ShareChat CEO Ankush Sachdeva believes that failure tells us what not to do. S.K. Singh spoke to him on his journey. Edited excepts:
How did ShareChat start?
I was in the 4th year of B.Tech when all three of us (co-founders) were building a product for a debate. I shared its link in different Facebook groups so that people could click on it. In those days, there was to be a match of Sachin Tendulkar coming up and his fans had formed a group in his name where they were commenting and providing their numbers as well. From there I took 1,000 numbers and formed 10 WhatsApp groups of 100-100. After an hour, there were over a hundred messages in each group. Unknown people were sharing photos and videos of Sachin. Then I realised that there is a lot of demand for content in non-English languages in India. Seeing this, we created the first app. Its name was also ShareChat. It was a very simple app. It was formally launched in 2015.
Did you ever feel the company would not work?
There have been many occasions when it felt that the company would be shut down. It was difficult to raise funds initially. Jokes and good morning messages were displayed as soon as you open the app. The investors from America were sceptical over investing money. It was difficult to convince them that when most of the content on TV or in print is in non-English languages, it will look the same in digital. There came a time when we did not even have money to pay salaries to the staff. That was a very difficult time for us. Initially, there was also a network problem. Most of the people were in 2G network in which was very difficult to send images and videos. Then we had to redesign the app.
Were your parents happy?
My mother works at a government hospital and my father is a businessman. I studied computer science. Everyone thought that I would get a high-paying job in an MNC. An interesting incident happened in those days. Placements were to start in IIT Kanpur. I had to decide whether to sit for placement or move to Mumbai for a startup. Farid and Bhanu were already there. By then I had created WhatsApp groups. I decided to go to Mumbai. Two days later, reports appeared in newspapers that a boy from IIT Kanpur has got a job worth Rs 2 crore at Oracle. Family members called to ask me what I was doing in Mumbai. For three years after launching the start-up, my parents thought I was going in the wrong direction. Slowly, when we made a mark, they was satisfied.
What did you do for revenue?
For the first four years, we didn’t even think about revenue. Our focus was to keep the number of active users growing. Revenue started coming in two-and-a-half years back. Now we have enough of the users, so the revenue is also increasing rapidly.
Who are your inspirations?
There have been many good entrepreneurs in the world from whom we learn by watching. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk are inspirational to everyone. But we learned one thing that we have to make our own way. Whatever the situation, you have to deal with it yourself. It is good to be inspired by someone, but only your own ability will take you forward.