Hot 100: Race to Grace winner NewsBytes is an Android app that provides crisp, contextual news all under seven minutes! By Shweta Gandhi
Founded in April 2015 by four friends, NewsBytes gives millennials the latest breaking news in a crisp, byte-sized format in under seven minutes. It’s news on the go for those who want to stay updated yet not be inundated by a massive news feed.
The founders, Sumedh Chaudhry, Shikha Chaudhry, Sripriya Yegneswaran and Romesh Khaddar, also comprise the core team. Sumedh is the CEO and handles overall operations, while Sripriya looks after the content; both have studied at IIT Roorkee and IIM Ahmedabad. Shikha is an NIT Allahabad and Cornell Univ alumna, who looks after marketing. Romesh, who looks after the tech, is an an alumnus of IIT Guwahati and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. We talk to Shikha to find out more about the startup.
The idea behind the app
“Information overload is the core issue we are trying to address,” says Shikha. “With so many channels of information and countless data being thrown at us, it has become difficult to segregate the important news from the not-so-important news.” With Google, Facebook and other social media platforms vying for our attention, NewsBytes distils note-worthy news into byte-sized pieces that can be viewed very quickly. It uses a smart backend engine that crawls the Web and picks up crucial everyday events.
“Our take on news is different—we look at India, the world, business, economy, lifestyle, politics, science and technology, sports and startups—and we contextualise all our stories so that the reader doesn’t have to Google or Wikipedia it,” says Shikha. “We are a country full of smartphones, and our generation wants to read the news on their phones as compared to traditional mediums, so that’s what we provide.” The app has built in data analytics tools that help figure out what the person likes to read and then accordingly provide personalised content and notifications. Complementing visuals, precise headlines and bullet points make it easier for readers to skim the story.
Unique selling point
“We often discount the younger generation by saying that they don’t care about the news—the truth is that they don’t want to read serious news,” says Shikha. “Content providers have never cared about the millennials and how they want to read news. So we look at the news from that point of view, and aim to give the user info s/he can consume within seven minutes. It’s all the important news on a platter, so that you’re always updated.” NewsBytes also has a news bot on Facebook Messenger, and prides itself on being the first company in India to do so.
Challenges faced and plans for the future
“In a startup, there are challenges that come your way every day. Our biggest challenge was hiring the right people and getting them up to speed. Funding was the second—once we raised it, we had to be tremendously careful with it. It’s like a loan, and we have to be very frugal in our spending,” says Shikha. Next up are plans to make the platform even more user-friendly and interactive so that it’s the go-to app for news consumption. “In the next two to three months, we are looking to hit a download metric of 1,00,000,” says Shikha. They are also building their iOS app, which will be out in the next one or two months.
Funding and revenue
“We have just started out, and will be looking at means of earning revenue at a later stage,” says Shikha, adding that they have been making do with angel funding so far. Without having spent anything on marketing, NewsBytes has grown organically and has amassed 65,000 downloads so far. “More than the number of downloads, we look at the number of people who engage with our app. The level of engagement is good so far, and we see people spending four minutes on an average on the app,” she says. “We have seen a phenomenal growth; initially, we used to do six news items in a day. Today, we do 25—so we have matured content-wise too.”
NewsBytes has scored funding from GSF Accelerator (founded by Rajesh Sawhney) and also raised seed funding from a bunch of entrepreneurs-turned-investors in 2016. Advising the NewsBytes team are its mentors Yogesh Andlay and Dr Srikanth Sundararajan of Helion Ventures.