How Dailyhunt Became Number One Vernacular-Focused Start-up in India

Dailyhunt entered the ‘localised content’ industry when everyone was flip flopping over the idea and undermining its potential.


During these trying times, the thought of touching anything scares us, especially the ones that shift hands. The real struggle is for newspaper junkies, who cannot even sanitise the same. All the humour aside, what is the solution? The only way to calm those hyper newspaper reading nerves is to go online.

Digital age is booming and so is the digital news/content industry. Taking the notch up is aggregation and localisation and among all the players, Dailyhunt has managed to tap the same most efficiently.

Local language content has remained one of the most growing and underutilised opportunities in the Indian internet space. Half of the Indian population is online, making it one of the fastest growing internet markets globally. Adding to that, according to a report by KPMG and Google, 9 out of every 10 new internet users (between 2016 and 2021) used their local languages to access the same.

Bengaluru-based Dailyhunt entered the segment to fulfil this void in the Indian market. This news and content aggregator digital platform start-up has amassed a user base of over 150 Million today and has one of the most downloaded apps that publishes news, videos and content across 14 languages.

Keeping Up With ‘Trends’: Inception of Dailyhunt

Founder Virendra Gupta placed his bet on India’s diverse language base in 2007. He was no stranger to the world of management and Technology, bringing along with him his 20 years of rich experience.

Gupta started out with his first venture Verse Innovation Pvt Ltd (Parent company), a VAS (Value Added Services) start-up. The company provided SMS alerts on job, matrimony, property, education and others to subscribers across the country.
When a business is up and running and profitable, you always keep a foresight on its future in order to keep the ball rolling. VAS was on the verge of losing its sheen. This led to the decision of acquiring English and vernacular news aggregator Newshunt, which was created by ex-Nokia employees Umesh Kulkarni and Chandrashekhar Sohoni. Finally, Verse Innovation pivoted from being a VAS provider to a news and content aggregator. In 2015, it was renamed as Dailyhunt.

The whole industry of ‘localised content’ or anything local was at a very nascent stage, with everyone flip flopping over the idea. Gupta was always keen on new ideas that bridged the gap between technology and common man. He had envisioned providing content in different languages for people to take the digital route with convenience.

In 2018, he was joined by Umang Bedi, who brought his experience from tech giant Facebook and took over as the Dailyhunt’s co-founder and President.

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Dailyhunt has amassed a user base of over 150 Million today and has one of the most downloaded apps that publishes news, videos and content across 14 languages.

The Early Entrant

70% of India is said to speak non-English language and that’s where Dailyhunt’s product finds its relevance. Understanding the ignored and untapped potential customer, something majority of the start-ups and giants hunt for today, Dailyhunt was the first one in the league to enter the regional content space.

The market environment also played its role as a catalyst for Dailyhunt’s success. The smartphones were getting cheaper and the app stores were taking off back then. Dailyhunt’s ascendance coincided with Android’s rise in India. This gave the company its golden push to capture the market and take an early lead. Not only they created the content which customers understood (news/information) but also what they enjoyed (short videos).

Dailyhunt’s platform provides three major types of content: news, e-books and magazines. The entire content is available in 14 different regional languages and can be accessed through the app or the website. Majority of it is sourced from over 3,000 providers, including some hyperlocal correspondents for news.

Talking about revenue, the major chunk comes from advertisement. It ties up with large news media and publishing houses for content on its platform and shares the advertising revenue on the news screens with them. Second is the revenue generated from e-books and magazines, which is shared with the publishers.

The platform to date has progressed from 2,000 content creators to 50,000, progressing towards personalised content.

A Multi-Faceted App

While it is important to cash on the opportunities with right moves, it is more important to have the foresight to understand the market sentiment and create an opportunity out of it.

The sound of ‘Made in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ echoed loud in the country, with local companies jumping on to the opportunity. Dailyhunt was not far behind. It already had a product at place which was created on those sentiments and the market environment further accentuated its popularity.

In September 2020, the company launched a short video making app — Josh — to fill the void created by Tik Tok, Likee, Vigo and other Chinese apps which were banned by the Indian government.

This latest addition to the platform is estimated to have around 85 Million monthly active users with over 1.5 Billion video playing daily. It has managed to stitch partnerships with 200 exclusive content creators on the platform. Local language support is one of the key attractions of this app which saw a massive growth in the first few days of its launch itself. This is especially applauding because Dailyhunt placed its bet on regional languages at the time when it was considered not so ‘glamorous’. The business was driven solely on the sheer demand for such products, with no frills attached.

