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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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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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