India-based mobile news aggregation service NewsHunt has raised $40 million to continue its evolution into a digital content platform.
Founder Virendra Gupta told TechCrunch in an interview that the new round is actually a combination of the startup’s Series A and Series B — both of which were pegged around $20 million. New York-based hedge fund Falcon Edge Capital led the round, with participation from existing investors Matrix Partners, Sequoia Capital and Omidyar Network. Bangalore-based NewsHunt raised $18 million back in October 2014, so it’s had a busy recent period.
The NewsHunt service is focused on India, where it is available in 12 languages. It covers over 100 publications and counts 35 million downloads from domestic users, with a further 40 million coming from overseas. It is also available in Bangladesh, where the company has tie-ins with media, and parts of Africa where it works with operators.
Gupta explained his belief that a focus on local languages is a critical part of making mobile internet adoption nationwide in India. “English language literacy is just 10 percent in India,” he added.
But, to merely focus on the news aggregation side of the business and call it an emerging market version of Flipboard, does NewsHunt a great disservice. That’s because it has already ventured out into other kinds of content and services.
A ebooks store — introduced in October 2013 — has clocked 10 million downloads of content, while iPayy — its carrier billing service developed in response to India’s low credit card penetration — is open to third party services, through whom it has been used by four million people.
These services are just the start for NewsHunt.
“We see ourselves as the first point of mobile internet for a number of local language users,” Gupta said. “We intend to launch video, audio [content verticals] and many more things — we want to become a marketplace for local, digital content.”
That focus makes absolute sense. Much like chat apps in Asia, which are opened daily by hundreds of millions who communicate with friends on them, NewsHunt is a service that many in India turn to each day. Having gained their attention and engagement, it makes sense that NewsHunt will offer related products and services which can be accessed around its core news service.
Gupta is staying quiet on international expansion at this point, but, having raised money from outside of India and given the international spread of the Indian diaspora, it seems certain that NewsHunt is cooking up plans.