Dailyhunt entered the Billion dollar club after raising a funding of over $100 Million led by Google, Microsoft and Falcon Edge’s Alpha Wave Incubation. Following the announcement, the company raised another over $100 Million as part of a Series H financing round from Qatar Investment Authority and Glade Brook Capital Partners. To date, the company had managed to secure $430 Million from various investors.
The latest round is to scale up Josh and double down on its Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) push. This brings us to the strong technology backing of the app, which has been devised intuitively, driven by AI, and is an outcome of deep machine learning.

Strong Technology at Play

It is pertinent to talk about the technology behind this app and overall Dailyhunt platform, which is one of the reasons behind its sustainable success and product differentiation.

Each language has its own script. One of the challenges Dailyhunt faced was interpreting the font of that particular language on mobile devices. The issue was tackled at an early stage itself. Besides, each language has its nuisance in terms of its correlation of multiple words with other languages. So when people work on data science and machine learning, sentences are broken into words and are correlated. This complexity was solved by the company through supervised and unsupervised data learning technology. In the former, the machine is trained allowing you to collect data or produce output from the previous experience while the unsupervised learning technique doesn’t need training or intervention. This is done because, if the reader doesn’t understand the context of each word, he can’t enjoy the essence or emotion of a content.

Using AI inputs like time, usage patterns, festivals, clusters and social signals, Dailyhunt is able to categorise content. The company claims to be only one in the field to have its own ad-tech online real-time auction bidding engine, besides Google and Facebook. The company’s system has been architected to run a huge data stake and user signals in real time, hence, enabling them to deliver data in real time.

This robust technology serves one single purpose – Creation of a strong digital media platform and an AI driven content discovery environment which will help consumers discover, consume and socialise with content.

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Dailyhunt entered the Billion dollar club after raising a funding of over $100 Million led by Google, Microsoft and Falcon Edge’s Alpha Wave Incubation.

Sustaining the ‘Vernacular’ Tag

Though Dailyhunt was one of the early entrants in the market, it faced strong competition with arrival of new apps like India blooms, Inshorts, Way2News, NewsBytes among others. These applications run with different USPs to gain a position in the market.

In the overall market, Google News, Flipboard, Inshorts and Dailyhunt top the list of leading news aggregation platforms. According to Apptopia, an intelligence provider app, Dailyhunt leads this space in categories of monthly active users (MAU), happy users and new users.

Following the footsteps of its peers Google News and Flipboard, Dailyhunt has forged partnerships with leading mobile manufacturers like Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo (become their default news app on selected devices) to reach a wider market.

On the other hand, its video-streaming app Josh faces competition from Instagram reels, Times internet’s MX Takatak, Sharechat’s Moj, Mitron and Bolo Indya.

This homegrown app, however, played the ‘Made in India’ card and took the early lead when the Chinese app was banned. The challenge, however, now lies in user retention. It has started to provide its users an opportunity to earn money by making short videos. The income generated is linked with a benchmarked number of likes and followers.

The growth potential of Dailyhunt is immense given its strong core vision of delivering engaging personalised local content. Users spent more time on the Dailyhunt app per month (average 120 minutes) than YouTube and Facebook (20 minutes).

DailyHunt focused on generating revenues through ads, the big share (almost 80%) of which is controlled by Google and Facebook. It explored to cater to a niche for itself by offering localised advertising solutions, especially making itself an attractive proposition for SMB’s who are in search to target remote areas and towns.

Founders of Daily Hunt Virendra Gupta and Umang Bedi

Pitch towards becoming a social networking platform?

Both DailyHunt and Facebook are interest-based networks (aggregators). The latter, which started off as a social media network, gave itself a blockbuster edge by adding ‘newsfeed’.

For a better understanding of people’s interest, Facebook brought in publishers to its network. The company was able to establish an effective ad network with its data driven delivery of content in its newsfeed. It started moving towards being less social-driven to interest-driven.

The difference? Those who populate content based on your social network (friends and connections) are social driven networks while the ones that populate content based on your interests (stand-up comedy, sports etc) are interest-driven.

Dailyhunt is moving on similar lines and heating up the competition. The company created a vernacular newsfeed, built an interest-driven network for ad-making use of the local knowhow that it has created and embedded in its product for a decade.

With advertisers looking beyond global platforms to reach vernacular users, Dailyhunt is pacing up to build a localised newsfeed for India to challenge Facebook.

The company’s next move is to triple the user base, double the time spent on the app and release five times more content to be monetised through video advertising.

Meer Insha
Meer Insha
Meer is an intern at Dutch Uncles, her stints include The Hindu, Kashmir Impulse and Kashmir Life Weekly. A post graduate in Journalism from University of Kashmir, she is currently pursuing Naropa Fellowship.

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