Interview with Azhar Iqubal, Co-Founder & CEO at InShorts

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[This interview is sponsored by workspot.in , India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on workspot.in. If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit workspot.in]

 

Spokesperson: Azhar Iqubal, CEO and Co-founder, Inshorts

InShorts which started operations as “News In Shorts” is a content discovery platform provider for Android and iOS users. It provides news/content in crisp 60 words or less including only the essential facts and keeps its users aware about what’s happening around the world without eating much of their time. They’ve also made their first move in the vernacular mobile market by launching a Hindi interface of the app, and based on its success, Inshorts plans to expand in other regional languages as well including Marathi, Kannada and Tamil by mid 2016.

The company which was started by three IIT alumni has shown exponential growth in the last one year and so is evident from the amount of funding that it has been receiving from investors worldwide. Their Android app has touched a million downloads already and they expect it to reach the 5 million mark soon.  Inshorts recently launched ‘Insiders’—an exclusive community for the ‘power users’ of the application. The users who would be part of ‘Insiders’ will get a first-hand experience of all new features that Inshorts will develop in the future.   

We recently interviewed Azhar Iqubal, the co-founder and CEO of InShorts, and the interaction went like this –  

What motivated you to start the company and what is it all about?

When we were in college, we observed that the youth is increasingly getting disconnected from the idea of consuming news everyday. Most of our friends had either stopped reading newspapers or were receiving their share of news on social media platforms like Facebook. We learned that one of the key reasons behind it was the fact that the news space was cluttered and lacked simplicity.

We also noticed a common human insight that people read the first two-three sentences of any news item and mostly, choose to skip the rest of it. We played on this observation and launched News in Shorts to recreate this experience of reading a 60 words snippet with an image as a card on the mobile screen. If readers would like to read the entire story, they can do so by following the link to a publisher’s website within the app.

Within a few months of the launch, the app fetched more than 10,000 downloads.

News in Shorts is aimed at keeping young people informed about the world around them without them having to spend a lot of time in doing so. Early this year, we rebranded from News in Shorts to Inshorts, to go beyond just news and become a content discovery platform.   

What is the current Team Size?

We have a team of 60 people and the average age of an employee is 24.

How did you hire your initial team?

Inshorts was founded by Azhar Iqubal and Anunay Pandey of IIT Delhi and Deepit Purkhayastha of IIT Kharagpur. Azhar and Anunay dropped out of their 4th year of college to build the app. The first few employees were friends from IIT and personal connections.

What are the key factors that you look for in a potential candidate?

Being a young, fast-paced startup we look for the right personality fit. The first filter for us is that if a prospect is going to be comfortable working in a young company like ours which values skill-set over years of experience. We also are fairly liberal in terms of our work policies.

Most importantly, Inshorts is perhaps one of the only few startups which has built a product that is truly one-of-its kind and we look for people who are excited to be part of a global innovation.

How much do you think is the competition in your vertical? Who all are your competitors and what are your views on them?

There have been a slew of apps trying to do similar things. However, as a pioneer of the concept of 60 word news summary, we are the only major player in that space.

What are your marketing strategies? Do you take help of Social platforms to promote?

Our strategy has been iterative and we believe that the success of every campaign depends upon multiple factors. Every medium or platform has its strengths and weaknesses, the trick is to make the best of it by iterating consistently, learning best practices and minimizing mistakes.  

However, we are on the cusp of launching a big bang above-the-line outreach campaign which will be rolled out soon. Also we do leverage Social platforms a lot to promote.

Can you elaborate on the Challenges in promoting your website/app?

We have the first-mover advantage in this space and hence there are no major challenges for us.

What is the current traction? Can you share some numbers on Usage and Revenue?

We have around 3 million app downloads on Android and iOS. Currently our focus is on improving the product offering and increasing the user base, we are not pursuing monetization for the time being.

Based on your experience would you have any advice to new Entrepreneurs/ Start-ups?

The advice that I would have can be summarised in 3 major points. Firstly, focus a lot on the co-founding and early team and invest a lot into keeping the culture intact. This is because  culture is the framework that drives decision-making within the company and also pays off while scaling. Secondly, keep your eyes open about problems and opportunities , the less biased eyes you have, the more chances you have of succeeding. Thirdly, always strive towards maintaining the right balance between things that you would do for survival and the things that you would do for the possibility of disruption.

 

[This interview is sponsored by workspot.in , India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on workspot.in. If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit workspot.in]

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