Take the Buzzfeed style of viral content—listicles, pet pictures and goofy life hacks—and inject a strong dose of Indian flavour, and you get Scoopwhoop.
But the website, run by a small group for former advertising professionals (please, no journalists) has mastered this cocktail to such perfection that they have pulled way ahead of a pack of websites trying to do the same, in under a year. And now, they are laughing their way to the bank, on the strength of 8-10 million unique visitors that come to the site each month.
Scoopwhoop Media Pvt Ltd has raised an initial investment round of Rs10 crore (1.6 million) from Bharti Softbank (BSB), which has taken a 25% equity stake in the company, a person close to the deal said. The deal gives the 15-month-old website an enterprise valuation of Rs40 crore at this stage. Bharti Softbank is a JV between Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Bharti Group (promoter of the telco Airtel) and Japanese billionaire Masoyashi Son’s Softbank.
The deal is structured in a way that gives Scoopwhoop, its owners and founders a bigger potential upside if the site continues to grow at the current clip or faster, the person with knowledge of the transaction said. The company can continue to raise money for the next three years from Bharti Softbank, which could become the majority shareholder depending on the terms the two parties will agree upon. BSB head of operations Madhu Nori will join Scoopwhoop board as part of the deal.
Scoopwhoop’s shareholders are founder-investors Haresh Chawla and Sidharth Rao, founders Sattvik Mishra and Rishi Mukherjee, and other members of the staff.
Thirty-four year old Rao is an ad executive and CEO of Webchutney. Chawla, 48, works in private equity and was formerly group CEO of Network18, a media conglomerate that was an early investor in Webchutney. Mishra and Mukherjee worked with Rao at Webchutney and later quit to start Scoopwhoop with a handful of colleagues from the ad firm.
Apart from the team at Scoopwhoop, the deal represents a significant triumph for Rao and Chawla. Rao has in the past started and sold digital ad agency Webchutney to Dentsu and ad network NetworkPlay to Bertelsmann AG. Chawla has investments in property search website Housing.in and logistics network Ecom Express, both of which have raised additional investment rounds from large private equity companies.
Apart from Mishra and Mukherjee, founding team members Saransh Singh, Suparn Pandey, Sriparna Tikekar and the site’s chief technology officer Debarshi Banerjee also hold equity in Scoopwhoop. The company currently have 20 employees.
Bharti Softbank’s head of strategy Kavin Bharti Mittal (son of Sunil Mittal) did not respond to a text message requesting comment and did not return calls. Scoopwhoop CEO Sattvik Mishra as well as Rao and Chawla declined comment.
Content studio meets communication network
With this deal, Scoopwhoop has fortified itself with an assured pipeline of investor money for the coming digital content war in India. Bharti Softbank is a deep-pocketed investor and if Scoopwhoop can sustain growth, it can stop worrying about funding.
It can use the money to diversify into original videos, acquire content studios and make other acquisitions. BSB, whose principal bet is the fast-growing instant messaging app Hike, can get Scoopwhoop to tailor-make content that can help create stickiness and differentiation for its instant messaging experience.
While Scoopwhoop takes pride in its ability to create viral content out of Indian situations and the country’s way of life, Hike also pushes itself as a messenger that ‘gets’ India culturally. Hike has stickers, for instance, based on Indian superheroes and epics.
BSB has also backed Wynk, a music app that was created within Airtel.
When Japanese billionaire and Softbank chairman Masoyashi Son was in India last week, all eyes were on the mega investments he announced in Snapdeal and Ola. But the little deal that he did not announce is the one that he will want to go viral.