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Stories

Sharechat - Bharat's gateway to the internet

Sharechat app
Beginnings
2015

The Beginning

Our first interaction with the Sharechat team happened in January 2015, when the founders were building an online debating app called Opinio that showed up in our in-house tool for tracking fast-growing apps on Google Play. Ankush, Farid, and Bhanu are all mates from college (in fact Ankush was still wrapping up his last term when we met first) and had been dabbling with multiple ideas and ventures together. We loved the energy, passion, and chemistry that the team brought with them. What stood out even back then was the team’s intricate understanding of the Indian user, a user they knew very closely having lived and studied in non-metro India at IIT Kanpur. As the team spent more time with the users gathering insights, the idea of Sharechat started taking shape. We continued meeting the team frequently post the first interaction and found the evolution of the team’s thought process very natural and impressive.

2015
Sharechat's first pitch deckSharechat's first pitch deck

India had 120M smartphone users back then, and roughly a similar number of Facebook users.

This number was expected to grow to 200M or so over the next 18-24 months. The incremental set of users were likely to come from Tier 2 & 3 towns, where literacy levels, especially English language skills were very low and this led to fundamentally different needs and preferences. For example, these users refrained from commenting on Facebook and satisfied their social networking needs on platforms such as WhatsApp where they could interact with like-minded people. They were not very comfortable with Google / Youtube search and WhatsApp forwards were their primary source of content. Sharechat saw this as an opportunity to create a new social network built entirely for and by regional language users. Sharechat aspired to become the first app that this audience would download on their phone to discover relatable content that they could then share ahead to look good. Sharechat wanted to create an environment where the users were comfortable expressing their opinions and emotions without the fear of being judged.

May 2015
Sharechat Market Opportunity section from Elevation Internal MemoSnapshot from our internal memo

While this seems quite obvious in hindsight, there were several unanswered questions back then for us.

The cost of mobile data was ~INR 226/GB in 2015 and the average internet user was consuming ~0.3 GB of data/month v/s current levels of ~INR 10/GB and ~8 GB/month. Reliance Jio, which has been the biggest driver of internet adoption in India, launched publicly only in September 2016. Social Networking was an evolved business model globally and the threat of incumbents launching competing products / adapting to India’s reality quickly was quite real. The obvious questions around how and when a platform like this could monetize and what exits could look like were also very hard to answer.

July 2015

India first team and product

"Our conviction on the team and the twin beliefs that mass-scale Internet adoption in India and a local social network emerging were inevitable helped us cross the line."

Mayank Khanduja, Partner, Elevation Capital
August 2015

Elevation invested $1M in August 2015

At the time we signed a term sheet in August 2015, Sharechat had:

08Languages

live on the App

4000MAU

monthly active users

12Minutes / DAU

time spent per day

25Posts / Day

unique content pieces

July 2016

500k MAU

In less than 12 months from our investment, Sharechat had grown it's user-base by more than a hundred times.

August 2016
Snapshot of the language selection page on Sharechat app

The Sharechat team has been extremely customer-obsessed and insight-driven from Day One.

Sharechat has made rapid iteration and experimentation core to their way of operations. This has led to various interesting discoveries along the way. One such example from 2016 is when the company decided to remove the English language completely from its product, despite 50% of users signing up to the app with English as one of their preferred languages. In order to understand their users better, the founders personally traveled to 3 remote parts of the country for 2 weeks and spent time living and interacting with the people there. They realized that if you show English as an option to users, they will end up choosing it despite not being fully comfortable because they did not want others to perceive them as someone who didn’t understand English. However, once they chose English, they found it difficult to navigate the app and couldn’t derive maximum value from it. Therefore, the team took a bold step and decided to get rid of English completely to eradicate this fear in the minds of their users. As a consequence, retention and engagement on the platform spiked up quite sharply over the next few months.

2016

“One of the really good things about Elevation ..

.. that I find better in comparison to the other interactions we had with some of the other well-known investors in India is that everyone else sort of pushed us to build "X for India", but with Elevation, we felt that we had breathing room. We could innovate and experiment, and that is why we ended up creating such a unique product.”

Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and CEO, Sharechat

October 2016

1M+ MAU

Sharechat doubled in 3 months and hit 1M+ Monthly Active Users in October 2016.

November 2016
Elevation logo
Lightspeed Venture Partners logo
India Quotient Logo

$4M raised

$4M raised from Elevation, Lightspeed and India Quotient

November 2016
Snapshot from Sharechat's pitch deck showing the various types of community use-cases

Sharechat focused on viral growth by creating user delight.

Given the long monetization cycles in social and content businesses, the company realized that they could not spend aggressively to grow, and hence never relied heavily on paid marketing. In the early days, Sharechat focused a lot on creating hooks that would keep users coming back to the app on a daily basis. Good morning messages, festival wishes, and content for WhatsApp statuses were some of the hooks discovered and for a long period of time, Sharechat became synonymous with these new content formats. Once these were in place, the company kept going deeper into the interest graph of a user and started enabling discovery and creation of content in long-tail categories such as exam preparation, Mehendi design, ethnic wear, etc. As the company built depth in these categories, their D30 retention increased by almost 30-40%. By 2016, there was humongous amounts of content getting created on the App, but not all of it was relevant for all users. Sharechat realized this and invested tremendously in creating a top-notch content targeting/feed algorithm, which surfaces the best content for each user based on 100s of signals generated on and off the platform.

