Newsmakers Of 2017: Wittyfeed’s Shashank Vaishnav, Vinay And Parveen Singhal
Imagine setting up a software company with your college pals, pretty much in your backyard, and growing it into the world’s second-largest viral content website within a few years. This is the story of Shashank Vaishnav and the Singhal brothers — Vinay and Parveen — the owners of the Indore-based WittyFeed, which ranks number 21 among the most visited websites in the country; it exceeds its closest rival, ScoopWhoop, by more than 50 million site visits, just for context. Headquartered in a quirky 12,000 sq ft office that employs around 120 people, the company generated revenue of around Rs 25 crore last year, and is aiming to cross the Rs 100 crore mark within the next couple.
How did it all begin, though? “Vinay and I used to study engineering together in Chennai, while Parveen was our junior in the same university. We started off as a software company in 2010, and then ventured out into the social media space in the form of a Facebook page called Amazing Things in the World. We then graduated to a website called thestupidstation.com and followed it up with evrystry. com, with the objective of providing viral content to our users,” says the 26-yearold Shashank.
“But we soon realised that these are not the type of names that you can use to create a global brand. So we finally came up with ‘WittyFeed’ in 2014, and with the substantial traffic from our previous ventures, we realised that it was now time to monetise the audience. After some research and analysis, we surmised that there was a gap between the content on social media and its commercialisation. So we mapped around 50 to 60 Facebook pages and provided them a platform to showcase their work through WittyFeed,” he adds.
How did things take off, all of a sudden? “We automated this process through a unique content distribution channel called viral9.com, with more than 6,000 social media influencers to make the content go viral. It picks up relevant content from the websites and generates different URLs for each of them,” says Shashank.
However, the young entrepreneur refuses to call WittyFeed an overnight success. “The mantra for us has been to not give up. I started working at the age of 19, and it’s been a tumultuous journey through the past 7 or 8 years. We’ve experienced many failures, including losses to the tune of Rs 50 lakh a month. Initially, there were many of us in the core team, but a few fallouts later, there was just the three of us. Nonetheless, we never stopped persevering, because we loved what we were doing,” he says.
And what lies ahead for WittyFeed? “We’ve expanded our reach to wider audiences by diversifying into Hindi and Spanish recently. Our direct competitor now is BuzzFeed, and since they’ve added more serious journalism to their repertoire, we are now aiming to take a similar route,” he adds. “The average age of our staff is around 20-25 years at the moment. The energy and dynamism are abundant, but we are short in terms of experience. So we have brought some former media professionals on board to mentor us through this process.”
“In addition, we are also focussing on video content, which is the next big thing. In order to compete with the likes of All India Bakchod (AIB) and The Viral Fever (TVF), we are also coming up with a web series. So basically, the long-term vision is to provide a platform to plug the gaps between original content and its large-scale discovery,” he says.
Summing things up, he dispels the notion of search engine optimisation being the secret formula for conquering the world of content today. “SEO is now old school. Social media is the new-age content discovery platform, and our success has solely been the outcome of our best possible utilisation of it,” he signs off.