Why U.S. tech giants are obsessed with ShareChat, India’s hot social network

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ShareChat

In a nation where a lot of users are joining the internet to the internet for the very first time ShareChat lets users connect with friends. It doesn’t even bother about having support for English.

Tech giants are at a loss of options for expansion. In their search for the next generation of users they are focusing on India which has more users who have connected to the internet to the internet for the very first time over the past few years than U.S.’s whole population. A company has emerged as their best bet to reach the nation’s most peculiar user base: ShareChat.

The headquarters are located in the southern part of Bangalore known as the Indian Silicon Valley, ShareChat is an India-centric social media platform that supports more than twelve local languages. It also offers a lot of the features you’d expect from a social network including an account that is which is influenced by your personal choices and the people you follow, the ability to share text and media as well as comment on and like posts from other users as well as many more.

ShareChat is designed to capitalize on the growing demand for content in India. It’s designed to fuel the new internet users’ love of information, and more crucially, their tendency to share the information to WhatsApp which is India’s most-used messaging application.

Similar to Reddit in a way that is more similar to Facebook and Twitter ShareChat does not require you to follow or join any other account to start. When you sign in for the first time the home page is filled with content that cover a range of topics , such as news reports, tabloid gossip, morning messages, and more. All of it in the language you choose.ShareChat is available in many languages—but not English. [Image: courtesy of ShareChat]Additionally the app also comes with public chat rooms in which users can sign up and start chatting with strangers. It’s a typical internet benefit that the new Indian internet users in underdeveloped regions are particularly interested in. To accommodate this kind of behaviour, ShareChat even has a feature known as “Shake-N-Chat” that connects two strangers who are interested in the same kinds of subjects via personal chat.

However, the most significant distinction that separates ShareChat and other well-known social media platforms is that it doesn’t have an alternative in English. This is one of the reasons that has caused tech giants in the west to look up and pay attention. ShareChat is the sole startup Twitter has made a bet on (twice). It’s believed to be in the process of getting more funding via Google as well as Snapchat. At one time, talks of Google buying ShareChat for one billion dollars were also reported.

A HUGE, CRACK-TO-CRACK, HARD-TO-ACC

For Google and a host of other tech giants from the west who rely on Indian startups is a common practice since the last few years. In the last few months, Google, Facebook, Qualcomm as well as Intel invested hundreds of millions to Reliance Jio, India’s leading telecom company. Then, in the middle of last year, Microsoft and Google invested in DailyHunt which is an online news and content aggregator application.

This isn’t all. The majority of the tech companies have been spending the past couple of years trying to improve their offerings to India which has a average household earnings is around $3,600 . The price of technology and internet access is one of the major factors in the acceptance. For example, you can speak to Google Assistant via a toll-free number without internet access. Amazon sells a battery-powered Echo smart speaker to cater to the country’s electricity-deficient regions. Facebook, Google, and Twitter provide their apps for low-cost dumbphones. Netflix offers a mobile-only $3 plan that allows users to stream movies and TV shows in standard-quality but not HD on their smartphones. The possibilities are unending.

The enthusiasm of tech giants in India’s Indian market is to be expected. It’s the second fastest growing internet economy and is home to more than the 650 million users who use the internet. In the year 2000, Cisco forecast that this number could exceed 990 million in 2023.

The majority of the responsibility for India’s digital revolution could be attributed to wireless provider Reliance Jio that started providing cellular 4G services at cheap prices. This forced other competitors to offer the same costs to stay alive. (Most of them did not and were later incorporated in mergers.) Today the 4G plan that includes unlimited calls and 2GB in data daily will cost around $3 per month for India.

Furthermore, as only 50% of the population in India is on the internet, compared to U.S. and the UK with over 90% of the population are online, there’s plenty to come, and technology companies cannot afford to miss out.

The issue is that getting through to Indian market isn’t simple particularly since less than 10% the population is fluent in English and most of India’s internet users come from non-English-speaking rural regions. Soon, nine of 10 Internet users from India will be able to speak local languages.

That’s the point at which ShareChat is a factor. The social network designed for non-native English users is home to 160 million active monthly users who are spending an average of 31 minutes using the app every day, which is in line with other competitors like Facebook.

Additionally, ShareChat also introduced a similar to TikTok’s short-form video application, Moj (“entertainment” in Hindi) that has attained 80 million active users per month within six months. In contrast to ShareChat, Moj is available in English. The growth of Moj was aided by the ban in India on a variety of Chinese applications such as TikTok which has effectively ended local competition for ShareChat. Although ShareChat is in existence since 2015 100 million of its users have signed up within the past year alone.Amit Sharma is an analyst at GlobalData The analyst from GlobalData explains that people who are brand new to the internet, let alone social media, don’t understand how discovery is done, particularly those who come from a literacy-poor background. ShareChat overcomes this issue by providing the content they need to. With this approach companies like Google and Twitter can reach out into regions which were previously unaccessible to them. They can also monetize new users with advertisements.

“[ShareChatis a huge] audience in Tier II, III cities and towns. This is of the main reasons that create ShareChat an extremely sought-after platform for these tech companies from the west to include in their . . . portfolio,” says Sharma.

SPEAKING LIKE A LOCAL

In the case of ShareChat’s absence of English-language support however, it didn’t initially start that way. The social media platform initially provided users an English alternative, however its founders noticed that those who chose the option were not engaged with the service.

“Users were selecting English due to their aspirational value, and not due to the comfort. Indic users displayed the highest engagement levels,” says ShareChat cofounder and CEO Ankush Sachdeva. “This propelled us to discontinue English and go the Indic language way.”The absence of English language support is at the root of the only critique ShareChat hasn’t been able overcome: that it is a source of misinformation. Because it works only in local languages, it’s been able to stay off the radar of the independent moderation and fact-checking organizations and has been in trouble in the past due to being among the most prolific sources of fake information. Additionally the built-in share feature allows users to forward any media or post they find to WhatsApp which is a major source of false information in India.

After the Indian government slapped down social media for their inability dealing with fake news in the year 2018. ShareChat claims it has drastically intensified efforts to combat fake news and has partnered with third-party fact-checkers and actively taking down accounts and posts.

What’s the next step for ShareChat going to go in the future? The answer can be located in the company’s new research center, which is located in Palo Alto, California. While the company doesn’t have much to say about potential the support of English in its operations as well as U.S. market expansion, it’s keen to tap the talent pool in the Bay Area when it considers the future of its business.

The group is headed in the past by Uber executive Gaurav Mishra ShareChat Labs looks to experiment with machine-learning technologies to tackle the most pressing social network problems, such as detecting NSFW content as well as hate speech and fake news , and then develop infrastructure for its future-generation products. The area ShareChat is currently focusing on is the camera technology to develop popular social features like AR experiences filters, lenses stickers and live video streaming and much more, both for ShareChat as well as Moj.

In India, ShareChat has made numerous acquisitions over the last few years, including a clothing marketplace and a hyperlocal info application, meme-creator application, a video production company and talent agency for influencers and more. They give a precise picture of where it’s going: a comprehensive social network that will compete with giants like Facebook on a larger scale.

In the meantime, Sachdeva maintains that he does not worry about the threat of competition. “We have never been influenced by competition to design our business model,” Sachdeva states. “We believe that we are in a favorable position with our understanding of the nerve of the market.”

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