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Josh’s Umang Bedi On The Video App’s Growth & The Need For Vernacular Content To Reach The Next Billion

SUMMARY

India, with a booming population of more than 1.4 Bn and scores of languages and dialects, offers a unique massive TAM for new startups

Josh, VerSe’s indigenous short-video app claims more than 153 Mn monthly active users (MAU), 74 Mn daily active users (DAU) and 23 minutes average time spent, amply reflecting people’s appetite for vernacular content

A growing number of platforms and brands are looking to connect with the next billion consumers in their local languages

India is a market like no other, with a booming population of more than 1.4 Bn communicating via scores of local languages and dialects. This diversity presents a unique and massive opportunity (read total addressable market) for new startups. But how are they supposed to capitalise on this?

Let us go back to 2016 when Reliance Jio was launched for the common people. It stormed the telecom space within a short span and democratised the internet access, thanks to dirt-cheap data plans. 

According to a 2021 report by Inc42, the number of internet subscribers in India shot past 834 mn, with 337 mn residing in rural areas. But this time, there was a significant change in the consumption pattern. Affordable smartphones and an increase in India’s GDP per capita over the years saw the rise of a burgeoning middle class in Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations, a class of consumers increasingly craving for local language content. 

Big tech companies like Meta (previously Facebook) tried to leverage this opportunity but had limited success. However, Umang Bedi, cofounder of VerSe Innovation (the parent company of Dailyhunt and Josh), gained critical insights into the massive opportunity around vernacular content as he worked for the social media giant when India was its biggest market by user count. 

With the entry of TikTok in 2016, the short video-sharing format became extremely popular in India for consuming vernacular content. But when the government banned the app on June 29, 2020, citing data security issues, VerSe and its like got the push they needed to enter and conquer this space. Within 5 days, Bengaluru-based VerSe launched in its beta phase Josh, a short-video app made in India, which further fuelled this segment’s growth in the absence of TikTok and the like. 

Watch Chinmaya Saxena, partner, community strategy at BEENEXT, speak with VerSe cofounder Umang Bedi about the latter’s startup journey, the challenges and opportunities of a vernacular content platform, his advice for entrepreneurs and what the future holds.

Josh claims more than 153 Mn monthly active users (MAU), 74 Mn daily active users (DAU) and 23 minutes average time spent, amply reflecting people’s appetite for vernacular content. Representing a confluence of India’s 20,000-strong managed community of creators and over 15 Mn user-generated content creators, Josh has gained significant traction across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

Asked about the road ahead at a time when super-apps loom large on the horizon, Bedi said he did not believe in the concept. “While it is tempting to merge everything into one app, it really does not work, and you end up losing your customers.” 

David Ogilvy, advertising tycoon and founder of Ogilvy & Mather, once said, “If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”

This perfectly sums up the uptick in vernacular content creation and consumption and why a growing number of platforms and brands are looking to connect with the next billion consumers in their local languages.

Update | 2 Aug 2022, 3:15 PM

Josh’s traction numbers have been changed to reflect the updated numbers.

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