News aggregator InShorts had raised $100 million across two rounds during FY22, but it looks like back-to-back fundraises didn’t translate into noticeable growth in the last fiscal year. The decade-old company managed around 45% growth in its operating scale in FY22, while its losses widened by 72% during the same period.
InShorts’s revenue from operations grew 44.9% to $18.94 million, or Rs 143.94 crore, in FY22 from $13.07 million, or Rs 99.33 crore, in FY21, according to its annual financial statement filed by the group company (InShorts Pte Ltd) in Singapore. Revenue from advertising contracts as and when the advertisement was displayed on the app was the only source of collection for InShorts. The company summarizes news stories in 60 words for handy consumption on smartphones and covers beats including politics, sports, tech, business, world entertainment, et al.
According to Sensor Tower data, InShorts has amassed over 30 million downloads since its inception. The company also launched the location-based social network Public in late 2019 which has witnessed more than 200 million downloads in the last 24 months. According to the company, it already has crossed a monthly active (MAU) base of 60 million and targets to cross the 100 million MAU milestone in the next three to five years. On the cost side, advertising formed 42.5% of the total expenditure which surged 75.3% to $21.63 million or Rs 164.39 crore in FY22 from $12.34 million or Rs 93.78 crore in FY21. A major chunk of this cost seems to have gone to promote its new app Public.
Content expenses turned out to be the second largest burn for InShorts. This cost accounted for 20.5% of its overall expenditure and grew by 35.6% to $10.44 million or Rs 79.34 crore in the last fiscal year.
The company hired aggressively to build, refine and market Public in FY22 and its employee benefit cost spiked 42.1% to $9.69 million or Rs 73.6 crore during FY22. The company spent $3.58 million or Rs 27.21 crore which catalyzed its overall cost by 58.8% to $50.9 million or Rs 386.8 crore in the last fiscal year. Outpacing its revenue growth, InShorts’ losses jumped 71.9% to $31.8 million or Rs 241.68 crore in FY22. Its cash outflow from operations worsened 2.4X to $35.4 million or Rs 269 crore.
Moving to the ratios, the firm’s ROCE and EBITDA margins stood at -36.07% and -163.91%. On a unit level, InShorts spent $2.69 to earn a single unit of operating revenue in the last fiscal year (FY22).
InShorts’ closest competitor Dailyhunt reported Rs 965 crore in revenue in FY22. The VerSe Innovation-owned firm also registered a huge growth in expenses, as a result, it registered Rs 2,563 crore loss during the last fiscal year.
The advertising-driven market is probably the least noticed, yet largest graveyard for digital dreams, if they are counting on advertising. Survival is beyond tough, and as we can see with multiple firms in India too, large funding rounds are no guarantee of revenues flowing in. The content space leaves very little on the table for others after the top 2-3 players are done, making it a very tough nut to crack. Add to that a buy-side system that is equal parts incestuous, as it is data-driven and inefficient in terms of collections and payments. Aggregators like InShorts, Dailyhunt, or even ShareChat have found willing investors based on their pitch so far, but their real challenge to find equally ready and believing media buyers has not really worked so far, years after starting. With influencer marketing on a tear as far as major platforms like YouTube and Instagram go, these firms face an even bigger challenge to come up with credible and attractive options that can work for all stakeholders, profitably. With the amount of burn behind them and the money left in the bank, it is anyone’s guess whether the next big milestone is a funding round or an acceptable loss. It’s time to evaluate and find a more obvious third outcome.