How to make money, and career advice is the most-oft questions on almost every search on startup Vokal. The query is the same, be it in Tier 2 and 3 cities or from the metros. Vokal, a start-up aiming to be like Google is for those who want to access information but are not familiar with the English language, or with the online medium or even groups like WhatsApp or Twitter among a whole host of others.
Startup Vokal was founded in 2017 by two startup founders, Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawatka (funding undisclosed) who wanted to try and do something that would catch the next big wave in India.
Vokal is a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform that was created specifically for non-English internet users in the country. “If you want to cater to an audience beyond the 100 million English speaking audience you need to cater to the language speaker. Vokal’s objective is to answer every Indian in his local language through audio and video. We decided to have this mode of communication as it is extremely difficult for many people to type and then wait for replies,” said Aparameya Radhakrishnan, co-founder, Vokal. Vokal is a Q&A platform which has over 300,000 questions so far.
Radhakrishna was the founder of ride-share startup, TaxiForSure, which was later sold to Ola. He sold it around $200 million in 2015. Bidawatka co-founded m-commerce app, Goodbox.
Vokal raised $6.5 million in its Series A funding in 2018. The key investors are Kalaari Capital, Chinese investor Shunwei Capital, 500 startups, Accel India and Blume Ventures.
Vokal started off in Hindi but is now available in 11 languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Assamese, and Oriya. The language based on the number of users that speak them.
According to a report by Google and KPMG India published in April 2017, there were an increasing number of internet users in Indian languages at 234 million in 2016 against only 175 million English users. The report stated that the gap between the two groups is expected to widen going forward. The report states that nine out of ten new internet users between 2016 and 2021 will use local languages.
There are about 400 million Internet users in India. Of these, 225 million users don’t speak English. The internet user base is expected to reach 800 million and non-English speaking users will touch 600 million within the next few years. Vokal caters to the needs of this segment by enabling a vibrant community-led platform that shares whatever knowledge bytes it generates daily.
Vokal has been in Hindi for the longest time as that’s the language with the highest number of users. Other languages like Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada are gaining traction. Some of the top cities on the platform are from Patna, Jaipur, Lucknow, Agra and the likes.
How Vokal works
Once the app is downloaded on the smartphone, the individual can ask a question which is typed automatically on the app even as the question is being asked orally. The question or whatever information is being sought is directed towards an in-house panel of experts who answer it through audio and video, and text. The platform also has a Google voice to text option. The answers can also be given anonymously. Many questions are common and the answers are already given and hence these queries get answers immediately.
The app comes in with the options of voice and text.
With the advent of Reliance Jio, smartphones have become cheaper and a must-have for an increasing number of people. There are ‘sudden bursts of consumers’ who are seeking information for which there is no content available in the local language, said Radhakrishnan.
The content on Vokal is curated in many categories. Every question gets an answer immediately and if the question is new, the answers will be provided within an hour.
There are checks and balances on the content. So unsuitable questions for the platform are edited. There are organic answering volunteers and experts as well who have been told what can be answered. There are tools that allow the community to flag off content that doesn’t meet certain standards.
With 2 million monthly active users, the founders expect to reach a target of 100 million monthly active users in 2020.
The founders are planning to scale up and monetise some specific content,
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Updated Date: May 14, 2019 17:30:24 IST