“We are very excited to be a part of digital content revolution”

says Ranjeet Pratap Singh, Cofounder, Pratilipi, in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

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Ranjeet Pratap Singh
Ranjeet Pratap Singh

Pratilipi is a platform which allows people to access content and enjoy reading in a language of their choice. Apart from the Writing Community, Pratilipi has launched two other storytelling platforms – Pratilipi Comics and Pratilipi FM – and late last year, they joined hands with IVM Podcasts to create a sustainable and scalable model for the podcasting industry in India. IVM Podcasts is India’s premiere podcast network, that aims to serve listeners with a wide portfolio of audio content across genres. The network produces and distributes talk and narrative based audio content from comedy and politics to advertising and business .

While, Pratilipi FM is India’s finest audio platform where you can discover 5000+ hours of unlimited audio Books in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati and English across categories such as Motivation, Self Help, Business, Spirituality & Religion, Love, Horror, Crime and Kids. Pratilipi FM has the perfect blend of classic old and the new-age audio stories. Anyone who has a story to tell can upload their audio stories and podcasts and reach out to the world.

While, Pratilipi Comics was launched on the 14th Feb 2020. Since launch, Pratilipi Comics has 250+ series in Hindi and 50+ series in Marathi, Tamil, and English. 2M readers have read around 64M episodes and they have 60K daily active users. The platform includes a range of well-known comics (Diamond Comics and Amar Chitra Katha) as well as many originals on the platform.

The genesis…

“I have always been a voracious reader and grew up reading comics, classical and contemporary Hindi literature – from Champak and Chacha Chaudhury to Premchand. As a child, I grew up in a small town close to Rae Bareli and English was not my first language, so I read in Hindi. Only after I left my hometown to go to university, I realised that Hindi literature was not as common across the country. At first, I started reading in English but I always wondered why it should be so hard to read in a language of your choice. India has multiple languages and dialects, and I wanted to develop a platform which allows people to access content and enjoy reading in a language of their choice. At first these ideas were just musings with close friends, but they were the seeds that led to the conception of Pratilipi,” tells Ranjeet Pratap Singh, Cofounder, Pratilipi.

The mission…

“Our mission is to foster home grown talent and for many of our writers they joined the platform having never published anything before. Through the support of the community and platform, writers are able to hone their skills, develop their passion for writing, and build an audience. We are also working to support writers make a truly viable career out of their passion for writing by securing licensing deals (some of our leading stories have been adopted to various other formats including published books, comics, audiobooks and even web series) and creating alternative channels to be able to amplify the creative output and passion of our writers,” tells Ranjeet.

“Alongside more established writers, the platform is creating stars out of first-time writers who are supported through regular events, discussions and competitions, such as a Crime Fiction Festival (which was hosted by stalwart authors Vikram Chandra and Hussain Zaidi) or web series story writing contest which was recently hosted in collaboration with Dice Media. To give you an example here, Varsha Srivastava, a homemaker based in Raipur, joined Pratilipi as a novice writer; today, she is one of the top authors in the fantasy-horror genre and has 18 lakh readers following her on the platform,” he adds.

The statistics…

“Almost 50% of Pratilipi readers are from the top 7 Tier 1 metros and the other 50% from the Tier2 and Tier3 areas. Almost 55% of our writers are from Tier 1. Out of the 25 Million monthly active readers on Pratilipi, 60% are between age 18-34. 36% of our writers and 32% of our readers fall in the age bracket of 25-35,” tells Shubham Sharma, Head of IP Acquisition and Monetisation.

“Pratilipi prides itself to be the most gender diverse social communities in India with 45% female readers and the most surprising number of all, out of the 300k total writers that have published with Pratilipi, more than half are women,” he adds.

Connecting people – via native languages…

“I think there were several aspects that helped Pratilipi achieve its user retention and growth. We have consistently worked to provide a better user experience to our readers and writers in terms of product and customer service which has helped us retain a good app rating. Perhaps more importantly though, till about 6 months ago, our focus was only on our core offering which is a reading and writing platform. I believe that when a company tries to do two or three things at once then its core offering does not remain as strong,” tells Ranjeet.