March 2017

2M+ MAU

Sharechat doubled again in the next 7 months and hit 2M+ Monthly Active Users in March 2017.

December 2017
Xiaomi Logo
Shunwei Logo
Elevation logo
Lightspeed Venture Partners logo

$18M raised

$18M raised from Xiaomi, Shunwei, Elevation, Lightspeed.

December 2017

$18 Million

We had just graduated out of college and had no experience in navigating the VC ecosystem. On that part, Mayank really helped us a lot. We could have really strategic discussions and very simple and tactical conversations too. Having that comfort that you can even ask basic questions to your investor was super helpful. And, we had a lot of basic questions, given that we were so young.

Ankush Sachdeva - founder & CEO, Sharechat
March 2018

10M+ MAU

Sharechat grew 5X in the next 12 months, to hit 10M+ Monthly Active Users in March 2018.

September 2018
Shunwei logo
Morningside Ventures logo
Xiaomi logo
Elevation logo
Lightspeed logo

$100M raised

$100M raised from Shunwei, Morningside, Xiaomi, Elevation and Lightspeed

April 2019
Sharechat team working in their office

40M+ MAU & 1M+ unique posts / day

Sharechat crossed 40M MAU and 1M+ unique content pieces created / day in April-19. The company had grown 20X in the last 25 months.

August 2019
Twitter Logo
Trustbridge Logo
Shunwei Logo
Elevation logo
Lightspeed Venture Partners logo

Twitter's first India Investment

In August 2019, Sharechat raised $100M from Twitter, TrustBridge, Shunwei, Elevation, Lightspeed.

July 2020
Screenshots from Moj App

Sharechat launches Moj

When the Indian government banned Chinese apps in India in 2020, there was an immediate void created in the short video space which TikTok used to occupy. Sharechat’s user-base grew 4X overnight on the day that TikTok was banned. To satisfy this need of their users for short videos, Sharechat was able to leverage its existing technology and feed algorithm to launch Moj in ~30 hours. Moj is now the market leader in this space and ~40-50% larger than the second player.

July 2020

“One thing we have always believed ..

.. is that we will grow with our audience. Today, five years into our journey, we observe that our users are opening up to the idea of creating their own videos based on multiple images. And, I am sure, had we been pushing video content four years ago, we would have ended up being just another app which was not designed for India, but just modified for India.”

Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder & CEO, Sharechat
July 2020
Elevation logo
Lightspeed Venture Partners logo

$40M Raised

In July 2020, Elevation and Lightspeed led a $40M round in Sharechat.

August 2020

200M+ MAU

Sharechat crossed 200M Monthly Active Users in August 2020. The company grew 20X in the last 25 months.

Today
Snapshots from the Sharechat Mobile App

1 in 4 Internet users in India is using Sharechat today

Sharechat has had a fantastic run over the last 5 years and has firmly established itself as the leading social network for Bharat. Sharechat is one of the few companies that we have met that has had very large ambitions from the beginning but operated very frugally. From a technology perspective, the company has always built for scale. Even when the company was at 1 Mn DAU, the tech infrastructure was set up in a way that it could scale to 100 Mn DAU. Additionally, the team has always hired the best tech and product talent where a relatively small team is able to run two platforms with a total of 240 Mn+ MAUs. As a result, all along the life of the company, about 70% of their monthly burn was just on tech infrastructure. The team’s in-depth understanding of the Indian user has helped them create a rock-solid product that runs on a very robust content targeting/feed algorithm which is probably the biggest moat in the business today.

Today

We feel privileged to have partnered with Sharechat in this extremely satisfying journey, where today:

15Languages

live on the app

240mMAU

Monthly Active Users

35Minutes / DAU

Time spent per day

3mPosts / Day

Unique content pieces

Today
Snapshot from our internal memo

On certain dimensions, Sharechat has better metrics even in comparison to global social networks.

The team seeded PGC content on the platform in the early days to get the flywheel started. But the eventual goal was to drive user-generated content, which has been the north star metric for the company from Day One. As a result, today, 90% of content on Sharechat is user generated. In fact, even at the Series A stage, 9% of the users used to create original content on the platform compared to 2-3% for even the most established social networks. Sharechat’s relentless focus on virality driven growth and on fine-tuning it’s content targeting/feed algorithm to create customer delight has also led to best in class retention metrics.

While Sharechat is the market leader today, there is still a very long way to go.

About 50% of India is still not using mobile internet and Moj as a product is still evolving. Marketing spends from large online bands and incumbent FMCG players have started moving to platforms like Sharechat and Moj now and slowly the world is waking up to the fact that these twin platforms are the most effective way to reach out to the average Indian consumer.

Beyond

“The Sharechat team has always been obsessed with their customers and built a product around their needs, which is what attracted us to them that early. We are extremely thrilled to have been Day One partners with them on this one-of-a-kind journey of creating India’s first homegrown social network. Along this journey, we have seen the founders blossom from fresh IIT graduates to becoming the best product and tech leaders in the country.”

Mayank Khanduja, Partner, Elevation Capital
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