Indian alternatives to social networks are now ready to breach the next frontier of audio/video discussion platforms. Filling the void of in-person interactions in the post-Covid world, US-based drop-in audio chat app Clubhouse has taken Silicon Valley by storm, and there’s a stampede among members of the Indian startup and business community to secure entry for the invite-only iOS app.
Clubhouse’s popularity here has thrown the spotlight on the Made-in-India live discussions app Leher. Available on both iOS and Android, Leher supports audio and video, and says its organic downloads are doubling every week and is now at around 1.5 lakh. The app has also seen a surge in interest from Indian and global entrepreneurs looking to back its growth as a formidable local alternative to Clubhouse, and talks are on for closing a funding round.
Launched in 2018, Leher facilitates debates and discussion within a limited group via audio and video, has private and public chat rooms, and supports both ephemeral and recorded conversations. Currently, the average time spent by users on Leher is roughly 15 minutes per day, and the average discussion session is around 110 minutes.
“Leher has been almost three years in the works now. We wanted to build a virtual platform for free flowing conversation and felt audio and video promote more meaningful conversations than just text,” co-founder and CEO Vikas Malpani said. “Clubhouse’s success has indirectly helped grow awareness of Leher, and has made us double down on the product.”
Research firm CMR India head (industry intelligence) Prabhu Ram said, “The growth of audio-only social networks, such as Clubhouse, can be traced to the rising social media fatigue and, more importantly, prolonged period of pandemic-induced social isolation.” Indian startups have an opportunity to build hyperlocal, live audio and video-centric social networks for both urban and aspirational India, but market success will depend on user experience, he added.
Launched just last year, Clubhouse has already been valued at over $1 billion. Data from Sensor Tower shows that Clubhouse daily installs in India are rising at around 3x since Elon Musk made an appearance on it on February 1. As of February 7, it had 22,000 downloads. In India, startup leaders like Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Cred’s Kunal Shah and RazorPay’s Harshil Mathur are already on the niche app and helping create a buzz around it.
Picking audio as the next frontier of social networking, Twitter too is testing out Spaces, an audio chat feature within the platform, in India and globally. Facebook is also building an audio discussions product to rival Clubhouse’s popularity, as per global media reports.