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Business News/ Companies / Start-ups/  Vokal raises $5 million from Shunwei, others

Bengaluru: Voice-based vernacular knowledge sharing platform Vokal on Thursday said it has raised $5 million in its Series A investment round. The investment round was led by Shunwei Capital, a new investor in the company. Another new investor, 500 Startups, and existing investors Accel India and Blume Ventures also participated in the round.

Vokal is a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform that was created specifically for India’s non-English internet users. The product is a few months old and currently has thousands of questions pouring in everyday on various topics. It is currently available only in Hindi, but will be launched in multiple languages in the next few months.

“Anyone who doesn’t know English in India has a huge problem of accessing relevant answers to their questions. Their internet experience is poor with a dearth of meaningful content. We’re building a peer-to-peer content network that can cater to their information & knowledge needs," Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder and chief executive officer of Vokal said.

The money will be invested mostly in product development, hiring and growth into other languages, said Mayank Bidawatka, co-founder of Vokal. The company plans to launch the products in Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, etc. The non-English speaking internet user segment in India is expected to grow from around 250 million to 550-600 million, about double the size of the US population, he added.

Vokal was one of the participants at Google India’s first mentorship and boot camp program, called Solve For India, that the tech giant officially kicked off this year. The company’s founders are not new to the start-up world. Radhakrishna was the co-founder of TaxiForSure, which was acquired by Ola Cabs in 2015. Bidawatka was on the core team at bus ticketing website (acquired by Ibibo Group in 2013) and a co-founder at Goodbox.

500 Startups and Accel had invested in TaxiForSure and redBus, and in Goodbox too.

“The Indian vernacular segment is poised to be almost twice the size of the United States. Their Internet experience is broken with basic translation widgets available as solutions…we are creating a product grounds-up that they can use every day. Translation of existing content is a non-solution for a country that thrives on audio-visual media as their preferred consumption mode," said Bidawatka.

Shunwei Capital, the lead investor in Vokal’s Series A round, is a sister company of Chinese phone and appliances maker Xiaomi Corp. Late last year, Xiaomi’s CEO Lei Jun said the phone maker will invest as much as $1 billion in 100 startups in India over the next five years. At that point, Xiaomi and Shunwei Capital had already picked up stakes in six Indian internet companies including Hungama and KrazyBee.

“India is a large market and the language Internet users are underserved today. We are bullish on Vokal’s ability to create an information and knowledge platform to cater to this segment of users," said Tuck Lye Koh, partner and CEO of Shunwei Capital.

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Updated: 26 Jul 2018, 11:44 PM IST
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