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Ever since the Prime Minister’s clarion call for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge’, the Indian app ecosystem has witnessed a newfound vigour.
There is no denying that a number of attempts in the past have been made to support and popularise local apps.

One of the early serious game changers in this regard has been the homegrown news aggregator, Dailyhunt. Though the app has been around for some time, over the past few years it has managed to capture the imagination of a new India--proud of its labels and ready to compete with its global counterparts.

If we talk of homegrown tech platforms that aim to break the global duopoly, Dailyhunt is clearly ahead of all. It has today become an inspiration for app developers looking to build in the local flavour.

In a span of just a few years, it has captured the imagination of the local market. Now it gets traffic from 19,000 out of 21,000 pin codes in India. To grow its local clout and to take on global tech giants, Dailyhunt has now data integrations with over 100,000 publishers. On the performance side, it has 250 advertisers with full funnel data integration.

Taking on the Duopoly
If we look at the app ecosystem in India, it has been dominated by foreign brands. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched the Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge, he reiterated why the ‘made in India’ concept needs to become a global movement. The digital ecosystem has been dominated by a certain duopoly for long; many entrepreneurs feel it does not augur well for the ecosystem and especially for the India-based tech players.

It should not be that some platforms alone are getting the benefit because they are global. Whenever ecosystems have lopsided effects, they fail.”

Bringing in a new ‘Josh’
With the government banning 59 Chinese apps, including the popular short video platform TikTok recently, homegrown apps now have the opportunity to fill the vacuum. Making the most of this opportunity, Dailyhunt has released its new offering, Josh. It is their next big step in their continued effort that strategically aims to nurture a family of apps powered by social media.

Built upon recognising and celebrating India’s creative beauty and diversity, the app is already a hit in its initial phase and has garnered exceptional numbers- 200+ A-rated exclusive creators, 4 mega music labels, 50+ million downloads, 1+ billion video plays per day, 23+ million daily active users (DAUs), 21+ minutes time spent per DAU and over 5 million User Generated Content (UGC) content creators. “With the current rate of growth, we expect that in the next 60 to 90 days we will double all the numbers”, says Bedi.

Speaking about the latest offering, Virendra Gupta, Founder, Dailyhunt says, “We need to imagine a new Bharat. We know what it takes to win this game. 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.”

Tilting the Balance
The success story of Dailyhunt has shown that local apps have the power to capture public imagination. According to Appsflyer, India is now the #1 country in the world in terms of number of apps installed and used per month, and has overtaken the US as the country with the highest number of non-organic installs.

Experts often say that for global app developers and marketers, if they don’t have a strategy for India, it’s time to start working on one. However the question is, will the homegrown app players let them win easily this time?


Umang Bedi, Co-Founder of Dailyhunt and Virendra Gupta, Founder of Dailyhunt in a conversation with Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media & BW Businessworld and Nawal Ahuja, Director, exchange4media discussed their latest offering, the growing focus on the Indian app ecosystem and the way forward for digital content publishers.

Here are excerpts from that discussion:

Q] What was the idea behind the launch of the 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 for local language users. In the last two years, we have witnessed a massive growth. When the Hon’ble PM spoke about India becoming ‘Atma Nirbhar’ that provided the impetus for Dailyhunt as well.

We launched Josh literally in two weeks’ time. Josh is our short video app that is proudly made in India, and the fastest growing one in the country.

Q] 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 been the top rated app with 50 million downloads and 23 million people coming to the app every day and spending 21 minutes of time and with a billion video plays a day. We are truly a ‘made in India’, made in Bharat for Bharat, by Bharat in 14 Bharitya 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 at a time when the foreign companies believed that India speaks English only. So we have been in this market since a long time, 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.

Q] The Indian app ecosystem is getting more 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. 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, two players emerge with dominant shares in the market.

This market is going to be defined in the next six months in very similar characteristics. If you look at some of the big tech companies that have addressed the local languages in their markets, what is it that 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 factor is using that to drive deep personalisation.

The 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 crème de la crème of India.

Our differentiator is that we understand Bharat, we understand local languages and 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.

Q] In your view, have ad spends got rejigged post March 2020? What is 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 unique 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% year on year because by that quarter, 70% 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 like unique reach, click through rates, etc.

Performance is a journey and we have built data integrations with over 100,000 publishers, 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 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 where we are moving towards.

Q] 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? A serious debate needs to happen there! Also, TV has created content that is unique and differentiated.

On the news channels, there is greater analysis of the news and the opinion about that news. We as a publishing ecosystem need to drive inspiration from it.
I believe that ecosystems thrive when one person or platform does not win disproportionately.

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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Tags : cover story Ruhail Amin DIGITAL DUOPOLY Umang Bedi Virendra Gupta Dailyhunt