Toronto-based Wattpad, an online community for readers and writers, has announced a partnership and strategic investment with Times Bridge, the global investments and partnerships arm of Indian media conglomerate, Times Group.
Wattpad is not disclosing the amount of the investment, but a spokesperson for the company told BetaKit the partnership will enable Wattpad to receive operational support from Times Group, India’s largest media conglomerate, and expand Wattpad’s presence in India.
“We’re thrilled to work with Times Bridge expand our footprint in the region and create more opportunities for India’s rich literary community to tell their stories, reaching new audiences in India and around the world,” said Allen Lau, CEO and co-founder of Wattpad.
“Millions of Indian readers and writers have already found a home Wattpad. We’re excited to create new opportunities for Indian storytellers.”
The partnership is part of Wattpad’s recent efforts to expand its operations in India. Working with Times Bridge, Wattpad plans to grow its local community of readers and writers, establish new strategic partnerships, and create opportunities for Wattpad Studios to work with local partners to turn Wattpad stories into books, TV shows, films, and digital projects. Times Bridge also lists among its investments, Uber, Airbnb, Coursera, Houzz, MUBI, and Smule.
With over 70 million users, Wattpad has offices in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. The company uses machine learning technology to discover and promote some of the 565 million stories on the platform, which are then transformed into books, TV shows, films, and digital projects. Some of Wattpad’s international entertainment partners include iflix, Sony, and Huayi Brothers Korea.
India is an important market for Wattpad, as the company has seen continued growth in the region. Over 2.6 million monthly users have shared more than four million story uploads. Wattpad already supports 10 languages in India, including Hindi, Tamil, and Urdu.
The deal follows Wattpad’s announcement that Devashish Sharma joined the company as its first country manager for India. Sharma will lead the company’s efforts to expand all aspects of Wattpad in the region, operating out of the city of Mumbai. Last April, the company appointed Dexter Ong as head of Asia for Wattpad Studios, the company’s arm dedicated to developing Wattpad stories into TV shows, movies, books, and digital projects.
“The market in India is really going digital, so we see a great opportunity to increase our community of writers and readers,” Sharma told BetaKit. “Millions of Indian readers and writers have already found a home Wattpad. Times Bridge and The Times Group have an unmatched media and entertainment portfolio, and connections with some of India’s most respected authors and cultural figures. We’re excited to work together to create new opportunities for Indian storytellers.”
In August, Wattpad announced a content partnership with Malaysia-based streaming service iflix to co-produce Wattpad stories for iflix users in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In March, Lau told BetaKit about Wattpad’s push into Asia by leveraging the expertise of Tencent, the largest tech company in Asia that participated in Wattpad’s $61.25 million round in January.
“Wattpad is a bold, proven idea that has changed how audiences around the world create and experience stories,” said Rishi Jaitly, CEO of Times Bridge. “Our investment will advance Wattpad’s mission, and original storytelling, across the Indian subcontinent, unlocking the creativity of many millions along the way. We are delighted to be working with a partner who sees growing creativity, diversity and value across the Indian market.”
The company said along with the recent hire of Sharma, it is expecting to expand its headcount across India. A Wattpad spokesperson said, with a population of 1.3 billion, and over four million story uploads from India alone, the country is well poised to accelerate the company’s penetration into the region.
Image courtesy Wattpad.