Short video app born after India’s TikTok ban gets US$805mil

A startup that launched a short video app, days after India banned China's TikTok, received RM3.39bil in funding backing its massive growth. — AFP

An Indian social content startup that launched its short video app exactly four days after the government banned China’s TikTok, has received US$805mil (RM3.39bil) in funding, the country’s largest venture capital round this year.

A little over half the capital, US$425mil (RM1.79bil), in VerSe Innovation Pvt’s latest round, came from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the startup announced on Wednesday.

Other investors included the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, Luxor Capital and Sumeru Ventures. Existing backers including Sofina Group and Baillie Gifford also participated. The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Google-financed startup, which has raised US$1.5bil (RM6.33bil) in the past year alone, is now valued at US$5bil (RM21.09bil).

The Bangalore-based company runs the Josh app, billed as the Instagram for Bharat, referring to non-English speaking India that lives outside its half-dozen affluent top cities.

VerSe also owns local language content delivery platform Dailyhunt, which preceded Josh, and also focuses on India’s "next billion” regional-language users.

Josh has 150 million monthly active users, while Dailyhunt has 350 million, according to the company. Over nine-tenths of the content on the two apps is in Indian languages.

India’s short video startups have seen sky-rocketing growth after India banned TikTok and a rash of Chinese-origin apps in June 2020. Since then, Josh and its rivals such as Roposo and Moj have registered record user numbers, engagement and revenues.

ShareChat, the parent of Moj, is in discussions to raise US$200mil (RM843.7mil) from investors including Temasek and Alphabet Inc.’s Google at a US$5bil (RM21.09bil) valuation, Bloomberg News recently reported.

"VerSe will be profitable within the next two or three years,” said Virendra Gupta, founder of VerSe.

VerSe will use the capital to broaden its artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, using data science to boost user engagement and retention. It will also drive revenues through influencer-led commerce and live commerce. – Bloomberg

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