ShareChat’s scale, it is crucial that its employees feel valued, because there are enough other giants in the market looking for their talent. “Our biggest competitors are global peers from the U.S. and Beijing,” he said.

The new capital will also help the startup further invest in its AI prowess and build new products and establish deeper partnerships with music labels, Sachdeva said. TechCrunch reported earlier this year that ShareChat had quietly launched a fantasy sports app called Jeet11.

Sachdeva said Jeet11 is gaining good traction and the startup’s foray into fantasy sports and short-video app categories demonstrates how fast it moves.

ShareChat has also been working with advertisers as it solidifies its monetization avenues, he said. “The brands are loving the fact that they can engage very strongly with users,” he said.

The startup is also thinking about expanding outside of India, though such plans are in early stage, he said. A fraction of ShareChat’s users today already live outside of India. The app has attracted many users of Indian diaspora, he said.

More to follow…


1 Instagram reaches about 150 million monthly active users in India, but it’s unclear if more than half of the app’s userbase has embraced Reels yet.

2  Many players in the industry rely on mobile insight firm AppAnnie and Sensor Tower to track the performance of their apps, their portfolio startups’ apps, and those of their competitors. We often cite AppAnnie and Sensor Tower data, too.

According to AppAnnie, ShareChat had fewer than 20 million monthly active users in India last month. Startup founders and other tech executives who TechCrunch has spoken to say that AppAnnie’s data is usually very reliable, and I can tell you that most of the figures companies claim publicly match with what you see on AppAnnie’s dashboard.

But another thing I have heard from many startup founders is that AppAnnie’s data often misses the mark for apps that have a significant portion of their user base in smaller cities and towns — as is the case with ShareChat.

I asked Sachdeva about it, and he said that ShareChat and many other apps that are popular in smaller Indian cities have not integrated AppAnnie’s SDK into their apps. AppAnnie relies on developers integrating its SDK into their apps to be able to assess the performance of that app and others installed on the handset.

This would explain why AppAnnie estimates that WhatsApp, which claims to have over 400 million users in India and is also popular among users in smaller Indian cities and towns and villages, has about 330 million users.

The contrast between the numbers ShareChat has officially shared and what one of the most reliable and widely used third-party firms offers was too significant, and I thought I should mention this. AppAnnie did not share ShareChat’s figure with TechCrunch — an industry executive did.

#apps, #asia, #funding, #india, #india-quotient, #lightspeed-ventures, #sharechat, #social, #tiktok, #twitter

TikTok’s rivals in India struggle to cash in on its ban

For years, India has served as the largest open battleground for Silicon Valley and Chinese firms searching for their next billion users.

With more than 400 million WhatsApp users, India is already the largest market for the Facebook-owned service. The social juggernaut’s big blue app also reaches more than 300 million users in the country.

Google is estimated to reach just as many users in India, with YouTube closely rivaling WhatsApp for the most popular smartphone app in the country.

Several major giants from China, like Alibaba and Tencent (which a decade ago shut doors for most foreign firms), also count India as their largest overseas market. At its peak, Alibaba’s UC Web gave Google’s Chrome a run for its money. And then there is TikTok, which also identified India as its biggest market outside of China.

Though the aggressive arrival of foreign firms in India helped accelerate the growth of the local ecosystem, their capital and expertise also created a level of competition that made it too challenging for most Indian firms to claim a slice of their home market.

New Delhi’s ban on 59 Chinese apps on June 30 on the basis of cybersecurity concerns has changed a lot of this.

Indian apps that rarely made an appearance in the top 20 have now flooded the charts. But are these skyrocketing download figures translating to sustaining users?

An industry executive leaked the download, monthly active users, weekly active users and daily active users figures from one of the top mobile insight firms. In this Extra Crunch report, we take a look at the changes New Delhi’s ban has enacted on the world’s second largest smartphone market.

TikTok copycats

Scores of startups in India, including news aggregator DailyHunt, on-demand video streamer MX Player and advertising giant InMobi Group, have launched their short-video format apps in recent months.

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Lightspeed raises $275 million fund for India

Lightspeed India Partners on Tuesday announced it has closed $275 million from LPs for its third fund as the top American venture firm looks to ramp up its investments in the world’s second-largest internet market.

The new fund, its biggest for India, will enable Lightspeed India Partners to make early stage bets on more than two dozen startups in the region, said Hemant Mohapatra, a partner at the firm, in an interview with TechCrunch.

The announcement comes as the firm, which began investing in India in 2007, has made two high-profile partial exits in the past year from budget-lodging startup Oyo and edtech giant Byju’s that together delivered cash returns of more than $900 million.

