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To crack India’s diverse and massive local news markets, Lokal started asking users what they actually wanted

What's New in Publishing 08 Jul 2020 06:47

As it turns out, it’s not just news.

Lokal founders Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary were convinced that what India’s non-English speaking internet population needed was more context for news; they assumed that it might solve the fake news problem. 

Lokal launched in January 2018 as an English-language WhatsApp news feed with some Telugu that kept readers up-to-date with regional topics like local elections by aggregating external news sources. In one week, it had 1,600 people across eight WhatsApp groups — a flop. “Nobody was using it,” explained Pasha. But Pasha and Chaudhary were not deterred. “We built something in a bubble, so we went back to the drawing board, and we started actually interviewing the users.”

Lokal co-founders Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary are going after millions of Indians seeking news and information in their local languages. Photo provided by Lokal.
Lokal co-founders Jani Pasha and Vipul Chaudhary are going after millions of Indians seeking news and information in their local languages. Photo provided by Lokal.

A diversity of languages

Today, Lokal is a geographically focused news app with original reporting, present in four languages across 32 districts. Apart from news, it also has a classifieds section with matrimony ads and obituary announcements. It graduated from Y Combinator last year and has raised $3.2 million in funding.

Pivoting existing services to digital

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PashaLokalIndiaJani PashaVipul Chaudhary
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