In a world divested in a flurry of information; knowing where to look and how to spend our time on the internet becomes an everyday dilemma. Current events like wars and inflation are seamlessly interconnected with business and stock trading. Yet, there hasn’t been quite a tool that synthesises pure, objective, and verified news for the technology sector. Most tech news outlets like Tech Crunch and Venture Beats require people to subscribe to their sites or follow them on social media to keep up with the latest. And even then, it’s often convoluted with a bunch of other content from unrelated sources.
Technology is permeating every aspect of work as we know it. More and more people are studying and working in technology as a discipline. Former Economic Times editor Akhilesh Shula worked in new-age media and traditional media for several years when he noticed a gap in the market for technology-specific news. This is when the concept of TechShots was born, a modern news app that fed decision-makers relevant and accurate global technology news in less than 400 characters, with an in-app ability to read the full story. We spoke to Akhilesh about his mindset and strategy behind building an app that seems to be another snackable content app, as well as his challenges and outlooks for 2023
Interviewer: Can you tell us about your journey into entrepreneurship? How did your background or past affect your present career?
Akhilesh: I started my career as a journalist. I was covering different issues related to the normal day-to-day life of individuals. That’s where I got the inspiration to create a modern news platform. But this didn’t actually come to life until much later in my career. Over the course of my media career, I moved from traditional print press to digital media. In India, newspapers still play a prevalent role in how people keep up to date with current events.
While working in digital media, I tried my best to understand its business model. During my time working at Alibaba’s UC Web, as Chief Editor, in India, I came to the idea of starting a platform for the IT community because there was a wave of multimedia news platforms emerging like TikTok.
However, I haven’t witnessed much change in B2B technology news media, which still takes a traditional magazine approach with long-format stories. And, there was no specific market leader in this space and a single point of truth where you go for all the relevant news in the tech niche in India. For example, you would have to go on individual sites like WSJ or Tech Crunch.
In India specifically, there’s no B2B platform that covers predominantly technology news. I saw this as a problem, and that’s how I started building Techshots, a short news app where you can consume content in 400 characters.
Interviewer: How do you think your product will stand out in the current market?
Akhilesh: Time is of the essence in modern society, and I think our product will fulfill a gap in the Indian market where people can consume relevant news in a short span of time. On TechShots, it takes less than 5 minutes to know what is happening around in the enterprise IT domain. We have provided readout options for those who are interested in listening while driving or doing other chores. One thing that’s missing on most of the media platforms in b2b space is intelligence. We’re trying to build an intelligence mechanism where we can predict the buying patterns of CIOs, CISOs, and decision-makers based on their interaction with content on our platform.
Interviewer: Who are the stakeholders in this world you want to compete with?
Akhilesh: Traditional B2B, IT, and news media are the major players. In India specifically, Times of India, Economic Times, and Indian Express. Note that a lot of these major publications are more of an event management company than a B2B trade media publication. Because of this, most of them don’t pay much attention to content/ news. Although events are a revenue generator for us, the future is about creating an intelligent platform for buyer-sellers. As I said, we are creating a model where I can predict that this person can be the possible buyer of this production or solution. I think that would be a bigger change in the entire ecosystem and how the transaction is done in the enterprise IT domain.
According to Gartner, it’s a roughly $100+ billion annual market in India. That’s around $8+ billion in IT products or services being bought and sold in the country. It takes on average, six months or maybe more for a deal to close. Let’s say with intelligence, we could cut that timespan from six months to five and a half months—that would still make a significant difference.
Interviewer: How are you going to deal with regulation and things like providing accuracy in terms of reporting?
Akhilesh: That is going to be a tough challenge, however, one positive thing is that technology space is yet to be as corrupted as mainstream media or political news. Having said that, we always try to verify whenever there’s a flow of news. We try to check it from at least, two to three verified sources. We always put a link to the original source and there’s a set guideline for the teammates not to put any unauthorised or non-trusted source. We’re not in the business of breaking news. Our aim is to be a reliable source that covers the entire ecosystem.
Interviewer: If you were handed $1 million today, what would be your first initiative?
Akhilesh: The number one initiative would be hiring a sales team. I think no business can sustain itself in the long term without having a proper business model which involves sales. One thing I want to focus on is having more opportunities to do business. Then simultaneously, improving the content and bringing in more content. The third and most important will be to invest money into the intelligence aspect of news consumption. Going forward next, I aim to make it a key source of revenue for us.
Interviewer: What is one thing that has helped you persist through the uncertainty and difficulty of starting and/or running a business?
Akhilesh: The most difficult thing which I’ve observed is having quality resources because in the earlier phase, you don’t have too much money to invest and you need to have quality resources to build on. Even if you find good talent, the likelihood of them staying on for too long is slim, because there’s always someone out there who will pay them more. At the same time, it takes a while to earn trust from the market as you’re new in the ecosystem.
When it comes to TechShots, I’m quite optimistic about where we’re going. Our revenue has been 3x since the last, so I see a great opportunity for us to continue this growth in 2023.
This past year has been truly remarkable for tech; with AI burgeoning into the mainstream, while by contrast, the plummeting of tech stocks across the board. This creates an environment for fear and reservation, yet also equips tech companies to be better prepared and focus their efforts on profitability as opposed to growth. Economic downturns provide a quiet period for great innovators to rise. Having an accurate tool that provides an overview of what’s happening day to day in the tech sector can be attractive for decision-makers who want to maximize their time on buying and selling products and services.