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Exclusive: Veteran journalists launch news video app for regional languages

HR Ranganath & R Sridharan

HR Ranganath & R Sridharan

Two veteran journalists have come together to launch a one-minute multilingual video news on mobile app Nyusu that went live on Google Playstore on Tuesday. Founded in Bangalore by former managing editor of ET Now R Sridharan and leading Kannada news channel Public TV’s founder and editor-in-chief HR Ranganath in September 2015, the media startup Nyusu Digital Media Pvt Ltd has a team of 40 journalists who daily produce 20 one-minute news videos each in English, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.

Sridharan, co-founder and editor-in-chief, told VCCircle that Nyusu would release more videos online going forward and expand to other Indian languages in six to nine months. The company buys video feeds, make them into one-minute news strips with voice-over and customise for the smartphone users. Sridharan said the iOS version of the app would be launched in less than a fortnight.

“We position ourselves as a video news network on mobile for regional languages,” Sridharan said. He said the Nyusu app would come pre-loaded on Samsung’s new Tizen operating system-powered handsets.

Sridharan, who was part of the launch team of ET Now, the business news channel from Times Group, led its editorial operations for four years until he quit May 2015 to start Nyusu. He was previously managing editor of Business Today magazine.

The veteran Kannada journalist-turned-media entrepreneur HR Ranganath headed Kannada Prabha newspaper and Asianet Suvarna news channel before launching his own television channel Public TV four years ago. R Shankar, former resident editor of The New Indian Express, Bangalore, is managing editor of Nyusu.

The past two years have seen many digital media startups sprouting up in India some of which are led by journalists themselves. For instance, former Bloomberg TV India editor Govindraj Ethiraj founded PING Network, which runs a YouTube-centric digital TV Boomlive.in. PING raised angel investment of Rs 4.5 crore a year ago.

Network18 Group founder Raghav Bahl, who sold his television network and publications to Reliance Industry’s Independent Media Trust, started Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd which runs a news site TheQuint and invests in new media ventures.

General interest media startups and technology-led mobile-centric news platforms have attracted venture capital investors. The Omidyar Network has invested in Scroll Media Inc and News Laundry Pvt Ltd. It has also put money in Ver Se Innovation Pvt Ltd, which runs DailyHunt.com, earlier known as NewsHunt.com.

Tiger Global Management has invested an estimated $23 million (Rs 140 crore) in InShorts.com (earlier known as NewsInShorts.com), which provides bite-size curated news. ScoopWhoop Media Pvt Ltd, which offers a BuzzFeed.com-type offering, raised series A investment from Kalaari Capital.

Sridharan said Nyusu has already initiated talks with three-four venture capital investors for a Series A round as the founders have been running the venture with a sizable initial capital for the past six months, investing in human resource and technology. The company plans to invest in marketing and operational expansion as well. He said the company would take the one minute-video template to other emerging markets as well.

While some of the digital media startups accumulated audience on the back of social media and smartphone proliferation, the advertisement-centric business model that most of them have adopted is yet to pay off in a big way.

Digital advertising is growing rapidly in India. The Internet and Mobile Association of India estimated India’s online ad market at Rs 3,575 crore (about $550 million) in the last financial year, up about 30 per cent over the previous year. Digital media startups eye a slice of it.

“No one pays for subscription. So we will go for advertisements,” Sridharan said about the monetisation strategy. He said the firm would play a 10-second pre-roll commercial with every video and promote branded content for revenue generation going forward. “We are creating our own content for regional language audience who are smartphone users,” he said.

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