The query posed on Quora was straightforward: Does India actually need a bullet train?
And as expected, the online question and answer platform’s prolific Indian users dived straight in. But it got really interesting when India’s railway minister Piyush Goyal jumped aboard on Nov. 13, posting an expansive answer that’s received over 149,000 views in two days.
It’s not quite Facebook or Twitter in India, but Quora has built up a seemingly engaged and loyal following in the country since 2010, a year after it was launched by two former Facebook employees, Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever. Today, the platform gets over 20% of its traffic from India and Indians constitute the second-largest user base for the US-based company.
To expand this audience further, Quora appointed Gautam Shewakramani as its new country manager in August. An MBA from MIT’s Sloan School, Shewakramani was the founder and CEO of AudioCompass, an audio tour app for travellers that he operated for over six years.
He spoke to Quartz about Quora’s experiences in India and how he wants to build the platform. Edited excerpts:
How has Quora’s run in India been so far?
Quora has been available in India since its public launch in June 2010, but our growth in India organically started taking off around 2012. We have seen steady growth in usage in India since then with people sharing knowledge on all kinds of topics.
What have you learned from your Indian users?
Generally, people in India are very engaged both on and off the product. It’s been humbling to witness first-hand how enthusiastic they are. An example of this enthusiasm can be seen in the number of spontaneous, user-organised meetups that have happened in India over the past few years. This year, we tried something different, and organised our first Global Meetup Week, encouraging users to coordinate their meetups during a single week (Nov. 06-11, 2017). The response from India was amazing and we ended up having over 30 user-led meetups, including in smaller cities like Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, and Jabalpur.
What percentage of your users comes from India? How important is the country for Quora?
Quora has more than 200 million monthly unique visitors from around the world, and many come from India. We don’t focus too much on specific numbers beyond that. Our mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge, and India resonates deeply with that mission. We have 1/6th of the world’s population living in India, and, unfortunately, knowledge is not readily available to many.
On the business side, our primary monetisation focus is advertising. We launched our ad platform to the public in May 2017. We already have Indian advertisers running ads on Quora.
What are the most popular topics among Indian users? Are these topics similar to those popular globally?
At an aggregate level, we see that career advice, exam/test advice, and technology are a little more popular in India than in the rest of the world.
Are there any plans to introduce local-language support on the website?
Over the past year Quora has been focused on international growth, launching in four new languages (Spanish, French, Italian, German), and it’s important for us to continue to expand to more languages around the world. At this time we haven’t made any decisions on expanding into Indian regional languages, but it’s something we are exploring and will consider as we work towards achieving our mission.
Are there any other India-specific customisations you are planning?
I can’t comment on specific features that are in our future product roadmap. One interesting feature being tested now is the ability to post video answers. That test was recently expanded to a video feed in the app, which has video-only answers.
How has the response to the video feed been in India?
We have several Indian users using video as a medium to contribute high-quality and insightful answers. It’s still too early to form a strong opinion, but preliminary signs have been promising. That’s part of why we made the decision to expand our video beta to all users.
How large is your India team and what functions does it execute? Do you plan to hire more here?
At this time, I am the only person focused exclusively on India, working primarily with the product team based out of Quora’s headquarters in Mountain View. I don’t have any plans to open an office or hire locally.
What are your near-term plans as the new country head? And what is your long-term vision for the company?
I am currently focusing on learning more about people who use Quora in India and how we can better serve them. My primary responsibility is to work closely with the product team in the US to ensure that Quora continues to improve for people all over the world, with a special focus on the needs of people in India.