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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Google, Microsoft investment in news aggregator app DailyHunt should be welcomed with caution

Google, Microsoft and AlphaWave, a Falcon Edge Capital unit, have invested over $100 million in DailyHunt’s parent company VerSe Innovation. This is the biggest funding round for VerSe Innovation, which has in the past raised funds from Sequoia Capital India and Omidyar too.

With this, Bengaluru-based VerSe Innovation, which owns and operates local language news and video app Dailyhunt (earlier known as News Hunt), has crossed a valuation of over 1 billion dollars, making it the latest unicorn (a term used in the venture capital industry to describe a startup company with a value of over $1 billion) in Bharat.

As per livemint.com –

“The company plans to use the new capital to scale up its short form video app Josh, expand its local language content offerings, to develop a content creator ecosystem and leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in it.

Josh was launched in September after the ban on Bytedance’s TikTok by Indian government in June left a vacuum in the short form video space. After the TikTok ban, millions of users turned to Indian short form video apps including Chingari, Mitron, Moj and Roposo.

Focused on regional language speakers, Josh supports 12 India languages and has been one of the most downloaded Indian short-video apps on Google Play Store India with over 77 million monthly active users, 36 million daily active users and over 1.5 billion video plays every day.”

The vision of Josh aligns with Google’s investment strategy for Bharat which the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai had laid out during the Google for India event, when the global tech giant announced a $10 billion investment plan for Bhara. Pichai had said that one of the four areas where they will invest is in companies “enabling affordable access and information for every Indian in their own language, whether it’s Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi or any other”.

DailyHunt has over 300 million users, offering them content in local languages. In its earlier avatar it was known as  NewsHunt, which was started by former Nokia employees Chandrashekhar Sohoni and Umesh Kulkarni in 2009. It was bought by Virendra Gupta (owner of VerSe Innovation) in 2012 and renamed as DailyHunt in 2015. In 2018, ex-Facebook senior executive Umang Bedi came onboard as a co-founder.

Since then, DailyHunt’s focus has changed towards multimedia (video) formats, socialisation and personalisation with content that is more hyperlocal and entertainment oriented than just news. In the past two years alone, Dailyhunt has recorded a ten-fold increase in its users and revenue, which has now crossed more than $125 million of ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue).

So what’s there to be cautious about?

Like we had maintained when Reliance Jio announced a $ 4.5 bn i.e. Rs. 34,000 crore investment by Google (Facebook too has announced a massive investment of $ 5.7 bn i.e. Rs. 43,000 crore in Jio), such foreign investment is welcome and much needed for Bharat’s rapid growth to a $ 5 Tn economy. But any such investment should come with caveats that it will not impede Bharat’s digital sovereignty.

Social media platforms and news distribution tech products like DailyHunt will increasingly exercise tremendous influence on what news people consume and shape how they think. We have already witnessed the stunting and colonisation of English-educated ‘upper class’ minds who have grown up on steady diet of English-language mass media controlled by deracinated left-liberal editors and journalists.

US tech majors like Google, Facebook and Twitter have shown a clear liberal bias in their actions, and have been found muzzling voices that challenge the global left-liberal consensus. Their anti-Hindu bias, in particular, is a reality, despite all the noise created by the Congress ecosystem to harangue Facebook into completely banning Hindu voices like Bajrang Dal from the social media platform.

A must-read article on this topic titled ‘Big-tech Takeover: Will Dataism decide the future of Democracy?’ by data analyst Dr. Praveen Patil informs –

“Dr Robert Epstein, a renowned mass behavioural scientist who headed this particular study has concluded that Google’s search engine algorithms alone could have potentially shifted anywhere between 3 to 15 million American voters (towards Joe Biden) by what is known as “suggestive persuasion” methods.

….Algorithms and AI deployed by big tech companies pose a big threat to Democratic Singularity. How India reacts to this dynamic will decide her future. India’s reaction will have to therefore depend on a multi-pronged strategy of policy intervention, coercion, data-tech adoption and course correction. As always, this reaction of India will be shaped by our government and our political leadership.”

But it’s not just the government and political leadership which has to act on these issues. Our entrepreneurs and big business houses must also decide whether they believe in and value the civilisation that our ancestors created and fought for, or whether they are happy just being a conflict-ridden client state of Western powers.

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