Chennai: Pepul, a Chennai-based social media startup, has raised Rs 10 crore in seed funding by prominent investors, including Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Freshworks Girish Mathrabootham and Hourglass Venture – a silicon valley based venture capitalist firm -the company said.
Pepul, founded by G Suresh Kumar, brings together individuals and groups on the basis of their common interest. In a first of it’s kind approach, the platform also promotes Aadhaar-based verified users, eliminating fake profiles and members who are found using pictures of others, including photos of celebrities. Though users can sign up without Aadhaar, they are expected to get themselves verified by uploading the document.
Detailing the fund raising process, Mr Suresh said he handpicked compatible investors with shared long term vision after an interview process for shortlisted candidates among the 700 who had applied. The startup plans to raise another Rs 200 crore after the launch.
“Democratisation of verified badges is our USP. Any authentic user can get a verified badge. At least 90% of our users would be verified,” said Mr Suresh to NDTV.
With a few social media giants, including Facebook, already dominating the space, Mr Suresh believes there is still space for new players like Pepul. He says, “Existing high profile players are like Goliath, they face credibility issues with doubts over data safety. We would build a positive culture so that there is no room for negativity, anonymous and fake users”.
This new social media entrant also promises freedom from unsolicited advertisements. “We have a unique revenue model that allows targeted advertisement on deals only for those who sign up. This would be mutually beneficial for such users and advertisers.” said Mr Suresh.
To be launched on the Republic Day, around 25,000 users have downloaded the closed beta version. The start up plans to use the funds for user acquisition and to take the platform to the market.
“Our 40 member Pepul team of coders too are from tier II and III cities. We have talented people from humble backgrounds like children of tailors, farmers and drivers”, said Mr Suresh.
Pepul is the third social media platform to be launched from Chennai. A few months ago Soundarya Rajinikanth Vishagan had launched “hoote” an audio or voice-based model. Chennai is also the home for Glocl, another platform that connects communities in a town or a city.
Mr Suresh and his friend George Christopher earlier bootstrapped and co-founded MacApp Studio, now a five million dollar turnover company.
Commenting on this trend and seed funding Pepul has received, Mr Sivarajah Ramanathan, CEO of Tamil Nadu Startup and Innovation Mission (TANSIM), said: “This is an inspiring story and a welcome sign. Earlier, entrepreneurs used to start startups in Bengaluru or Mumbai. Now this would bring in more investments to Tamil Nadu and make the state a preferred start up destination”. He added, “we are handholding startups and as the Chief Minister had said Tamil Nadu would soon turn into a Panathottam (garden of money) for south east Asia.”
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