He further adds, “We have built a platform that enabled users to interact with each other. For example, conversations between experienced writers and first-time writers helped first time writers develop their talent. And similarly, readers could also contribute to the engagement of writers through their constant feedback and reviews. Another thing that seems to have worked in the favour of Pratilipi is its recommendation engine, which is able to suggest interesting content to the users,” he adds.

Pratilipi during lockdown…

“We hope Pratilipi has been a helpful source of creative rest bite from lockdown, for both readers and writers. This seems to be supported by the numbers and there has been a large increase in time users spent on the app, going up from 43 minutes a day to 54 minutes a day. In terms of the overall numbers of users, this also increased by about 20-25% additional growth on both readers and writers,” tells Ranjeet.

Trends you foresee in next 5 years in the publishing industry…

“The most important trend that we are seeing is that over the coming years we will see more democratization of storytelling where creators directly engage with, and are supported by, their audiences. We have been seeing this globally with Patreon, Twitch, YouTube etc. and the same is likely to happen in India as well,” he says.

“The second important trend that we see is that thanks to the evolving technology, we see newer formats coming up including e-books and audiobooks but also web novels, interactive stories etc. Last but not the least, over the last 3-4 years, we have been seeing a large number of Indian language users coming online for the first time. We already have more Indian language Internet users (~500 million) than the entire population of the United States or the European Union,” he adds.

“When we combine all the three trends, we feel very excited about the scope of publishing and the broader content ecosystem in Indian languages. Our belief is that we will see at-least a few different formats like e-books, audiobooks and web comics with over 100 million users and many more formats with relatively niche but quickly growing user bases,” he further adds.

Partnerships with publishers…

“We are working to develop licensing deals with a range of established publishers, content producers, and studios. With Manjul Publishing, we have launched a series of 50 books from the platform starting in early February. In addition to this we have recently launched a series of audiobooks with Storytel, to adapt Pratilipi’s top-performing repertoire of stories into audiobooks. The first audiobook titled Cinderella is now available on the app, with more stories set to release through 2021. Other upcoming deals include a Pratilipi produced Web Series being licensed to a major OTT platform and a Web Series Co-production partnership with a major entertainment company,” tells Shubham.

Challenges faced…

“Like many other user-generated content platforms, for years, we had to tackle the classic chicken-egg problem. To acquire a large reader base, it needed to onboard good writers and good writers would only join if the audience was large and relevant. Also, educating potential team members, investors, and the broader market on the problem we are solving – especially considering there weren’t many large user generated content platforms in India back in 2015 was an early challenge we faced,” tells Ranjeet.

“Two major challenges that we are continuously working towards are on building the personalization engine since different people have different tastes and preferences and ways to solve content that shouldn’t be on the platform such as copyright violation, hate speech etc,” he adds.

On digital India…

“India has seen a boom in the smartphone uptake over the last few years – both across major cities and smaller towns. For Pratilipi, this has helped us grow our user base and reach out to more people across the country who want to consume content in their own languages. The smartphone market in India is expected to revive and record a double-digit growth, between 12% and 21% this year. As such, we are very positive that everyone in our country will be a smartphone owner and would be able to access content in their choice of language. As mentioned earlier, new formats such as e books, audiobooks will gain immense popularity and we are very excited to be a part of this content revolution,” concludes Ranjeet.


Ekatra: a new partnership between Pratilipi and Manjul Publishing

Pratilipi and Manjul Publishing House have parterened for a new imprint Ekatra, which will publish and print 50 books of leading novels and short story collections from Pratilipi. The partnership will carry books in regional languages including Hindi, Marathi, Tamil and English as both print and e-books.

The first four books have been launched recently, which include include Pratilipi’s top hits Tashree by Sumit Menaria (published on 25 March), Angoothi Ka Bhooth by Manish Sharma, Anakalaniya by Sanjay Vaidya and Bujgavan! by Kanishk Hivrekar (pre orders available now).

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