Tapping on non-English speaking users over the Internet has been a prime agenda for conglomerates, growth stage as well as early-stage startups in India. Google, Facebook and Whatsapp have surpassed vernaculars users as compared to long dominating English ones in the country.
Likes of ShareChat and Helo are targeting to offer social networks in regional languages to over 500 million people. Nevertheless, there has been a dearth of platforms in vernacular languages when it comes to access credible local news and information.
To solve this pain, several early-stage startups are at work. One such firm is Lokal. The app is available on Android devices and offers both text and video news content posted by local journalists in Telugu.
Currently, the app focuses on reporting Telugu news from the region of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
According to information on Google Play Store, it carries news content from over 20 districts in the above region including Kurnool, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, Chittoor, Mahabubabad, Khammam and Warangal.
Lokal also allows users to download videos and set WhatsApp status, including quizzes and Q&A sessions for employment exam preparation. It has 1 million-plus download on Play Store with 4.6 ratings.
Lokal is primarily creating a network of stringers and freelance scribes who churn original reporting around the local issues. As per a TechCrunch report, the app claims to have 2 million users and recently got backing from Y Combinator.
It’s also a part of Y Combinator’s summer 2019 cohort.
Earlier, Lokal had raised seed round from India Quotient that had made multifold returns on early investment in ShareChat. Only this week, ShareChat raised 100 million round led by Twitter at an estimated valuation of 650 million.
In a long haul, Lokal wants to offer to advertise in regional languages as there is a dearth of Internet-oriented classifieds solutions in Telugu, and other local languages. At present, it provides job notifications (private and government sectors) and soon would be catering to different verticals.
While Lokal has been focusing on Telugu and likely to add more South Indian languages, Matrix-backed video news platform Awaaz is creating a network of local reporters across 25 districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It also provides information such as horoscopes, government notifications and local weather amongst others.
Since 80% of expected 800 million Internet users will be non-English speaking by 2021, demand for hyperlocal news and information is going to explode. Monetisation seems to be an uphill task from such contents as purchasing power beyond tier-II cities is very low; however, this is anticipated to improve in the long run.