Vokal wants to be one of the first products that can be used by India’s 500 million language Internet users.
India’s vernacular segment is almost twice the size of the United States and one of the largest segments in the world. Very few companies have addressed the challenge of creating products relevant to this segment. According to a study by KPMG and Google, regional language users are expected to account for nearly 75% of India’s internet user base by 2021.
Bangalore-based Vokal is the only information and knowledge sharing app to bridge the digital knowledge gap among non-English internet users by enabling peer-to-peer knowledge sharing using voice. Users can come on Vokal and ask a question, which in turn is answered by an expert. These experts are approved before they can start answering questions on the platform. Experts can also conduct live video sessions and share their knowledge with a large audience.
Vokal is the brainchild of Aprameya Radhakrishna and Mayank Bidawataka who are veterans in the start-up ecosystem. Aprameya Radhakrishna was also the co-founder of TaxiForSure which he sold to rival Ola Cabs. Mayank Bidawataka was one of the founding team members at redBus, after which he founded TheMediaAnt and Goodbox.
In Sept 2018, Vokal had received a funding of $6.5 million in a Series A round led by Kalaari Capital, Shunwei Capital, 500 Startups in Sep 2018, with participation from existing investors Accel India and Blume Ventures. Vokal is currently available in Hindi but it will launch in other regional languages in the coming months.
In an interaction with BW Disrupt, Vokal founders – Aprameya Radhakrishna (CEO) and Mayank Bidawataka spoke about their venture.
What kind of culture do you currently find yourself in? Why do you think India need a knowledge sharing culture today?
India is a very curious country. We’ve always had questions and some of the well known journalists is heard saying “the nation wants to know” – this summarizes the Indian culture. We want to know and love to listen to knowledge in a story format. Vokal realizes the power of the internet and wants to unleash it for the non-English user.
Brief us how technology can be one of the greatest assets in nurturing a knowledge sharing culture in today’s era?
Information and knowledge are a common need among the entire population – not just students. Google is one of the most used products of our time. Thanks to the internet revolution in India, everyone now has access to a smartphone. The internet is no more restricted to the urban english speaking user. Even non-english users are on the internet. But the options they have access to are far lesser because of the language divide.
Information and knowledge are one of the important gaps that the internet fills. The internet has been made for and by the english speaking world. However, India is a very language diverse country with 100+ spoken languages. Access to knowledge and information around interests are missing in Indian languages. We see this as a big problem and want to solve that by enabling the best Indian minds to share their knowledge in their regional language.
Do you think knowledge sharing applications encourage open discussion forum among audience and promote self-learning concept along with unique skills sets in experts? Brief us about Vokal.
Indians have always seeked progress and ways to upskill for a better livelihood. Access to knowledge through the internet solves multiple problems and has a higher reach than physical knowledge dissemination (schools, colleges & libraries). Vokal enables the best minds of India to share knowledge on important topics with the common folk. Most of this knowledge is shared in video & audio forms. This is the best form of self-learning.
Users can ask questions, in their regional language, on the platform and volunteering experts respond to user queries within minutes. This enables a constant exchange among the community of seekers and sharers.
About current market size and opportunities of Knowledge sharing applications in Vernacular space in India.
There are about 400 million internet users in India. 225 million of these internet users don’t speak English. The internet user base is expected to reach 800 million and non-English speaking users will touch 600 million within the next few years. Information and knowledge access is one of the most frequent use cases among internet users across the world. The Indian language internet user is one of the largest segments in the world – double the size of the US population. Vokal caters to the needs of this segment by enabling a vibrant community led platform that shares 1000s of knowledge bytes everyday.
According to the ‘Rising Connected Consumer in Rural India Report’ by Boston Consulting released in 2016 reported that women are also participating equally with men today from Tier II and Tier III cities. do you think it will be a a new wave of change for New India?
We hope so. While the number of men outstrips the number of women at the moment, we’re sure that the power of the internet and smartphone access can do wonders. Lots of organizations are playing a key role in bringing about this change and one of the most notable projects is “internet saathi” by Google. Such initiatives will surely help increase access for women.
Do you think language makes easy for rural people in “connecting Bharat” on 360 degree and create a social change in their lives?
Yes. Language is the biggest divide for progress in India. No country has such a deep language diversity. We are multiple nations in one large nation. One way to bridge this divide is to teach everyone english. The other solution is to bring the knowledge of the world and the best minds to people in their language. We’re taking the second route as the route of least friction – while the education system and “learn english” apps tackle the first problem.
We have 2 million monthly users now and are growing at 30-50% month on month. Users love the platform because of the current knowledge base and easy access to some of the best minds in the country. They feel safe on a platform that is in their language. While other large platforms also have some language internet users, catering to them in a structured way may not be a part of their framework. Discovery of content is not easy on such large platforms. Whereas on Vokal, once a user selects their regional language, they only see all information in that language. These vernacular users have never had such an experience.
What is the vision of Vokal to make “New India” Future Ready and its expansion plans?
Vokal wants to be one of the first products that can be used by India’s 500 million language Internet users. We believe that every Indian seeks progress. Access to information, knowledge and access to the right person is key for this progress. The Internet bridges this gap. We harness the power of the Internet, regional language and the right person to enable access to gyaan for India’s 1 billion users that don’t speak English. Our knowledge sharing revolves around interests. We have 10+ categories that people can choose from with over 1000 sub-interests. We are currently in 10+ languages and will expand to many more within the year.
Source: BW Disrupt