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Amrita Prasad
Monday, 24 September 2018

Azhar Iqubal, the 25-year-old co-founder and CEO of Inshorts, tells us about his successful venture that helps millennials keep updated with current affairs in a jiffy

A youngster drops out from one of the top institutes in the country and sets up a startup that goes on to become one of the most popular news-based apps. Sounds like a perfect story for a bestseller? Well, this is the true story of 25-year-old Azhar Iqubal, co-founder and CEO of Inshorts (formerly named News in Shorts). 

An IIT Delhi dropout in Mathematics and Computer Science, Iqubal started his journey with Inshorts at a very young age. The idea for this enterprise germinated from his personal struggle to stay abreast with current affairs, as he did not like to read lengthy news stories. He wanted to change the way people consumed news and thus embarked upon his entrepreneurial journey, along with co-founders Deepit Purkayastha and Anunay Pandey, to create a platform for news in just 60 words. 

Inshorts is one of the highest-rated news apps in India, with more than 10 million downloads on Android and iOS, and 2.5 billion page views per month. The app is targeted at users who are short on time and want to stay updated with current affairs. 

According to a recent study, around 5 lakh users on the app are from Pune among which 50 per cent are males. Here’s chatting up Iqubal about his successful venture: 
 
Many Indians still enjoy their morning cuppa while reading the newspaper, so what made you come up with an app like Inshorts?
We observed that millennials in our country are increasingly getting disconnected from the concept of reading news every day. We realised that the hindrance was the long form nature of content which made it difficult for them to keep up with the latest national and global updates. It was then that I, along with my co-founders Deepit and Anunay, came up with the idea of curating the most significant news items of the day and putting them out in 60-word summaries. This was attempted on a Facebook page which quickly got readers’ attention and within a few months, we launched a mobile app called News in Shorts. Being the pioneers in the online short form content space, we had the early bird advantage and thus were able to carve a space of our own. However, like every other startup, we too faced some roadblocks in our journey.

How is the particular news selected and what are your sources?
We have an editorial team in place which is responsible for curating stories across categories like national, world, politics, business, sports, technology and entertainment. We have established standard guidelines for summarising the stories which are shared in a strictly factual format, completely uncoloured with opinion. We also have content partnerships for both English and Hindi news stories with leading media houses. 

How do you ensure the authenticity of each news item?
We, at Inshorts, take measures to detect inaccurate and fake news by verifying every news article from at least 4 to 5 credible sources before publishing it. 

How do you manage to keep pace with events happening around the world across various fields?
Content partnerships with international and national media houses, along with sophisticated tools, help the team to stay updated on real time breaking news. Additionally, we recently introduced artificial intelligence-based news summarisation on our app. The feature is based on its Rapid60 algorithm that can automatically summarise a full-length news article to 60 words news brief along with a headline and a card image. Now, we are able to scale up the number of articles published on our platform from 10,000 to 100,000 per month. 

The content on your platform is short. How do you make it attractive for users?
Our app user interface is clean and clutter-free. There is just one news story on the entire screen and is enriched with photos/ videos covering almost half of the screen. The user connects with the story through the image and the headline, and can read the summary through a 60-word text below which offers the crux of the complete story.

Is your platform only targeted at the youth?
Our platform is targeted at the smartphone generation, users who are short on time and want to stay updated with current affairs. We have generally seen our app getting traction across age groups wherein 38 per cent of our users are between 18 and 24 years and 40 per cent are between 24 and 35 years. Also, our app is popular amongst influencers like industry experts, politicians and CXOs across the spectrum. We have a majority of readers from Tier I and Tier II cities, however, with the increasing number of internet users our plan is to go regional in the coming years.

What would be your advice to those who want to get into entrepreneurship and chase their dreams?
Today, millennials have become more risk takers and are ready to take on more failures. I would say there is no specific right or wrong time to start anything, if you feel confident and have a strong, trustworthy team to back you, along with a strong business concept or idea, then you can easily convert it into a startup. All you need to remember is that your startup needs to solve an existing problem. In any case, the first 1-2 years of inception are the most difficult.

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