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POPxo Raises $5.5 Mn To Fight India’s Next Digital Media Battle: Vernacular Content

POPxo Raises $5.5 Mn To Fight India’s Next Digital Media Battle: Vernacular Content

The Funding Round In POPxo Was Led By Korean And Chinese Investors With Participation Of The Existing Investors

“India, a nation with over 1600 dialects, has 30 languages spoken by more than a million native speakers each.”

A January 2018 report by Deloitte India predicts that the vernacular content consumers in the country will be 2.5 times of those who prefer English by 2021. While the news and print media majors are already riding on the vernacular content bandwagon, the digital media and entertainment platforms are quickly catching up the pace.

With a user base of 14.3 Mn users, the New Delhi-based POPxo – a women focussed digital media startup in the entertainment tech space – is now eyeing the opportunity offered by India’s rich culture. In its endeavour, the startup was supported by a consortium of investors, both local and international, thus, opening up a lot of markets for the team.

As Priyanka Gill, the Founder and CEO of POPxo shared with Inc42 in an email conversation, the startup has raised $5.5 Mn (INR 37 Cr) in a round of funding led by Neoplux (Doosan Group, Korea) and OPPO (China). Existing investors IDG Ventures India, Kalaari Capital, GREE Ventures (Japan) and Summit Media (Philippines) also participated in the latest round of funding, which takes the total (disclosed) funding in the startup to $11 Mn.

Earlier, POPxo has raised three funding rounds including $3.1 Mn in April 2017, $2 Mn in November 2015 and an undisclosed amount in 2014.

Commenting on the fundraise, Priyanka said, “With this investment round, we are looking to consolidate commerce as a strong revenue stream. We also plan to strengthen our vernacular offering, beginning with Hindi along with continued investment in video and our platform.”

How Fruitful PoPxo’s Second Bet On ‘Hindi’ Will Be?

POPxo is starting its vernacular content journey with Hindi. To be noted, the startup had already tested waters in the vernacular content once in 2015, however, was not able to take off well.

As shared by Priyanka in a recent interaction with Inc42, “In 2015 we launched Hindi content – as a section on the existing site. Our focus got divided between the English and Hindi versions and it did not take off the way we expected it to. We were a small team and we were pushing ahead on many fronts. We paused on it after a year.”

So, what has changed now? To this Priyanka averred,

“Now – with Google pushing hard to get vernacular users online and post the launch of Jio -we feel that the time is right to focus on Hindi again. We have launched the entire POPxo platform in Hindi. With a team of 140, we are seeing a 400% growth m-o- m in Hindi and we are confident that we will be able to make POPxo Hindi as pervasive as POPxo English.”

POPxo In Place To Win The Content And Commerce Segment

Since its launch in March 2014, POPxo has become the go-to fashion, beauty and lifestyle destination for women across the country.  The platform provides content in the form of listicles, expert opinions, and advice columns, as well as space for the users to talk about topics close to their heart, wherein they can participate in Q&A sessions and polls.

Here are the quick growth numbers for PoPxo:

  • Over 70% of the traffic on POPxo comes from outside the top five cities.
  • Plixxo – an Influencer marketing platform (launched in July 2017) has 23K+ influencers in more than 100 cities across India
  • Have worked with  250 brands like Puma, Myntra, Tanishq, Uber, P&G, Tinder, Hike, Amazon amongst others
  • 82% of POPxo users are female, spending over 3.1 Mn hours per month on POPxo content
  • The female users lead to over 200 Mn monthly content engagements -including 150 Mn video views

With the video baton in its hand, Priyanka is aiming to strengthen its position amidst the rising brigade of digital content players in the country such as ScoopWhoop, WittyFeed, MissMalini, BuzzFeed India and FilterCopy amongst others.

As Priyanka added further, “We produce videos across comedy, fashion, beauty and wedding – almost 120 videos every month. Our first-ever web series launches in June. We are also looking at shoppable videos as a format.”

The Investors Take

Certainly, the excellent market growth and the user segment achieved by POPxo has made the investor panel quite bullish with aspirations to reap in good returns in the long term.

While Alex Noh, Director Neoplus believes that POPxo will win over the Indian market with its influencer platform – Plixxo, James Zheng, OPPO India investment Manager mentioned POPxo as a key partner in its digital strategy in India. Also, Nikhil Kapur, Head of South Asia, GREE Ventures, Japan boasts that Priyanka and her team have proven that strong businesses can be built on the backbone of the female consumer.

Karan Mohla, Partner, IDG Ventures India Advisors further considers that since video consumers in India (poised to reach 500 Mn by 2020), will be driven largely by women and the youth segment, there’s a big door open for POPxo.

Vaani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital, finally nailed it by stating, “There are 60 Mn women who are online now. Kalaari has been an early believer in the need for women focused digital communities and is excited about the progress POPxo has made.”

The Road Ahead

The road ahead is clear for POPxo. Given that millions of women are active POPxo users, Priyanka feels that the time is right to foray into commerce. With 49% of users above 25 in age and 18% being iOS users for the startup- all these are positive indicators of a buying audience.

“As our user acquisition strategy is based on leveraging engaging content – the cost of user acquisition is very low. We are also expecting a higher than average conversion as these are organic users. We thus have a very good understanding of what the user is looking for as she interacts with our platform constantly,” shared Priyanka.

But, the competition is still tough. With media tech majors now targeting women audience (For instance, ScoopWhoop’s women-centric portal Vagabomb, Times Internet’s iDIVA, HuffPost India Women, etc), POPxo is no longer the sole player in this space. Plus magazines such as Cosmopolitan India, VOGUE, Femina, Elle and Savvy also deal in the same 18-45 age group demographic and provide content for them – be it beauty, entertainment or lifestyle.

Priyanka, however, believes that POPxo is positioned well to reach a much wider audience and the adoption of vernacular content and video will further enhance the brand’s reach in the country. With the international investors added to the startup’s board, it will also be interesting to see if POPxo will be willing to spread its wings outside the country in near future.