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Ambitious new media startup FactorDaily aims to be India’s Wired

TechCrunch TechCrunch 19/05/2016 Jon Russell

It’s been a while since I’ve written about a new media startup raising funding in Asia. There were quite a few last year — including Tech In Asia, Deal Street Asia and E27 — but now we have a story of note for 2016. FactorDaily, a newly formed startup in India, has raised $1 million to kick start its efforts to build a consumer tech publication for, and from, India.

FactorDaily quietly emerged this year, initially publishing stories on Facebook, LinkedIn and Medium before it put up its website — Factordaily.com — this week.

The company is helmed by ex-Economic Times pair Pankaj Mishra (CEO/editor-in-chief — and former TechCruncher) and Jayadevan PK (managing editor). There core team also includes CTO Titash Neogi and former Business Today editor Josey John who is on board as consulting editor.

The objective, Mishra told me over the phone this week, is to create a new kind of digital platform in India.

“We believe we can build The Verge or Wired of India, a really scalable digital media company from India,” Mishra further explained.

“Technology is beginning to go mainstream in India, changing the way people are living and doing business. It’s both disruptive and transformative. Indians are so hungry [and are] applying technology to how they live, this shift is happening. As storytellers, we think there is a great opportunity if we can ride this wave and capture the story of tech’s intersection with life,” he added.

Mishra and co have pulled together a team of 10 that they believe is up to the task. The publication’s focus is split into four core areas: covering India’s most influential tech companies, exploring how technology is affecting modern life in the country, lifestyle and gadgets — which isn’t focused solely on phone reviews, by the way, — and, finally, future disruption. Video is a major focus of said editorial mission.

Even though the company’s website is up and running, Mishra said it will continue to publish on other platforms because “that’s where readers are living,” although he teased long-form, immersive feature stories that will exist only at Factordaily.com. There are also plans to launch a Facebook Messenger bot very soon. Beyond serving news on mobile, Neogi said the bot could also handle micro-transactions in the future, which is a fascinating proposition.

Initially, the company isn’t worrying about monetization, the key is to build a brand and gain a reputation for quality storytelling. (Anyone who reads India’s tech coverage will know that a lot of the legacy media’s coverage falls short of their equivalents in the U.S..)

Not needing to worry about money is definitely a privilege in media — ad-blocking software, competition from Facebook and other issues threaten the life of independent websites — but it is only temporary. FactorDaily has raised $1 million led by Accel with Blume Ventures and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma. That money is estimated to last two years at least, but already the team is considering how to make money itself.

Top of the list is branded content — FactorDaily has already hired staff to explore this — but events and partial-paywalls (where the micro-payments come in) are options. Furthermore, Mishra said that there has been interest from media — both in India and overseas — wanting to syndicate content, although he is less keen on that option because, too early, it could cannibalize the brand and voice.

India has emerged as its own super power, surpassing the U.S. as the planet’s second largest country of Internet users, while smartphone sales are tipped to continue double digit growth despite a slowdown in North America, Europe and China. Yet, despite those factors, there’s no go-to consumer tech publication in the country. Media is no easy business to crack ordinarily, particularly when you add Indian’s digital nascency, but there is clearly an opportunity here. FactorDaily might be the first of a number of ambitious companies wanting to change India’s media landscape and prove it can own its voice, not to mention show that there’s a sustainable model for new media, too.

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