Jani Pasha got inspired by the booming internet revolution and joined hands with Vipul Chaudhary to launch Lokal App in 2018. The hyperlocal content-to-classifieds social network is available in seven languages across eight states. It has aspirations to grow further by capitalising on India’s hunger for the local content.
In an exclusive interaction with MediaNews4U, Jani Pasha, CEO and Founder, explains the approach of building density and dominance in existing markets before venturing into newer locations, and leveraging the hyperlocal dominance for advertisers.
How do you differentiate Lokal from any other news platform?
We are more local than any other news platform. If you go to Lokal, you get the fastest information in your area, which is the primary differentiator. The content gets sourced from the people in that locality and we do it in their native languages.
The execution part is unique as we onboard the local creators at a location first and start creating content on our platform. Once we have a critical volume of content, then we start sourcing the audience from the location depending upon the size of the geographical location and the population. It can be one town or two-town location or two-town and one-city location. On those factors, we have a playbook which tells us how many new audiences are required organically for us to groom that location.
We acquire those users by advertising on ad networks. Once we get to that tipping point volume in that location, then we try to expand the user base further using our content that can be shared easily in any other platform like WhatsApp. If a job offer is placed in the classifieds on Lokal, anyone who notices that can share it with his friends and the person who receives it needs to download the Lokal app to apply for that job. Similarly, we have matrimony and the relevant profiles can be shared and explored within family or communities in similar fashion by downloading our app. We have built it this way and because it is an extremely local network, we have the largest density of users at a location level.
Digital news platforms suffer a trust deficit. How do you overcome this challenge as you allow people to upload content?
Primarily we are an intermediary and we don’t really have a control over it, but we do have well defined community guidelines and moderations built into the platforms, which keeps them under check. There are two types of content creators. One is the verified creator. A verified creator goes through the process of onboarding by submitting the core details of that person. Content submission on Lokal is geo-fenced to a large extent, so you can publish content only when you are from that particular location. We have inbuilt moderation tools that auto-moderate a lot of the content on the application.
We have ensured that the accountability for local updates or news is very high. If a person posts information from a locality, then he is responsible for the content posted by him. In case of misinformation, then the local authorities can reach that person seeking explanation. This accountability factor is unique which is not the case in other news platforms. So, we are a social platform that gives serious importance to the sanity of the platform.
Moreover, trust is something that the user will develop over a period of time when they engage with the platform. Today, the users are turning to Lokal to verify an update that they receive on WhatsApp and other sources and also to get complete details about it. So users across the nation were able to rely on us, which is possible because of our moderation tools and verified content creators.
Brief us through the current presence and future expansion plans…
Today, we are in eight states, seven languages, 250 districts and one lakh cities and towns. In this we are densest in 80 locations. In the rest of the locations we are still growing, So, we have lots of headroom to grow. For the next one year, we want to be in these locations and grow lots of density. We want to build our use cases and pivot deeply to create value for these users. And then get into other categories and locations later.
You have an app download of 45 million. What are the user engagement metrics for the same?
We have 45 million users presently out of which roughly around 10 million are Monthly Active Users (MAU). Our Daily Active Users (DAU) oscillates between 2.5 to 3 million users.
In some locations the user is coming back to our platform once every three days and in others the user is returning back once every two days. So, it is a very high-engagement platform. User visits 5-6 times a day as well in-terms of sessions.
Moreover, in 80 locations where Lokal has its presence, we are at least five to seven times bigger than the largest selling newspaper in that location. The average time spent stands at 10 to 12 minutes per day per user. As we focus only on prominently local content, this usage is really high. On a daily basis, a user consumes nearly 100 pieces of content on our application.
Which category of brands engage Lokal? Who is the major contributor?
We do three sorts of advertising. We do all categories of advertising that happens on a local platform. We monetise on classifieds, where essentially people connect with each other for use cases like real estate, matrimony, buying and selling etc. And the third is brands. Being a hyperlocal platform that involves high user engagement. The user profile data of job seekers to those interested in marriage to real estate consists of micro-level information which is used effectively to target and deliver better RoI for brands which advertise with us. And being a social platform, we have a cohort of digital-savvy people from that location that helps advertisers to reach effectively.
Our advertiser diversity is growing over time. We have brands from financial services, educational institutions, real estate, automobiles, clothing, digital games, e-commerce, OTTs etc. We have user-friendly self-served built-in ad uploads and report delivery mechanism for use-cases like classifieds. Our local advertising business is driven by the sales team and the self-serve model. We do work with leading agencies for large scale brand engagements.
Which is your preferred media vehicle?
When we enter a particular location, we use digital advertising to reach the audience. Subsequently, our content focused on the respective location drives our reach and popularity. Our easy sharing mechanism enables users to share content with others that enables the third person to download the Lokal app. We have a rock star in-house tech team which designs products based on the requirements of the market.
During the initial stage, we spent our investors’ money to amplify until we reached the critical mass. After achieving it we started focusing on organic growth using our own channels.
What is your audience profile? Any interesting data points?
Today we have 75 pc male and 25 pc female users engaging with the Lokal app. The percentage of female audience is growing as we are adding more content streams targeted at engaging women. Addition of categories like education, matrimony and other related services brought in more female audiences.
Our demography consists of 22 to 44 years majorly with all of them interested towards local content and being digital savvy. Lokal offers 95 pc hyperlocal content and our audience consumption pattern reveals that they give 3x more importance to hyper local news than the state or national level news. They give importance to weather reports, power cut updates, political events, accidents and crime.
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