Twitter backs social network ShareChat in first India investment

August 16, 2019 16:58
Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey, said its investment in ShareChat would help the Indian startup grow and improve its technology. Photo: ShareChat/ Reuters

Twitter led a US$100 million financing round for India’s social media platform ShareChat as Chinese rival TikTok takes off in its home market.

This is just Twitter's third investment and the first time it is taking equity in an Indian startup, according to Crunchbase. The global social network had invested in Israel-based sports analytics company PlaySight in 2017 and in interdisciplinary research laboratory MIT Media Lab back in 2014.

Investors in ShareChat's latest funding round also include Chinese private equity firms TrustBridge Partners and Shunwei Capital, Hong Kong’s SAIF Partners, and US-based Lightspeed Venture Partners, Economic Times reported. The newspaper said Twitter founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey was personally involved in the transaction.

Founded in 2015,  Bangalore-based ShareChat now has about 50 million monthly active users, across 15 regional languages such as Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, and Malayalam, although it does not support English.

The language options have become ShareChat’s key feature attracting the mass population in India, where only about 10 percent of its 1.3 billion people speak English. Hindi, one of the regional languages, is spoken by about half a billion people, according to government figures.

Its multilinguistic keyboard allows users to connect with family and friends in their native language with great ease.

ShareChat CEO Ankush Sachdeva said the regional language offering enhances users’ engagement with the app, with users spending an average of 22 minutes on the app each day.

ShareChat has so far raised US$224 million over eight funding rounds, including the latest, since its founding, taking its post-money valuation to about US$650 million, TechCrunch reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. was one of its backers in the previous rounds.

While exact terms of the latest deal were not disclosed, Manish Maheshwari, managing director of Twitter India, said in a statement: “Twitter and ShareChat are aligned on the broader purpose of serving the public conversation, helping the world learn faster and solve common challenges. This investment will help ShareChat grow and provide the company’s management team access to Twitter’s executives as thought partners.”

Sachdeva said with the fresh capital, ShareChat will hire more tech talents to make sure its technology “is at par, if not better” than all the other global social networks.

He also expects the platform to expand its user base in India, hopefully doubling it to 100 million next year.

Twitter's financial backing will fuel ShareChat's battle against Chinese's social video app TikTok, which has been gaining momentum in India.

The country has become one of TikTok's biggest markets, where it had around 120 million active users, mainly children and teenagers, as of April 2019. 

However, the popular video-sharing app owned by ByteDance, one of the world's most valuable startups, has been under tight scrutiny by Indian authorities and regulators.

TikTok was banned in the country in April after a court ruled it contained "pornographic" content. The ban was lifted after a few days.

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