Indian storytelling platform Pratilipi raises $48 million led by gaming giant Krafton

Pratilipi, an Indian startup that operates an online storytelling platform to enable writers to share their work in various formats, said on Wednesday it has raised $48 million in a new financing round led by Krafton.

South Korean gaming giant Krafton led the Series D round for the seven-year-old Bangalore-based startup, bringing its to-date raise to $78.8 million.

Existing investor Omidyar Network India as well as scores of high-profile entrepreneurs including Pratilipi chief executive Ranjeet Pratap Singh as well as Unacademy’s Hemesh Singh and Gaurav Munjal, Locus’ Nishith Rastogi, Meesho’s Vidit Aatrey, Udhyam’s Mekin Maheshwari and NoBroker’s Amit Agarwal also participated in the round.

Pratilipi started its journey as an online reading and writing platform where writers shared their stories in several Indian languages. The idea at the time was to create a platform where quality literary work could be hosted and shared in Indian languages, something that only had sparse representation on the web, said Singh, who is a voracious reader of Indian literary work and worked at Vodafone before starting Pratilipi, in an interview with TechCrunch.

The platform has ballooned to become a market leader in the years since. Over 370,000 writers on the platform today share their work in a dozen languages and more than 30 million readers browse Pratilipi each month to read stories.

These writers can choose to share their work with readers for free or charge a subscription fee. But increasingly there’s another avenue for them to monetize their work.

Pratilipi — which has expanded to book publishing, audio and comics in recent years — uses proprietary algorithms to identify stories that it believes could be turned into a book or a web series and buys the IP from the writers.

The startup, which late last year acquired local market leading podcast network (IVM Podcasts), has inked several partnerships with industry players including giant on-demand video streaming service MX Player, which carried Pratilipi’s show “Midnight Lily” earlier this year.

“We have been a part of Pratilipi’s growth story since the early stages,” said Pratik Poddar, principal at Nexus Venture Partners, an early backer of Pratilipi, in a statement. “Over the years, we have witnessed the team’s deep product focus, an obsession to make creators successful, and keen understanding of monetizing content IP which is extensible across different formats.”

Pratilipi’s Singh said the startup will deploy the fresh funding to broaden its partnerships with industry players as well as invest in building in-house publishing stack. With Krafton, which recently launched the Battlegrounds Mobile India game in the South Asian country, the startup aims to develop stories that can be incorporated into global gaming franchises.

The demand for original stories has surged in India in recent years and many streaming services and publishing giants are engaging with Pratilipi, he said. “We will continue to work with ecosystem partners and for formats where we already have in-house expertise we will expand on those,” he said.

Pratilipi also plans to use the fresh funds to expand outside of India. A fraction of its users today already live outside the country, said Singh. “We haven’t worked on the expansion so far, but now the plan is to actively reach out to creators and readers in other markets,” he said.

Wednesday’s announcement also illustrates Krafton’s growing push into the Indian market, where in recent months it has held talks to acquire several gaming studios, according to a person familiar with the matter. In March, the firm led a $22.4 million investment in Nodwin and last month it co-led a $9 million round in Loco.

“It is exciting to see the growth of Indian local IPs in online literature, comics and audio platform in Pratilipi, which is already the largest player in India in multiple categories,” said Sean Hyunil Sohn, head of Krafton’s India division, in a statement.

“With Pratilipi already having a multilingual platform for online literature, it is poised to become one of the strongest players in emerging markets in the future. Krafton believes in the long-term potential of local Indian IPs that can be successful not just in India but globally as well across formats including literature, comics and gaming and our investment in Pratilipi is another step in realising that vision.”