A California-based Company. An on-the-fly country manager for India. No office in the country, yet 18% of its total user base in India. That’s Quora for you — the Q&A platform that recently attained the unicorn status, being valued at $1.8 Bn after a Series D Round of funding.
For the uninitiated, Quora is like the Encyclopedia Britannica of digital times. With a team of only 200, Quora is on a mission to share and grow the world’s knowledge and India is part of this mission.
With digital consumption of vernacular content on the rise in India, there is no option for content-focused companies but to go desi. In line with this, Quora recently introduced a Hindi platform for its users. Since the launch of its beta version in April, Quora Hindi has already recorded questions and answers on diverse subjects.
Quora sprang the vernacular surprise on its Indian users with its Hindi version. As of November 2017, the company had no plans to go vernacular, as country manager Gautam Shewakramani had told Inc42.
When we recently caught up with Gautam to understand this sudden development, he explained that internationalising and expanding the availability of Quora to multiple languages has always been part of the company’s plan and is integral to achieving its mission of sharing and growing the world’s knowledge.
Back in November, the company hadn’t made any firm decisions on its expansion into vernacular content and the timeline. “However, over the course of the following months, we decided to invest in expanding our reach and accessibility in India — launching Quora in Indian languages was an obvious step,” he said.
Ten months into the Indian content market now, Gautam said, “My biggest learning has been understanding how passionate and engaged the Quora community in India is — they are our biggest asset.”
Gautam, who was appointed as the country head of Quora India in August 2017, is spearheading Quora Hindi. He was previously the founder and CEO of AudioCompass and is currently operating from California. Additionally, he is an active angel investor and has invested in several startups, including Exotel, Hotelogix and Bevi. Certainly a perfect cocktail for a culturally diverse country like India.
Backed by marquee investors like Collaborative Fund, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, Tiger Global, Matrix Partners, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Quora currently has a global community of 200 Mn monthly active users.
So, Why Do We Have Quora Hindi Now?
Quora Hindi is exactly what the name says — questions and answers on the Quora platform in Hindi. Without changing the core Quora product — a high-quality, credible, and personalised experience that the company aims to offer its users — Quora Hindi is an attempt to tap into the hugely expanding vernacular digital content market in India.
The answers on Quora Hindi are not just English ones translated through machine learning. The company has kept the vernacular version fluid and adaptable to the local market. It is enabling users to create new content in Hindi. While there is the option of translating from English is also there, Quora is not just dumping translated content on the users.
If you want to understand what kind of discussions are taking place on Quora Hindi, here are some examples: the relevance of Ram and Sita for couples today, advice for people traveling outside India who do not speak English, gender equality at home, how to effectively spend your time while waiting at a railway station, when the next economic recession will occur in India, which freedom fighter had the biggest impact on India’s Independence movement, among many others.
But where’s the opportunity here? How and why did vernacular users become a focus area for global companies like Quora? We found some strong reasons for this inclination:
India’s Vernacular Digital Content Market
The major causes for this vernacular digital revolution form a simple loop — growing Internet penetration, increasing smartphone usage and reach, Reliance Jio making data access cheaper, and the rising trend of users accessing the Internet and various apps through their smartphone. With this loop in play, ecommerce, social media and other digital media platforms have started exploring Tier II and Tier III markets.
Meanwhile, the reverse is also true — the growing access to vernacular language content is also contributing to the spiralling use of the Internet and smartphones in India beyond metros. And the demand is not limited to Hindi. The online presence of several regional languages — like Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Gujarati etc — has picked up in recent times.
Realising the importance of vernacular content and mediums for expansion into the rural and semi-urban markets, global Internet companies like Google are offering services such as Assistant, news, an Indic keyboard, etc, and Facebook offers Hindi on its social media platform. How, then, can Indian companies be left behind? Content-based companies like Inshorts, POPxo, etc have dived vernacular content pool, both starting with Hindi, and have witnessed increasing growth.
Meanwhile, Chinese mobile Internet company UCWeb, which enabled Hindi along with English on its mobile browser, had said that the next wave of growth in India’s Internet penetration was expected to come from Tier II and Tier III cities, enabled by the wireless mobile Internet.
So, if companies don’t want to miss the boat, now is the time for them to focus on local Indian languages.
Ensuring Data Privacy And Quora’s Plans Ahead
The world has woken up to data privacy and security concerns in the aftermath of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle and no digital platform, least of all one that deals with content and has users interacting with it directly, can ignore these concerns. Meanwhile, privacy policies are being tightened the world over with the GDPR being introduced in the EU and the Srikrishna Committee set to table the Data Protection Bill Draft in India.
Given the emphasis on data privacy, we asked Gautam what Quora is doing to comply with regulations and address privacy concerns. He replied that the company recognises that privacy is very important and takes it seriously.
“We do not sell a user’s personal data — such as his or her name and contact information — to third parties to use for their own marketing purposes. Nor do we share user-level data, or personal data of our users or their connections, through third-party applications,” said the Quora country manager.
The company also has checks and balances built into the product platform, explained Gautam. These include the option to report inappropriate content and strong internal policies around promoting safety and high-quality content and reducing spam, harassment, and other types of content that don’t contribute positively to the platform.
Going forward, as Quora continues working on its mission to spread and share knowledge, it plans to experiment with new things like adding other formats for sharing knowledge online. However, for the most part, the company’s focus remains on continuing to make the question-and-answer experience better for its customers.
The question to which we will be seeking an answer is: Will Quora become the go-to digital encyclopaedia for vernacular users in India?