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When It Pays To Keep It Brief

Iqubal, who was not an avid news reader when he started the app, said he understood the pain-point of readers

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Azhar Iqubal did every­thing to obtain a secure job in big technology. He man­aged a seat at IIT Delhi, and his family, particularly his father, was delighted that Iqubal had succeeded in making a way for himself, coming as he did from Bihar where a job is considered respectable. But worries soon plagued his father as Iqubal had other plans. He dropped out of the IIT and embarked on an entrepre­neurial journey.

“In those days, doing IIT or UPSC was considered the gold standard, but going into business was not easy to convince my father,” says Iqubal, Co-founder, InShorts.  

During his college days, Iqubal and his friends Deepit Purkayashtha and Anunay Arunav would often wonder whether people on the go really had time to go through long-form news. People young and old did need the news.

Iqubal and his friends saw a need and launched a Facebook page for short-form news — articles carefully shortened and collated for friends. Says Iqubal: “We noticed that people really liked the content we were posting and the feedback was pos­itive. Our friends liked the Facebook page, and we live-tested the product at the concept stage.”

Iqubal was part of the TLABs, an acceler­ator run by the Times Internet group. Soon Iqubal and his friends set up an app called InShorts raising $4 million in a Series A round led by Tiger Global. High-profile in­vestors such as Sachin and Binny Bansal and Japan’s Rebright Partners were a part of the funding round with Times Internet as one of the backers. Now there was no looking back.

InShorts (earlier it was News in Short) released an Android app in 2013 followed by an iOS app in 2015. The app provides 60-word summaries for its readers, including all the top stories from across the globe in categories ranging from sports to entertain­ment, business, media, technology, politics, and on and on. The trio now has a team of more than 100 people who collect content from a cross-section of the media for read­ers on the go.

The firm generates more than three bil­lion page views a month as of today. “Our typical readers read more than 80 stories a day on the app. We are more about breadth than about the depth of stories throughout the day. If you are interested in sports, for instance, we give you more about what is happening in sports than anywhere else,” says Iqubal.

Iqubal who was not an avid news reader when he started the app said he understood the pain-point of readers. Hence, he des­gined the app to be simple so that readers who are short of time can just swipe from one news to another, going through hundreds of stories in quick short bursts.

The app has done pretty well since. Hav­ing raised funding from Tiger Global and others some years back, the app is not looking for further funding. “We are profit­able right now, and in case we feel that we need to move in a particular direction then we will look for funds, but right now we don’t need them,” says Iqubal.

InShorts is now moving into short-form video news for the high-premium segment. Video is going to be big in coming years, avers Iqubal, and that’s what the company is fo­cusing on right now. The firm has doubled revenues to about Rs 4 crore a month in the last six months.

Now, if you ask Iqubal what his father thinks of him, pat comes the reply, “Now my father is much more delighted.”


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magazine 29 september 2018 40 UNDER 40 startups
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