Making headlines in Nepal for changing reading patterns

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Making headlines in Nepal for changing reading patterns

Times have changed. The way the world stays updated with the news today is drastically different from the time when people fetched a newspaper to read every morning with a cup of coffee. Today, most people do not even have the time to listen to the news, far off reading it. Some studies have shown that in the past 50 years of technical and economic development in Nepal, the number of newsreaders has statistically decreased by a significant amount. The main reason? Lack of time. People today are so engaged in their own works and businesses; no one really has the time to read or listen to the news, especially because there is always so much news to catch up with and the stretched out length of the contents are eye tiring.

28 years old Ankur Agarwal faced the same problem: too much news but too less time. That is why he came up with the idea of Inheadlines, a startup that crunches news into a crisp 60-words skeleton for busy readers, and the backbone of which lies in the coalition of psychology, technology and journalism – three pillars that make news easy to understand and remember, accessible and crisp.

Planting the seed

Ankur returned to Nepal one and a half years ago from India, and one of the many problems he faced was that he had to collect four to five newspapers daily to stay updated with the news. Only some might have the time for that. Even skimming through one newspaper with so many topics and contents costs at least 15 minutes, which multiplied by four to five newspapers, can turn into hours.

He took this problem seriously and unlike many others who choose to sit down and just complain about it, he decided to solve it. He collaborated with Brijesh Gupta, a very good friend of his and from an IT background, and pitched the idea. They worked on building the app for a news portal app that summarizes normal lengthy news to 60-70 characters short while including all the important and required information at the same time.

The character limit has not been put arbitrarily either. “Human psychology says that a human brain can only pick 60-70 characters out of 150-200 words that a person reads in any article, and the remaining 90-100 words would only be a waste of energy and time. So we thought, ‘Why not create something that only consists so much of characters in the news that human mind can assemble mentioning only the relevant information that would not only help people stay updated but save their time as well?’,” says Ankur. He adds, “It was more out the necessity for me than something to be monetarily benefited from. I’m the biggest customer of my own app.”

Ankur and Brijesh are already settled businessmen who have also been handling few other businesses of their own in Nepal and India since several years. Thus, they didn’t have much problem managing funds. They invested their other earnings for Inheadlines and have been managing the expansion of the team and improving their startup from the same source till date.

They finally launched the app on the first week of July 2016 and their website on 30th September, 2016.

 

Bumps along the road

Aspiring to change the way people read news everyday with something so innovative and revolutionary was of course not that easy. The concept of delivering news in 60 words might not have been new on a global scale itself, but its implementation in Nepal, a country with such crouched literacy rate and sparse smartphone usage, is completely new and experimental.

Thus, they are dealing with issues that are mostly out of their hands.

One is the issue of nominal 3G penetration in Nepal. The cost of 3G usage in Nepal is quite high in comparison to other countries; and not everyone can afford it. “Since using 3G is so expensive, it is hard to draw traffic on our app,” adds Ankur.

In addition to that, the number of smartphone users and the literacy rate in Nepal is very low. It might not be an issue in urban areas, but there are still many parts of Nepal where people hardly use a telephone and have to walk miles to reach a school.

However, untangling the odds within their reach, they have added offline feature to the app, which means that the users of the app can still view the news offline. So if you’ve opened the app for even a very short time while being connected to the internet, then all the data loaded then will still be available later when you go offline. They’ve also recently launched their dynamic website that lets viewers load the most recent news without having to load the page again and again, keeping in mind of the data usage. “Time is value and we’re trying to save time of our readers. That’s the value proposition for us,” says Brijesh.

The app has an additional feature that lets you toggle between Nepali and English language. The primary purpose of this feature, apart from making it convenient to people who can only read in Nepali, is to preserve the mother tongue of Nepal, which the Ankur feels is on the verge of diminishing. “Returning to Nepal, I realised Western culture hugely magnetised people and also noticed our native culture, including our language, gradually vanishing. Most of the people of our generation are not very good at Nepali anymore,” says Ankur, “That’s why we added the Nepali language on our app. We wanted to push Nepali youngsters to read in Nepali and not bury the Nepali language. Even my Nepali has improved a lot because of the app.”

 

Building the Team

Ankur needed someone with a technical background to support him with his idea, and Brijesh Gupta was the missing piece of the puzzle.

“It’s very easy to meet people. When you have same concerns and same beliefs, friendship isn’t that hard to make. It’s about sustaining those beliefs. So, if you have your beliefs set right, friendship, partnership, marriage, they’re all the same.”

The team behind Inheadlines’s growing success is the effort of total of 19 members which include admin, manager, editors and IT professionals from different continents, working to make it happen. A part of the team manually curates and summarizes the news through some part technology and some part editing in categories like national, business, sports, technology, and so on for the users to read the news of their preference. Each summary is written by its in-house team of editors and includes a single link out to a story with further information. 

 

Inheadlines: Constructing the paves to global scale

Ankur and Brijesh, when they first released the app and website, didn’t expect to get so much of recognition in so less time. The app launched around only two months ago and already has 5,000+ downloads summating Android and iOS. “We launched our app on the first week of July, and we didn’t expect to amass the interests of so many people and companies in such less time,” says Ankur.

They are foreseeing Inheadlines on a global scale. As mentioned by Brijesh, Nepal is still the testing ground, and they are willing to take it globally in near future.

“It’s been much fun working on Inheadlines. Out of all other businesses I handle, I always seem to come to Inheadlines to check up on it. However, Inheadlines is still in a very early stage, and there are numerous upcoming changes and updates for even better user experience for our users,” says Ankur.

The instant success lies in the introduction of a very different and convenient concept to Nepalis, and also in their attention for customer service. They take every feedback very seriously and try to amend it according to their recommendations if possible.

 

Why Nepal?

Both Ankur and Brijesh believe that Nepal is an excellent ground for any business to grow, especially now that the technological and entrepreneurial development is so rapid. The custom of youngsters constantly flying out of the country has become more like a trend than a necessity. Brain-drain is one of the strongest reasons the pace of development in Nepal isn’t accelerating.

“More and more youngsters are going abroad every year, and the skilled and educated manpower in Nepal is only decreasing. We intend to inspire youngsters to invest their skills and energy in their own country. There are many examples of people who have been earning six figure incomes living and working in here. I strongly suggest youngsters of Nepal be inspired by them and put their effort into developing our own country.”

 

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Guest Wednesday, 08 April 2020