Bengaluru-based Pratilipi, a platform that allows users to self-publish content in regional languages, is in talks with Chinese investment firm Qiming Venture Partners to raise USD 15-20 million, Mint reported.
If the deal goes through, this will be Qiming’s first investment in India, outside China and the US. The investment firm is invested in Xiaomi and food delivery major Meituan Dianping in China.
Citing unnamed sources, Mint said Pratilipi’s existing investors including Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network and Chinese firm Shunwei Capital will also participate in the Series B funding round.
Pratilipi had raised USD 1 million in February 2016 led by Nexus Venture Partners. This was followed by a USD 4.3 million Series A round led by Omidyar in February 2018.
In 2015, Ranjeet Pratap Singh, Sankaranarayanan Devarajan, Rahul Ranjan, Sahradayi Modi and Prashant Gupta started Pratilipi as platform for people to read and write stories. Currently, users can write stories in nine languages— English, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam and Gujarati. According to the company's website, it has 33,00,000 readers and more than 53,000 writers on its platform.
Shally Modi, co-founder and product manager at Pratilipi, told The Passage that the company does not want to comment on speculations. Talking about the product, Modi said, “It is a storytelling platform where users write on different topics ranging from cookery, education to research articles. The average length of the content is 2000 words,” she said. The company has not been able to come up with a revenue model as of now. "We are at a growth stage now and the focus is on developing the product," she said.
Multilingual is in vogue
Thanks to the demand for local language content among internet users, there has been a spike in attention from investors in the last few years. Earlier this year Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance acquired Reverie Technologies for Rs 190 crore (USD 27 million). Reverie is a cloud-based company that allows companies to go multilingual.
According to a 2017 report by KPMG and Google, nine out of 10 new internet users between 2016 and 2021 will use local language to consume content. The report said the gap between local language users (234 million in 2016) and English users (175 million) is expected to widen further by 2021.
Chinese VC funds are aware of the growing market in India and have put in money in several regional language content companies such as Bengaluru-based ShareChat and voice-based knowledge-sharing platform Vokal.
Beijing-based ByteDance, which has backed short video apps such as TikTok and Helo, has also invested USD 25 million in local language news aggregator Dailyhunt in 2016. In May 2018, Tencent led a USD 50 million round in news and entertainment company NewsDog, while Alibaba announced it’ll back India-focused UC News. In a press release, Alibaba Group's UCWeb said it will invest RMB 200 million (USD 30 million) in its India and Indonesia business.
Last year, Flipkart acquired Liv.ai, an AI-based startup that converts speech to text in 10 Indian languages. The online retailer wants to leverage Liv.ai technology to make a bigger dent in tier 3 and tier 4 markets, in the hope that buyers will talk to the app in their local language to search for products.