Y Combinator-backed Indian content platform that informs users of meat and gold prices raises USD 3 million

The company works with freelance writers to provide local news in regional language.

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Bengaluru-based vernacular content platform Lokal Monday said it has raised USD 3 million from a group of investors including 3one4 Capital, Y Combinator, RB Investments, SOMA Capital, and existing investor India Quotient. Other investors such as Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Xiaomi Indonesia head Alvin Tse, South Korea-based VC firm Starling Ventures, among others also participated in this round.

The company will utilize this capital to bring out new products, scale up its workforce and enter new geographies, besides consolidating its grip over existing markets. The fledgling firm founded in 2018, had received the backing of Y Combinator, an American seed accelerator in August 2019.

The startup presently offers original local news and information in text and video formats through a team of freelance reporters across 27 districts of three Indian states including Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in South India, and Uttar Pradesh in North India. Lokal’s near future focus is to expand its foot print across three more states in 2020.

Apart from news, the app provides hyperlocal information such as vegetable and meat prices, weather information, gold rates, theatre show timings, employment postings, matrimonial classifieds, doctor listings, and police station contact details in Telugu and Hindi languages. Currently 40 moderators keep a tab on the content, checking for its veracity before publishing. Founded by Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary, Lokal has seen 3 million installs on Google Play Store as of now.

“For a person using our platform, he has close to 120 to 150 content pieces to consume in a day. We focus on density in any location and have deep penetration in each of the districts due to the kind of exclusive content we offer in that location,” Pasha, co-founder, Lokal, told local media Economic Times.

Other local language content providers with similar service include Matrix-backed Awaaz and SAIF Partners-backed Circle.news. Awaaz has built a team of local reporters across 25 districts in the North Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It will also compete with the likes of Dailyhunt, Tencent-backed NewsDog, among other regional social media network platforms including ShareChat, Samosa Labs, and ByteDance’s Helo.

According to a KPMG report, nearly 500 million users in India will pick up a local language over English to consume content on the Internet by 2030. Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp have already taken the lead to access the non-English speaking Internet user and it has led to their vernacular users surpassing those conversing in English.

ShareChat and Helo are also showing rapid growth in their bid to capture this 500 million user base opportunity. In August 2019, ShareChat raised USD 100 million in a Series D funding round led by social networking platform Twitter, making the company worth USD 650 million in valuation. ShareChat reaches more than 60 million users every month, and wants to double the number in 2020.