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Dailyhunt taps into Middle East’s $5 billion news aggregation market, expands operations to six new countries

VerSe Innovation, which runs Dailyhunt, has appointed media veteran Shekhar Iyer as its Director and General Manager for Middle East and North Africa

June 21, 2022 / 06:08 AM IST

News aggregator platform Dailyhunt has made global forays by expanding its operations to six new countries in the Middle East as the Sequoia Capital-backed company looks to tap into what it claims is a $5 billion news aggregation and advertisement market.

Dailyhunt has rolled out its offerings in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait, the company said in a statement on June 21. The company will have its headquarters in Dubai.

VerSe Innovation, which runs Dailyhunt, has also appointed media veteran Shekhar Iyer as its Director and General Manager for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the company said. Iyer, a former employee of Indian Express, joined Dailyhunt earlier this year, and has worked with various media houses for almost three decades, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Dailyhunt said it has partnered with 5,000 local content partners catering to the UAE market. The company further said that the platform will be soon partnering with news publishers including MENA Newswire, Al Khaleej, The Brew, Chalk Media, Brandknew, KKompany, Mudgal Kreations, Buzzing, and Gulf Today, among others.

“You want to play in a market that is showing very strong characteristics in terms of diversity of linguistic local languages, which is why we thought GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) is apt,” Umang Bedi, Co-founder, VerSe Innovation, told Moneycontrol in a virtual interaction.

“We are also going to add Farsi, Hebrew and a couple of other local languages that give us pertinence into newer markets like Israel, Iran and Egypt,” Bedi added.

Bedi further told Moneycontrol that the Middle East is a high ARPU (average revenue per user) market as the population, compared to India is lower, while the region’s ad spend is high.

“Since it’s a high ARPU market, the ability to monetise grows, and that's a key focus area for us as a company, and that’s why I'm excited. Also, just the sheer size of the market is exciting. We are playing in a $4-$5 billion TAM (total addressable market), which is growing 25 percent every year,” Bedi added.

Bedi did not disclose the amount VerSe Innovation plans to invest or the number of employees the company is looking to hire in the Middle East, but said that initially, a lot of backend operations will be handled by VerSe Innovation’s India team. The company has about 1,020 employees.

VerSe Innovation, which also runs short-video application Josh and hyper-local community platform PublicVibe, had raised a whopping $805 million in April in a funding round led by Canada Pension Plan and Investment Board and Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board at a valuation of around $5 billion. The company, then, had said that it will look for aggressive monetisation of its platforms. Bedi said that the company is not planning to go global with its other two platforms anytime soon.

“Josh is at a point, which has tracked only growth and engagement as of now and not monetisation, so the focus on Josh is, starting July, August, September, really monetising Josh and proving out that revenue model from that audience base. That's the focus, international expansion is not,” Bedi said.

Moneycontrol had reported earlier this month that ByteDance, an early investor in VerSe Innovation and parent of short-video platform TikTok, which was banned by the Indian government a couple of years back, had exited the company at a discount of as much as 56 percent.

Bedi did not comment on the deal, but accepted that ByteDance has totally exited VerSe Innovation.

"I can only say one thing and that's we have given huge returns to ByteDance on their investment," Bedi said.

VerSe Innovation, founded in 2007 by Bedi and Virendra Gupta, had clocked a 2x growth in its revenue to Rs 772 crore for the financial year ended March 2021, from a year earlier. However, the company’s net loss, too, doubled to Rs 808 crore. The two founders in April had said that the company will aim to achieve company-level profitability in three years.

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Nikhil Patwardhan
Nikhil Patwardhan