As the second-largest internet market in the world, it is hardly surprising that the social media usage of the country’s denizens is extremely high. And while it is not as pervasive as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, homegrown social media and social networking service ShareChat has carved its niche in the market.
Currently, the seven-year-old service has over 180 million monthly active users across 15 languages who share their opinions, document their lives by sharing videos and songs, and send private and personal messages to other users on its platform.
Now, its parent company has gobbled up nearly $300 million in fresh funding from some of the biggest names in tech and media, elevating its own valuation at nearly $5 billion – it has completed half the journey to becoming a decacorn. ShareChat was last valued at $3.7 billion after it had raised $266 million.
According to a Reuters report, the $300 million in the latest bout of funding comes from Singapore-based Temasek Holdings, global tech giant Google, and media behemoth The Times Group, whose reach includes The Times of India, MNX, Mumbai Mirror, Radio Mirchi, and more. For Temasek, it will be a major Indian investment after an unusually long gap.
The deal is expected to be announced as early as next week. The amount put in by Google and the others is of comparatively less consequence than the message it sends to startups at a time when they are struggling to raise funds – while the situation is dire, there is still hope for them. Nonetheless, stalwarts such as Y-Combinator and Sequoia have already warned of tough times, and advised startups and founders to “focus on profitability” and “prepare for the worst.”
Mohalla Tech, the parent company of ShareChat, also owns the short-form video-sharing social networking service Moj. You may remember that Moj had been released in June 2020 when the Indian government banned a host of Chinese apps from its market. This list of apps included ByteDance-owned TikTok, which was perhaps the biggest name in the short video sharing market in the country.
With the absence of the Chinese TikTok, a plethora of homegrown apps popped into existence to fill the void and become the next big name in the market. Among these were included Moj and Josh, Dailyhunt’s short-video platform (Google’s first investment in India’s short video market).
Looking back, it is clear that it was the pandemic and the escalating tensions between India and China that paved the way for such homegrown apps to rise to prominence. While the tensions made sure that a power vacuum would be created in the wake of TikTok’s ban, the pandemic ensured that people had a lot of time in their hands as they were confined at home, which they used to sate the growing appetite of millions of Indian users for the consumption of online videos.
This is evident from the popularity gained by Moj and Josh – while Moj crossed 100 million downloads on the Play Store within 6 months from its launch, Josh had 150 million monthly active users as of April.