The community-driven business model has never been tried and tested at a decent scale in India. Quora has been immensely popular locally and probably has the largest user base from the country. Despite fad for such products, we have never been focused on leveraging the community to build a business case.
Sairee Chahal is breaking the belief that community can’t translate into a business case by enabling a safe ecosystem for women on the Internet. If you ask people about what Sheroes does, you’d hear someone calling it a social network while others refer it to as a job site for women.
But, these are verticals for Sheroes. “We are actually horizontal platform that addresses many problems that a woman faces today,” said Chahal, Founder and CEO Sheroes. Besides offering a helpline number that answers women’s questions on any matter, the firm lets them build, engage, and monetize their potential.
Sheroes has about 70 communities across verticals such as tech, corporate, data science, fashion, and yoga among many others. These groups are managed by the firm itself. But, now Sheroes wants users to create and manage groups. “We recently allowed users to create and manage groups. Much to our surprise, users had created over 700 groups within a few weeks,” added Chahal.
In a long haul, the firm wants groups and community to be managed by users. “We would continue to give support and aligned services to the community. However, going forward, groups would largely be DIY,” asserted Chahal.
Since Sheroes is playing a platform play and chasing scale, it doesn’t prioritise monetisation at the moment. “Our primary focus is to grow the community. Currently, we have 15 million users. We want to take it to 100 million over the next 5 years,” said Chahal.
When Sheroes does look towards monetising, it would focus on three channels – brand marketing, mini-app, and lending. “Anyone who wants to reach women, Sheroes would be the platform to go for,” outlined Chahal.
While brand marketing appears to be an obvious revenue channel, mini apps and lending are rather interesting business models for Sheroes. “In the future, we will have an option for paid services across every community. For example, there would be an option for taking up paid classes in career course vertical. Given that community members will monetise through such feature, our partnership with them will be pure-play commercial,” said Chahal.
Mini programmes will be pushed in every category and will also act as a distribution channel for brands as Sheroes scales up. Apart from monetisation, mini programmes can also be used by brands for conducting surveys, research, and incentivising brand value.
Every scaled company in Internet space sees lending as a feature and revenue churner. So does Sheroes. “Once you have users’ trust, a lot more engagement and use cases can be triggered. Since we deal with diverse groups and map out a user’s social behaviour, we are in a position to do social profiling for each of them. In a nutshell, we will call it a social score,” said Chahal.
The company would be kicking-off lending business soon. “We are adding use cases and will be lending to 5,000 women in a trial phase through a partnership with a couple of NBFCs. We are building an alternate Sheroes score which is a combination of credit, social, and trust score. A lot of data at Sheroes comes from social behaviour,” said Chahal.
Besides English, Sheroes also has a vernacular version that supports local languages such as Hindi, Marathi, and Telugu and Bengali. The firm claims to have a spectacular response from Hindi and, Marthi. “About 50% of vernacular users come from Hindi followed by Marathi and others,” outlined Chahal.
Sheroes had acquired parenting app Babygogo and women focused healthtech app Maya. According to Chahal, they fit into Sheroes ecosystem and have been helping the firm to accelerate scale. “We won’t shy away from more acquisitions if they make sense,” said Chahal.
Presently, Sheroes has a team of about 70 people with 50 alone in tech and product management. Entrackr was amazed when we heard that over 70% of the workforce are in tech and product. “We are primarily a tech company not tech-enabled. We keep on building product and features consistently. That’s why we need a robust tech team,” added Chahal.
Pointing out the dearth of talents in technology, Chahal said building a solid tech company is a difficult task in the country.
When asked about long term vision of the company, Chahal said that there is an opportunity to build a global consumer Internet story from India. “We are aspiring and toiling to reach 500 million users mark in the next 6-7 years. Besides India, we are number 2 in Bangladesh and leading women-centric community in the Middle East, Nepal, and Srilanka,” concluded Chahal.