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‘We’re Focused On Driving Meaningful Conversations, Not Viral Content’: Wishfie CEO

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Wishfie is a new social media platform that allows its users to share their opinions on trending topics, politics, news and anything that matters to them. In other words, it’s the brother of ‘Youth Ki Awaaz’ from another mother. Wishfie (every opinion matters) and YKA (mouthpiece for the youth) both platforms have a common goal to raise the voice of unheard people.

I personally tried it and genuinely found it very interesting, but I was curious to know that in the era of social-media giants such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Musically etc., how will Wishfie compete and survive?

So, with an aim to decode the story of the inception of this new social media platform I interviewed Durgesh Kaushik, Co-Founder & CEO, Wishfie and here are some edited excerpts of our conversation.

Durgesh Kaushik, Co-Founder & CEO

Raghvendra Shikhrani (RS): How did Wishfie come into existence? How long did it take to put it together?

Durgesh Kaushik (DK): Wishfie started off as a platform that helped people create mashups of birthday wish videos, with a goal of bringing families closer and making birthday wishes more real than “HBD” messages on Facebook. However, after our MVP launch, we noticed that people were using the platform not just for birthday wishes, but also for discussing other topics and sharing their opinions.

After talking to some of the early users and researching more, we realised that there’s no other video platform for people to share their opinions on various topics. It pointed us towards solving the fundamental human need of being heard and finally, led us to come up with our vision of giving people the power to voice their opinions. We launched the current version of the app in January 2018; it took us around three months of development and testing time.

RS: In the era of giants like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, what is scope for startups and how big is the opportunity in this space?

DK: Facebook was launched back in 2004 and became a global platform by 2010. Since then, we’ve seen many success stories in the social media space. It is not a zero-sum game when it comes to social media. The biggest challenge, as well as the opportunity in the social media space, is that when a platform scales, it creates new gaps that new players can harp onto.

Regional social networks like WeChat, Line, RenRen, Sharechat have especially done well because they understand the regional nuances better than global players. In addition, the social media market is way bigger than most people realize. The current market cap of various social media companies across the globe is over $2 trillion, with almost half a trillion in annual revenues. The market cap of social media companies is set to cross $10 trillion within next 10 years.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your focus and the problem you are trying to address. If you are able to create value for people, the existing social media platforms will become your channels for growth rather than competition.

Unlike most social networks, we are focused on driving meaningful conversations on our platform rather than re-distributing viral content. We are going to be the first platform that’ll help the next billion internet users share their opinions so they can participate in shaping the world of tomorrow. While most social media companies are focused on entertaining them with viral content, we are focused on empowering them.

RS: As a startup, what are the major challenges you are facing?

DK: One of the short-term challenges for us is that the early internet users in India are yet to realise the true power of the internet and how it can enrich their lives. Their first experience of the internet is consuming viral content and memes as most social media companies are using that as a tactic to engage these users. So, we realise that it’ll need some time and some level of education before people start engaging in meaningful conversations on social media.

However, we are seeing good progress, and already, we have people from tier-2 cities and villages coming out and sharing their opinions. We are making it super easy for people to use the platform through more inbuilt guidance, automation, and support for vernacular content.

RS: How is Wishfie different from its counterparts?

DK: Wishfie is the first social-video platform that allows people to voice their opinions. In addition, we are developing a strong community of people who enjoy engaging in meaningful debates. We are also developing a network of journalists who will help source the latest news and take the public opinion generated on Wishfie, to the mainstream news outlets.

Other than this, our video technology, which makes the content creation and consumption experience seamless, is our other strong differentiator.

RS: Fake profiles and cyber-crimes are prominent in the social media segment. What is Wishfie doing to manage these issues?

DK: We are following a three-pronged approach to counter these issues.

1) Developing AI-based systems to detect bad actors and remove them from the platform.

2) Crowd sourced moderation: Some of our trusted users will get the power to moderate content on the platform.

3) Wishfie points: Just like Reddit Karma points, we’ve developed Wishfie points, that will incentivize the right behaviour on the platform. Also, people will need a definite number of Wishfie points to get access to various features on the platform. This will make it harder for bad actors to misuse the platform.

RS: Please take us through your funding journey.

DK: Our team consists of serial entrepreneurs and well-known leaders from the industry. This helped us gain early traction with various investors who showed interest in what we were building. We were selected by Facebook for its FBStart program, which gave us $40K worth of benefits and helped us in the initial period. Finally, we met Abhishek Singh from Staffopedia and Malik Prasad from Tusker invests, who believed in our vision and decided to partner with us on our journey.

RS: What is the revenue model for Wishfie?

DK: Wishfie is developing APIs that’ll allow various companies to collect video-testimonials on their websites. This will help companies leverage our video technology and the opinion platform.

Also, we’re in talks with several news outlets and media houses to help them source public opinions to augment their news articles. Both of these services will follow fees based subscription model.

RS: How would you define your core target audiences (TA) and what are your plans to take Wishfie to its TA?

DK: Our core target audiences are millennials because they want to be heard and have a say in what’s happening around them. We have developed college community programs as our core growth strategy. This strategy has been quite successful with over 100 plus colleges currently participating in conversations on Wishfie. Further, we plan to partner with news outlets to give more visibility to Wishfie and to the Wishfie users’ opinions on various issues.

RS: How big is your team? How are you managing day-to-day operations?

DK: Our current full-time team is six people. In addition, we have a team of about 30 interns and campus ambassadors who are running community programs at various colleges. Our team has the right mix of technology, marketing and business capabilities, which is helping us in developing our product and growing our community.

Akshay Pruthi, who’s an NSITian and a serial entrepreneur, handles our product. He previously founded Reach, raised half a million dollars and sold the company to iXigo. I am handling marketing and strategy for the company. I am leveraging my experience of working at Facebook and my exposure from working in various countries.

Our tech lead, Anurag is a serial entrepreneur who’s followed by over 25K people on Twitter. Our community program is being managed by Ankita Mehra, who is an ex-Roadies contestant and an inspiration for the youth.

We have Vivek and Rajdeep, who are helping us develop the iOS, video technology, and our Android platform. Vishwas Bhushan is our managing our campus ambassador program. As a group, we are clear on our roles and responsibilities and are aligned with our mission. This helps us stay motivated as we solve various complex problems daily.

RS: How dense is your user base? What kind of response have you received so far?

DK: We have over 50K registered users who have created over 15K topics and 10K videos on the platform. The selfie-videos uploaded by our users on the platform have been viewed over 1 million times. Currently, 250-300 videos are being uploaded on Wishfie on a daily basis.

We have received a lot of positive feedback from our users and the start-up community. The app is rated 4.7 on Google Play and has been featured in various media outlets. Google Play has regularly featured Wishfie among top 500 social media apps in India.

Our target is to cross 1 million users within next one year, with at least 1000 videos being uploaded on a daily basis.

RS: Are there any big plans for Wishfie in near future? Please shed the light on your future plans and where do you see it in next two years?

DK: Wishfie is still in its early days when it comes to our product roadmap. We have a lot of exciting features that we’ll be rolling out over a period of time. We hope to Wishfie as the largest platform for public opinion in a video format and for live video debating.

In the next two years, our goal is to serve at least 5 million users and to be a profitable company that is the default source of public opinions for various news outlets.

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