Jodhpur, Bhopal, Banaras, or Gorakhpur. If you belong to any of these cities, you know that while smartphones have penetrated your hometowns, digitization has not quite become a reality. So, while you know what big brands like Levis and Reliance are doing in metros like Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai, you hardly know that your favorite local clothes merchant is opening a new shop near you. Noida-based regional and city content discovery platform startup, InUni, helps you with that.
Incubated at Amity Incubator center, Noida, InUni focuses on aggregating content for cities, thus providing the user with city-specific information. The user can discuss, connect, interact, and share with people from their city on their city’s own mobile app, and that too in their local language.
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Abdullah Haq, one of the co-founders of InUni, told The Tech Panda that the app was launched with the objective of creating on-the-go hyper-local experiences. The app boasts of the latest news results, videos, government announcements and much more, and all on a city’s level. “This is very exciting because there hasn’t been a single platform that provides such curated content on the city level,” Haq says.
Haq explains InUni’s vision stating that it aims to create digital platforms for Indian cities through mobile apps. Currently, InUni is offering hyper-local content covering everything from news to events and government announcements. In the next six months, the startup will be introducing many more exciting features to enhance the digital lives of Indians outside the big cities.
Haq says that word-of-mouth has been instrumental in the early success of the startup thus far. “Word-of-mouth is our biggest driver of acquisition, because the brand value that we are building is primarily in the city’s name. Once a substantial number of users start engaging on the platform, they feel like sharing it with other people, to say, ‘Look! Our city it has its own app!’. They reach out to each other and share”.
Haq says that InUni plans to merge online and offline elements of each city through the mobile apps. After the apps penetrate a city, they will allow local businesses to maintain a presence on the online platform, through which they will be able to reach out to more customers.
“This will enable local businesses to reach out directly to the immediate geography and drive online to offline engagement. So that could be either a Domino’s, a simple chatwala, or maybe even the government making announcements,” he says.
When asked how they plan to check for fake news and rumors, Haq says that is a question they are asked a lot. “Right now, we are only looking at professionally curated content. All the content that we are aggregating is verified and professionally written.”
According to the KPMG-Google report, ‘Indian languages – Defining India’s Internet’, India speaks 780 languages written in 86 different scripts and Indian language internet users are expected to account for nearly 75% of India’s internet user base by 2021. However, only 0.1% of online content right now is available in Indian languages. Indian language users already outnumber English speakers. The number of Indian language internet users is over 23 crores. This is the market InUni is targeting.
“That’s our core audience. The entire product has been built using regional languages as the primary focus for content,” says Haq.
As of now, the startup is focusing on predominantly North Indian Hindi-speaking cities, although the InUni domain includes languages like Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu. Haq says that ideally, the company would love to cover all the large 30 million plus spoken languages in India. Malayalam would be the smallest language they will be catering to, which alone has a speaker base of about 32 million presently.
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InUni is the brainchild of Shashank Rai, Ashutosh Singh, and Abdullah Haq, all belonging to tier-ll and tier-lll towns. While Haq belongs to Moradabad, Shashank Rai and Ashutosh Singh hail from Azamgarh.
While Haq looks after the product and user experiences, his co-founder Shashank Rai is the CEO of the company, who is a management spearhead with over 10 years of experience in handling marketing strategies for companies like Reliance and Videocon.
Ashutosh Singh, is the technical spearhead, with about 10 years of experience working with HCL, Ericson, and Microsoft. Singh looks after the entire technology architecture and the development, as well as the future of the product in terms of AI and machine learning.
Haq recalls, “One day, we were sitting around and discussing how we feel disconnected to our native towns even with smartphones and internet. Our relatives often complained about not being able to read the news properly in a digital sense. This led us to create this product for ourselves, for our family, and eventually, for a larger audience.”
Right now, InUni is live in 60 cities. Accumulatively, InUni has a daily active user base of about 3,000, 12,000 monthly users, and over 30,000 downloads.
InUni, though based out of the NCR region, targets smaller cities. Haq says that metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai show a lot of established internet behavior, which are different from InUni’s target audience.
“The audiences in the Urban cities have a much more global outlook, whereas our product fit is more on local sentiments,” Haq explains.
“There is a digital deficiency in the markets that we have singled out, which is tier-ll and lll cities. Low-cost 4G and smartphones making strides bring the big cities, the user base has exploded in small towns. In the next five years, we are going to see at least 300 million users come on board via smartphones. Of that, about 80% will be outside the urban cities,” Haq says.
InUni is all set to turn small towns in India into tech and information hubs at their own level. Haq says, “Given that there has been a tremendous explosion in the millions of users that have come on board primarily because of lower Data tariffs, we really want to cater and create exciting experiences for all first-time mobile internet users. They may be digitally inept at this point because literacy in terms of digital ecosystem is quite low.”