Social Network For Everything Hyper-Local: Harshil Dhingra, CBO, Public App

We believe in empowering our users through citizen journalism which allows individuals to voice their issues and connect with respective authorities to find a solution.

What is the purpose behind Public App?

In a country as diverse as India, we realised people needed means to communicate and connect with their localities. Additionally, they were deprived of credible sources for local information. There was a glaring gap in the market when it came to informative apps that deliver localised content in vernacular languages. With the idea to bridge this gap between people and their communities, we launched Public App, a location-based social network, in April 2019. The app provides everyone with a platform to connect with their locality and provide real-time and verified information from the local authorities, politicians, news reporters, and influencers.

The platform is a one-stop solution for providing all local news updates that can be accessed by a farmer in Jabalpur to an investment banker in Mumbai. In a nutshell, Public thrives to fulfill the desire of an individual who wants to stay updated about his surroundings.

The market is flooded with several short video apps and news applications. What makes Public stand out?

We are a homegrown app that works in a different format with respect to the other apps. We are a location-based video-only social network with a complete focus on informative content and connecting the local people to the local politicians to help them consume the verified filtered information from a credible source.

We believe in empowering our users through citizen journalism which allows individuals to voice their issues and connect with respective authorities to find a solution. Our aim is to reach the remotest areas of the country and get them connected with their localities through our geo-targeted regional content.

What is your take on the rising competition in the industry?

As mentioned above, our key offerings to our user base are very different from what other apps in the market are offering. We fulfill a different need of the citizens - “the need to be connected to one’s locality through verified updates”. The fast and sustainable growth of our platform is demonstrative of this gap that existed, and this is what drives our users back to the platform. With the rise in the number of short video applications, we feel we have immense talent and resources in India to put our apps on the global front. For Public, we are already aiming to be the world’s largest location-based social network.

How does Public App work? How is the app helping small and local businesses in their growth journey?

Public App is a social network for everything hyper-local: from hyper-local updates and happenings to hyper-local commerce, jobs, classifieds, and more. While political leaders, government authorities, media houses, and citizen journalists use the app to connect with communities and disseminate verified and trustworthy video content, local businesses like shops, astrologers, doctors, lawyers use the platform to reach out to the local consumers. The app is already being used by over 50,000 elected officials, government authorities, and citizen journalists to connect with their locality.

Through hyper localization and geo-targeting, Public is enabling small businesses to reach their desired target audience on a district, city, and state level. For a stronger impact, the ads are delivered either in video or display format. Public allows small businesses to advertise digitally and cater to an expansive digital world. Currently, these small businesses come from varied sectors such as healthcare, daily utilities, education, and others. For example, local coaching centres (below or above K12) use the platform to promote online classes with the surge of digital learning throughout the pandemic.

We received a phenomenal response from the advertisers who benefited from it. At present, we have actively associated with 250+ advertisers in India. By the end of the year, we aim to have at least 1000+ advertisers on our platform.

How are short video apps monetizing? How is Public app helping brands reach their target consumers?

Short video platforms are majorly generating revenue through impactful brand collaborations and marketing initiatives. This fulfils a dual goal: connecting brands with their target audiences and enabling platforms to gain more advertisers.

We began monetization in Oct 2020 through advertisements. We aim to offer brands an ideal platform to advertise in native languages through the popular digital advertising format - Videos. We have invested heavily in ad tech solutions ensuring creative and novel solutions for brands.

Our pilot campaign on the app was the ‘Health ka Passport’ campaign with GlaxoSmithKline Pharma to increase awareness around child and adolescent immunization in India. We have done multilingual campaigns with leading brands like GSK, Amazon Prime Video, HDFC Bank, TVS, and many more. Additionally, we saw a huge surge in the exploration of the platform by local businesses to reach their target audiences in an efficient and faster manner.

We are seeking out brands who want to reach out and connect with users in metropolitans as well as the deepest pockets of India. Since Public is a video-only platform, it is suitable for all brands willing to advertise products through an interactive and accessible medium. With the shift in content consumption patterns towards videos and decreasing attention spans, majority of the brands ranging from tech to FMCG today do not want to miss out on such video inventories. Given

Public’s strong audience base across India, any brand that aims to have a larger outreach will benefit from the platform.

How do you ensure the quality of the content on the app is maintained?

We use a multi-layered combination of both technology and human interface to ensure that everything going on to the platform is credible and is cross-verified. We have strict regulations in place to ensure that both brand and user data are secure, and privacy is not compromised. Each video goes through a process of stringent check for sensitive content such as vulgarity, communalism, sexual abuse and so on. All such videos are then discarded and not allowed to be posted on the application.

Additionally, combating fake news has always been a challenge for any social platform, and in the current time, it becomes more important than ever that people get authentic information. On Public, a lot of relevant information is reaching users directly from the authorities themselves and the app has proved instrumental in debunking rumours and fake news that could potentially mislead people. Furthermore, we are verifying every content creator on the platform so that there are no fake accounts.

Brief us about your future expansion plans. What can users expect from the app?

At present, there are over 450 million smartphone internet users in India. With more than 60mn monthly active users already using our platform for local needs we believe that our application is relevant for anyone and everyone across the country; irrespective of the language they speak or the region they belong to. We aim to reach the remotest areas of the country and get them connected with their localities through our geo-targeted regional content.

We will collaborate with more content creators and local communities to strengthen our offerings. Every day, the application receives new subscribers who are either a citizen or a politician or a political influencer. The marketing team has even charted out a few initiatives to penetrate further in the regional markets and raise more awareness about the app. Our tech team is working tirelessly to upgrade the features on the application and make it more user-friendly.

There are also many new features in the pipeline such as a live video streaming feature wherein local leaders/authorities can go live and interact with their community.

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