Going Viral

This Indian startup knows how to make its online content go viral – with or without Facebook

WittyFeed curates shareable web content along the lines of BuzzFeed, but has more readers.

At a time when media houses the world over are struggling for eyeballs, a 27-year-old from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, has found a way to get most of the content on his website to go viral.

Vinay Singhal began his entrepreneurial journey with a desire to change India and create awareness about national problems. Instead, seven years on, he has found success via WittyFeed, a website that creates shareable content – the kind that goes “viral.” WittyFeed content spans a range of topics, including lifestyle, entertainment, politics, sports, health and fitness, and celebrities, and includes stories based on news and current affairs, videos, quizzes, and listicles, similar to viral content created by BuzzFeed or UpWorthy.

As of September 13, Singhal’s creation ranked 41 in India and 407 globally according to Alexa, a service headquartered in the US that ranks websites based on popularity, while ScoopWhoop, a BuzzFeed clone in India, is at 453 in India and 5,249 globally.

According to Singhal, his company gets 80 million unique users and 250 million page views a month. In 2016, it earned revenues of around Rs 30 crore ($4.5 million) and is profitable too. On September 12, WittyFeed raised its first round of funding (an undisclosed amount) from a group of angel investors, including Anand Chandrasekaran, former chief product officer at Snapdeal, and Apurva Chamaria, head of corporate marketing at HCL Technologies.

The beginning

Vatsana Technologies, WittyFeed’s parent company, was born in 2011 when Singhal was still an engineering student at SRM University, Chennai. Along with some friends, Singhal launched Badlega Bharat (India will change), an online venture that organised events for social causes. Soon he realised patriotism alone wouldn’t do and Vatsana needed money to stay afloat.

In 2012, Singhal and his current co-founders, brother Praveen (23) and friend Shashank Vaishnav (27), launched a Facebook page called “Amazing Things In The World”. In just six months, the page had over a million followers. It carried, among other things, baby videos, jokes, nature and wildlife pictures, and inspirational videos. The trio then began looking for ways to scale and monetise it. Following a series of iterations and name changes, including stupidstation.com, they launched the WittyFeed website.

Early on, Singhal and his partners realised they were not the only ones in the online content arena, and two of the key areas these companies were struggling to crack were distribution and monetisation. So, in 2011, they created Viral9. “Influencers can sign up (on Viral9) and have access to all content that WittyFeed has produced and post it whenever they want to their communities,” Singhal said.

Viral9 is run by a 30-member technology team led by Vaishnav and has around 60,000 influencers signed up. Anyone who has at least 100,000 followers on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter can join Viral9 as an influencer. It also takes initiatives to reach out to celebrity influencers to bring them on board.

WittyFeed’s team then tracks the links shared by these influencers in real-time and incentivises them based on the traffic generated. It registers almost 50 influencers a day, Singhal said, not wishing to reveal how much they are paid.

The company itself earns money through advertising (including banner ads on pages, sponsored articles or other paid content such as quizzes for advertisers, and sponsored videos). More clicks and page views brought in by influences mean more revenues.

WittyFeed is heavily dependent on social media platforms, and Facebook is its biggest distribution channel since most of its influences have their largest reader base there.

However, Facebook’s periodic algorithm changes and its mission to crack down on clickbait articles can hit hard. But WittyFeed has always “come back very very strong after each update” by improving the content quality, said Singhal. Such algorithm changes may affect the company in the short-term but works well for the industry in the long-term as it forces websites such as WittyFeed to produce only quality content, he added.

Similarly, with Facebook giving videos more prominence, WittyFeed has had to tweak its strategy and related tech infrastructure.

Yet, three-year-old WittyFeed has over 40,000 stories in various formats in English and Hindi. It briefly experimented with Spanish, too, before lack of resources forced it to go slow. The content is created by an in-house team based on topics suggested by data generated by its own experts.

However, WittyFeed’s clear dependence on influencers throws up unique challenges.

Fly-by-night?

“There is no code of conduct or norm that controls (the industry), and there is no pricing mechanism,” said Vikas Chawla, co-founder of influencer.com, a platform that connects social media influencers with brands. He now plans to invest in technology and geographic expansion. today have an upper hand and could charge clients heavily, he added.

“Key influencers in the content space need money to do what they need to do and the larger number of followers of you have…the more you charge,” branding strategy expert Harish Bijoor said.

Singhal, however, believes there are no risks involved. “Because ours is an influencer-driven platform, we believe we will be able to stay relevant always,” he said. “Influencers are always going to be there, in one or the other form. Maybe they are on Facebook today, they’ll be somewhere else tomorrow, but they’re going to be there. That’s the way our society works,” he added.

WittyFeed’s strength, he said, is its platform-agnostic content and technology. For instance, it is now gradually adapting to mobile apps. “We will be able to work with any mobile app and convert it into a content app with just one line of code,” Singhal said.

He now plans to invest in technology and geographic expansion.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.