Some of its other major bets including backing business-to-business marketplace Udaan, which was valued at more than $2.75 billion last year, local social media platform ShareChat, which is in advanced stages of discussions to raise capital at more than $1 billion valuation, and SaaS startups DarwinBox, Yellow Messenger, and OkCredit.

The firm, which has six partners in the region, closed its first dedicated fund for India, of $135 million, in 2015. In 2018, it closed its second fund for the region, which was $175 million in size. But the venture firm has invested more than $750 million to date.

The Indian arm, which typically invests at early stages of a startup, continues to work with its global mothership for writing bigger checks to support some portfolio startups at later phases. (More than 80% of its investments have been committed to firms at Seed or Series A stages in India.)

“That’s one of the strongest points of differentiation we have. There are not many venture firms that have such a global presence. Our synergy with the global fund will continue,” said Mohapatra. (Lightspeed also has a big presence in China. Last year, its China arm announced a $560 million fund.)

Lightspeed partners in India. From left: Bejul Somaia, Akshay Bhushan, Harsha Kumar, Dev Khare, Vaibhav Agrawal, and Hemant Mohapatra. (Photo credit: Lightspeed)

Lightspeed, which earlier this year closed a $4 billion fund globally, is one of the handful of American venture firms that aggressively scouts for deals in India. Sequoia, its global peer, announced two venture funds, of $1.35 billion in size, last month for India and Southeast Asia. 11 of its early-stage bets have grown to become unicorns in the last 14 years in this region.

Mohapatra said the Indian startup ecosystem has matured in recent years, demonstrating high-scale growth and delivering big outcomes. It’s also seeing more exits than ever before. Earlier this month, Byju’s acquired WhiteHat Jr., an 18-month-old startup that teaches coding to children, for $300 million in an all-cash deal.

Indian startups raised more than $14.5 billion last year — a record for the local community. The coronavirus has decelerated the funding spree in India, like in any other market.

Mohapatra said a fraction of the firm’s portfolio startups has been disrupted by the virus, but noted that most startups are marching ahead unfazed and some have accelerated in recent months.

“Lightspeed believes this is when the best entrepreneurs and companies of the future will emerge. Strong founders are utilizing the tailwinds of India’s digital ecosystem growth to build out a new future and Lightspeed is strongly committed to backing these founders,” the firm said in a statement.

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To avoid hostile takeovers amid COVID-19, India mandates approvals on Chinese investments

Chinese investors, who have poured about $6 billion into Indian startups in the last two years, will be subjected to strict regulation for their future investments in the world’s second largest internet market.

India amended its foreign direct investment policy on Saturday to include China in the list of neighboring nations that will need to seek approval from New Delhi for their future deals in the country. Previously, only Pakistan and Bangladesh were subjected to this requirement.

The nation’s Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade said it was taking this measure to “curb the opportunistic takeover” of Indian firms that are grappling with challenges due to the coronavirus crises.

The new rule will also be applicable to “the transfer of ownership of any existing or future foreign direct investment in an entity in India, directly or indirectly,” the ministry said.

“There has been a growing concern across the globe that Chinese companies are buying cheap, distressed asset. Government may be thinking that if this is allowed to continue, this may cause some security concerns,” Bangalore-based lawyer Nikhil Narendran told TechCrunch in an interview.

The move comes at a time when major investors in India have cautioned local startups to prepare for a tough period ahead. Earlier this month, they told startup founders that raising fresh capital is likely be more challenging than ever for the next few months.

Recent data from research firm Tracxn showed that Indian startups have already started to face the pressure.

Local startups participated in 79 deals to raise $496 million in March, down from $2.86 billion that they raised across 104 deals in February and $1.24 billion they raised from 93 deals in January this year, according to Tracxn. In March last year, Indian startups had raised $2.1 billion across 153 deals, the firm said.

Narendran said India is following similar efforts from other countries such as Australia that have tighten their foreign direct investment policies.

Chinese giants Alibaba and Tencent have emerged as some of the biggest investors in Indian startups in recent years. Over a dozen additional firms and venture funds in China have stepped up their efforts in scouting deals in India.

Some of India’s biggest startups including financial services firm Paytm, e-commerce giant Flipkart, social media operator ShareChat, and food delivery firm Zomato are backed by Chinese VCs.

Rahul Gandhi, the former head of political party Indian Nation Congress, urged the ruling government earlier this month to take measures to prevent “foreign interests from taking control of any Indian corporate at this time of national crisis.”

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