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The Ukraine crisis, high inflation and other politico-economic factors have impacted the overall startup ecosystem, not only in India, but also at the global level, says Tariq Wali, the Chief Technology Officer of Chingari.

However, he thinks that the innovative engineering culture at his firm and its holistic approach to content is setting them apart.

In an interview with Mint, the Chingari CTO weighed in on the startup ecosystem, the blockchain technology incorporated in Chingari, creating cutting edge technologies, hiring and more. Edited excerpts:

Short video apps have flooded the Indian market ever since the government banned the Chinese apps, including Tik Tok. Has Chingari been able to fill that gap? What tech aspects do you think, make Chingari different from other apps like Moj, and Taka Tak?

Absolutely. We have managed to fill the vacuum created by the banning of Chinese apps. Our existing matrics include a Daily Active User (DAU) of more than 5 million and over 40 million Monthly Average Users (MAU). Well, that's not all, more than 200 million videos are being watched daily on the app. Chingari is amongst the top 20 most downloaded apps globally.

In terms of a differentiator, we at Chingari have built the first global social network operating on the Solana blockchain. Moreover, on the Chingari app, content is being served as HLS ABR ( Adaptive Bitrate Streaming) which overcomes the ISP varying network congestions. For comparison, the other short video apps are using the primitive MP4 container format to stream content and that is not adaptive to network conditions. Further, we have been using the latest codec standard H.265 which provides enhanced video quality as perceived by the human eye on mobile devices.

On the content engineering front, our tech team is extensively testing various AI and ML models (recommendation engines) to serve personalized content to the users. In this regard, unlike other short video apps, we're taking a holistic approach to content, users, and creators, and developing a comprehensive end-to-end process that addresses metadata enrichment, content moderation, and recommendation from video upload to video delivery.

2021 was more about funding and blitzscaling, but 2022 is more about survival and focusing on profitability. What do you think?

The recent development in the start-up ecosystem is an indication in this direction only. But one takeaway from this massive change of funding in 2021 to survival in 2022 is that it has forced the founders for course correction, which is an integral part of any business, let alone startups.

Chingari is well placed and positive instead - we have a strong emphasis on growth, user retention and expanding internationally. Our focus also remains to build modern web3 tools and frameworks that fuel overall web3 space - one of which is the upcoming world's first Video NFT marketplace.

Has the overall startup ecosystem started to see the impact of the global downturn?

We live in the age of hyper globalisation where even a small incidence may have major repercussions. The Russia-Ukraine crisis, high inflation and other politico-economic factors are impacting the overall startup ecosystem not only in India but also at the global level.

Chingari ecosystem is not like the other existing short video apps - we are bullish on building, scaling, and growing even in the bearish market - that’s the innovative engineering culture at Chingari.

Last year, Chingari tokenised the app with the introduction of its own crypto named, GARI. What tech-specific changes were made to the app?

For token creation, new age tech like blockchain has been incorporated into our systems. Wallet creation is an integral part of any crypto project and we at Chingari also created the same for our GARI token. We also enabled the on-chain peer-2-peer transaction which is the underlying tech of the tipping feature in our app. Also, we made a technical model to facilitate payments through crypto for in-app purchases.

Why has blockchain technology been incorporated into the app? Are there any additional benefits to the creators?

As we know, Blockchain comes with a plethora of benefits. Transparency is one of the biggest elements which is offered by blockchain technology. By incorporating this state of the art technology, we have created a parallel economy which is benefitting the creators on our platform. Blockchain also allows higher incentivisation and greater participation from the community as it has removed the centralised incentivisation. Other related technologies, such as Web 3.0 has made our Chingari, a truly DAO where the community is taking all the decision, not us.

Why did Chingari choose the Solana blockchain? There are other chains also but Why Solana?

One of the major reasons to choose Solana blockchain is our huge user base. Solana has the capacity to cater to our scalability. Perhaps, another reason is the lower gas fees. Since our application facilitates millions of microtransactions, Solana is cheap and has very low gas fees which makes it an attractive chain for apps like Chingari. Solana is the best performing L1 chain when it comes to the requirement of high throughput and quicker transaction finality.

In recent times, we have seen multiple Solana outages. How has it affected Chingari and its operations? Are there any plans to switch over to some other Chain?

Yes, in recent times, we have seen instances of multiple Solana outages that impact Chingari but to a lesser extent. Some transactions were not going through but there was not a single report of our users losing their money. We have built a fault tolerance mechanism for Solana to read transaction traffic. We do not have any plans to switch over to another Chain.

Do you think that the technologies like ML, AI and Blockchain have propelled content consumption amongst the users? If yes, please elaborate.

These technologies are at the core of the Chingari app. Techs like AI and ML are providing personalised feed to the users which in turn is enhancing the overall experience. Besides, blockchain has ensured transparency and community incentivisation on the app. Overall, we can say that these techs make sure that only relevant content remains on the app.

Is Chingari looking to expand?

We are growing at a decent pace and hiring across positions. The size of our teams has almost doubled within the last 2 to 3 months. As we plan to make some major announcements in the coming months, we are ramping up our tech capabilities to offer the best possible product to our creators and users globally. 

We also have a strong drive towards creating cutting edge technologies that solve for decentralization, and community engagement in a Web 3 way. We are looking for top tech talent in AIML, Data, SRE, Blockchain, Crypto, Backend, Design and Product.

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