Google, Microsoft invest in booming Indian-language TikTok rival


Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft Corp. joined an investment round of more than $100 million in VerSe Innovation Pvt, maker of India’s Josh short-video app and Dailyhunt news aggregator, valuing the company at more than $1 billion.

The new funding is led by AlphaWave and is joined by existing investors Sofina Group and Lupa Systems. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Sequoia Capital India are among VerSe’s other investors. The company says it plans to scale up Josh, broaden its content creator ecosystem and develop artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology to help it capture an ever wider audience. It will also explore potential moves beyond its home borders in other international markets that exhibit a need for vernacular content.

Josh is a TikTok rival tailored to its home nation and variety of local languages, touting it’s “Made in India” at a time when TikTok and dozens of other China-made apps have been banned over privacy and national security concerns. The app has quickly accrued an audience of 77 million monthly active users and now accounts for over 1.5 billion video plays per day, according to a company statement.

“In the last two years alone, 100 million new internet users have come online from rural India,” Google Vice President Caesar Sengupta wrote in a blog post. “But many of these internet users continue to have trouble finding content to read or services they can use confidently, in their own language.” That’s why Google is getting involved in supporting VerSe, whose Dailyhunt is a landing spot for more than 300 million users to consume content in a choice of 14 local languages, he added.