Home / Companies / News /  Two years on, content startup Manch plans to shut operations

MUMBAI : Content startup Manch plans to close operations as it has been unable to attract enough users after nearly two years of trying to be India’s answer to Reddit, two people aware of the matter said.

Founded in March 2018 by Pritam Roy and Hari Sunkari, Manch is a discussion platform where people ask questions and express their opinions on topics including politics, personal relationships and career. The startup was positioning itself on the lines of US-based Reddit, which operates a similar discussion portal and is valued at about $3 billion. Manch had raised 5 crore in a seed funding round in January 2019 from venture capital firm Stellaris Venture Partners and Sujeet Kumar- co-founder of B2B e-commerce firm Udaan.

“Manch plans to wind up and liquidate the company over the next six months. They haven’t spent too much of the capital they raised so they will return a lot of it back to the investors," said one of the two people cited above, both of who spoke under condition of anonymity. “Any good content platform needs enough people who are producing content as well as consuming it. Manch did not have too many people producing content, although there was a huge user base willing to consume regional language day-to-day content in India," the person added.

Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint
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Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint

CEO Roy, and Rahul Chowdhri, who sits on the company's board on Stellaris' behalf, declined to comment.

Manch’s plans also underscore the challenges of building a sustainable content startup in India. Over the last few years, content startups from news aggregation to podcasting to social networks targeting regional non-English speaking audiences have mushroomed.

Non-English internet users are expected to grow at 18% annually, compared to 3% for English, to reach 536 million by 2021, according to a report by Google and KPMG. In the next five years, nine out of every 10 internet users will be local language users, the report added.

This was further bolstered by telecom firm Reliance Jio’s entry September 2016 whose rock-bottom data prices brought millions of people in smaller cities and towns online virtually overnight. Startups in the regional language content space include ShareChat, Dailyhunt, Pratilipi, Kuku FM and Vokal. However, despite the potentially large market, the local startups have faced tough competition from Chinese giants such as TikTok and Helo (both owned by Bytedance Ltd), who see India as a major long-term market and are willing to spend large sums of money to capture market share.

Most Indian content firms also suffer from a lack of monetization besides advertising, a market cornered by Google and Facebook. Mint reported on November 25 last year that Twitter-backed ShareChat had started monetizing its platform by offering advertisements, four years after it started, and raised capital at a valuation of $600 million.

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