We've all heard of Flipboard, Pulse and many news readers gaining popularity, especially with the evolution of mobile content curation and the desire to share content within respective social networks by users. Catering to a similar requirement is a startup from Bangalore called Newshunt which focuses on addressing a core problem of showing reigonal content on mobile devices.
Launched in June of 2009, the platform was built to solve this problem at an application level, in a small mobile footprint, and making it all work on phones whether it natively supported the language or not.
"With vernacular literacy far greater than English, Indian languages were our key focus," said Vishal Anand, chief product officer of Newshunt.
According to Vishal, for regional language content they had the best real world example of newspapers, where the readership of local language newspapers was significantly higher as compared to English dailies. And interestingly their product also caught on with people away from their home towns, whether in India or abroad.
Essentially, NewsHunt is a regional language news curation application that aggregates content from over 100 newspapers in 12 languages from India, Bangladesh and Africa.
"As a technology problem: Our mobile platform helps render regional language on mobile devices, irrespective of if the device has any native capability to show a certain regional language content," said Vishal.
It serves as a very helpful tool to get regional language newspaper especially for those users who dont have access to their favorite home town newspapers and want their content on the go. According to Vishal for all the literates in India, around 10 percent have English language literacy versus 74 percent for regional languages. Hence their platform comes in handy when it comes to getting this content out to a large group of users.
For their content partners who at times lack technical acumen to get their content online(or mobile), they offer a Plug and Play model where newspaper publishers do not need any customized feeds. Their team does all the heavy-lifting and a regional language newspaper can be added to their platform in under four hours.
For the markets that they exist in, they are very conscious of data speeds and cost, hence their app is designed for simplicity and the data is transferred in unicode with proprietary compression to make it work seamlessly on feature phones as well as smartphones on low speed 2G connections to better ones like 4G/Wi-Fi. This according to me is a really smart move and probably one of the reasons for a great amount of traction that NewsHunt generates.
You could say in a way news aggregators like Flipboard or Pulse are their competitors, however since they lack support for Indian regional languages (unless natively supported by phone) this has the edge for now when it comes to the problem they are addressing.
According to Vishal their news reading experience is also differentiated from other news aggregators where because of their partnership with all their content providers, they are:
a) Able to give complete stories (unlike RSS based providers)
b) Able to optimize the experience for the user for their form factor
Interestingly their growth has been very organic according to Vishal and he goes on to say that they have recently started to experiment paid channels like that of Facebook etc.
Currently they have an installed base of 30 million users who give them 900 plus million news pageviews each month. Their apps are available on both Android & iOS platforms and also come preinstalled on several Android, Java and Symbian devices--most recent example being that on Nokia Asha phones. They've have also been awarded internationally for their product. Recent notables include winning the GSMA Global Mobile Award 2013 for Best Mobile publishing product, and mBillionth 2013 award in category of News & Journalism.
As of now they are a small team of mobile engineers and developers. They started small with 10-12 engineers and now are up to 45 people working on Newshunt. According to Vishal their team members are very sensitive to end user experience and continue to debate and build product to suit variety of users on changing mobile environments.