Three friends, all computer engineers, in their mid-20s — Vinay Singhal, Shashank Vaishnav and Parveen Singhal — are on a high. Fame and money have nothing to do with it; it is the power to connect with people.
“Imagine being able to touch three million lives every day with something that you do, influence how people think and what consumers read. The impact that you can create with the work that you do is thrilling,” says an elated Vinay Singhal, Co-founder and CEO, WittyFeed, a viral content company.
YouTube of content
Calling the firm a “YouTube of content but with an ecosystem in place,” Vinay insists “money and fame are far away from the equation. At this time, the high comes from being able to understand the power that lies in our hands.”
Interacting with 2.5 billion people in the last two-and-a-half years is no mean feat. Vinay says some 15,000 influencers tend to use WittyFeed’s platform, which integrates blogging from content creators, adding monetisation to the mix with distributors and engaging with consumers.
“For most of the content creators on WittyFeed, around 15,000, this is their primary source of income. I wake up every day to this elated feeling, that I am responsible for providing for these 15,000 people,” says Vinay.
Lessons to be learnt
He adds that for an entrepreneur, “the graph from innocence to experience runs weirdly. You are on top of the world one day and down the next. However, one of the really bad reasons for becoming an entrepreneur is if you feel you are going to become the next Sachin Bansal of this country. Instead, think of how you can change lives.”
WittyFeed’s three-year-old concept kicked off in 2014. “We were looking to monetise a simple Facebook page. We started to reproduce content on that and in the process of scaling up, understood one simple thing: there are huge influencers on social media who don’t have a clue how to monetise their content. We decided to package all of this into a product and provide it to these influencers. We came up with a simple drag-and-drop system,” says Vinay.
WittyFeed currently hosts “40,000 stories, where social influencers can pick and choose what is relevant to their audience. We track the clicks, the bounce rate and look to incentivise the content. We are US-focussed, since our influencer base is North American and they understand content. As of now, a US user is much higher in terms of value,” he adds.
From a team that started out from from a small hostel room in Chennai, and currently headquartered at Indore, Madhya Pradesh, WittyFeed earned ₹30 crore in revenue last year.
It has an office in Canada that hosts their North American operations and another one in Singapore, “where we have set up our international headquarters.” By sheer dint of sticking to their plans and not being swayed by failure, the company has notched up 250 million page views per month.
With an audience reach of more than one billion, the company hosts 80 million unique readers and 160 million video views every month.
Despite this, Vinay and his team have their feet planted firmly on the ground. Humble beginnings aided the trend.
“Every single entrepreneurial lesson that I have learnt has come from my dad who ran a small shop in Nunsar village in Haryana, with just 50-odd houses,” says Vinay, who spent 16 years of his life in that village.
“I saw how my dad dealt with people. He ate with the labourers, and never allowed us to treat them like servants. I learnt people management skills from him. I also learnt how to deal with failure, be consistent and disciplined from him,” he adds.
He says he learnt to put people before anything else. “Employees are the backbone of any company,” says Vinay, who now, along with other founders, oversees a team of 120 people. “The basics of business will never change, whether you run a paan shop or a company that deals with customers in America. You have to hold on to good people.”
Shashank (27) is the CTO, Parveen Singhal (23) is the content head, says the 27-year-old Vinay, who says the company was “completely bootstrapped till now. The only money we invested was ₹300 for a domain name. We have been at it for seven years and went through a massive learning struggle for four years.”
Funding from investors
Mid-September, WittyFeed raised an undisclosed amount of funding in a Pre-Series-A round. The investment was led by independent and seasoned investors like Anand Chandrasekaran, former Snapdeal/ Bharti Airtel CPO; Apurva Chamaria of HCL Technologies; Ritesh Malik, co-founder, Innov8; and other marquee investors.
Acknowledgement by some of the best entrepreneurs in the country, “who have shown tremendous belief in our business model”, is the start to some exciting times for the company, which plans to use the money to strengthen its technology infrastructure, augment its product portfolio and enhance its distribution platform.
(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)