Pratilipi, an app that is uniting writers in India and encouraging others to try their hand at storytelling, has just raised $15 million to expand its network in the nation.
The Series B financing round was led by Qiming Venture Partners. Existing investors Nexus Venture Partners, Omidyar Network India, Shunwei Capital, Contrarian Vriddhi Fund, and WEH Ventures also participated in the round. The five-year-old startup has raised about $21 million to date.
Ranjeet Pratap Singh, CEO of Pratilipi, describes his platform as “YouTube for writers.” In an interview with TechCrunch, he said more than 100,000 writers are active on the platform and it has amassed over 5.2 million monthly active readers.
Pratilipi mostly focuses on text and audio storytelling in Indian languages, a niche space but one that also remains largely untapped. Singh said that the platform has managed to attract a very loyal reader base. An average reader spends about 53 minutes on the app, while web users spend about 15 minutes there.
As people from smaller cities and towns in India come online for the first time, there has been a huge surge in the demand for content in local languages in recent years. Ankush Sachdeva, CEO and cofounder of social networking platform ShareChat, said earlier this year that he was surprised to see how quickly ShareChat had built a community with tens of millions of users by just offering content in Indian languages.
Pratilipi currently serves no ads to its users, but writers on the platform also do not have a way to directly monetize their content. That’s part of what Singh intends to change with the fresh capital.
He said that Pratilipi will soon begin to purchase rights to some stories and help writers secure deals with movie and web series studios and publishing houses. A significant portion of the capital will go into engineering to improve stories recommendations that populate the platform.
“Pratilipi is well positioned to capture the next wave of internet users in India, who prefer to consume content in their own vernacular languages. The company has already built a strong community of readers and writers, and network effects provide strong barriers to entry,” said Helen Pei-Hua Wong, Partner at Qiming Venture Partners.
“In China, we have seen the fast growth of user-generated content platforms, some of which became the main source of entertainment for millions of internet users. We hope to share our experiences in China to help the company grow,” she added.
Pratilipi competes with YourQuote, which has raised about $1 million to date. YourQuote runs short stories on its app and organizes open mic events across various cities and towns for writers and poets. In many ways, Pratilipi also competes with ShareChat, Helo, and Vmate, all of which have built social networks around text and media content.