Chances are a teenager you know is using Uable, a social networking app for teens. The Bengaluru-based startup founded in October 2021 claims over 2.5 lakh users, all of whom are in the 13-19 age bracket. Founded by Saurabh Saxena (ex-founder of edtech Vedantu) and Vasavi Kandula, the app raised $4.5 million from investors including JAFCO Asia, Chiratae Ventures and 3one4 Capital early last year.
Uable’s credo, according to Saxena, is content, community and commerce. The app encourages a young audience to create and consume content in subtle and obvious ways, and features a variety of teen-focused brands. It allows users to post videos and photos to the Instagram-style feed, join clubs based on their interests, hang out on chat servers similar to Discord (the messaging platform), and buy products in the U-store adorned with gadgets, books, accessories and clothes.
The Uable Team
The app is packed with airy pop culture polls, memes about being bad at math, group chats about their recently resumed school life, photos of pencil sketches, and other life-escaping elements. ‘teenager.
At a time when social media giants like Facebook and Instagram are struggling with an aging user base and the loss of teen users, Uable sees an opportunity to attract brands to this teen destination. After all, teenagers are big influencers when it comes to household spending.
The idea is that their early exposure to featured brands could turn into lifelong loyalty, and brands such as Snackible, boAt, The Souled Store, Portronics (teen apparel), FLNG (teen products), Beauprty (healthcare teens), Streak (fintech teens), seem to want to take advantage of it.
All activity on the platform is enabled by the app’s built-in social currency called U-coins, given as a reward for high engagement, used to unlock premium content and redeemed for discounts on products from the U-store, which is then bought with money.
Madhur, 16, from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, has more friends on the app than in real life, and he blames Covid for that. With nearly 7,000 subscribers, Madhur – an aspiring content creator – found his audience on Uable. After several failed attempts at YouTube vlogging and dealing with hate and trolling, he thinks Uable is a safe space for him to experiment, post relevant content, and make friends in the process.
Usable app design
As a “top-creator” who’s been on the app since its inception, he’s spent his money on audio lectures about design, one of his areas of interest, and buying a boAt earphone. “I don’t do a lot of shopping, but I spend an hour on the app almost every day, and anything in the shopping section, like tech, books, and games, is usually discounted. Very friendly for us teenagers,” says Madhur.
But it’s not a shopping app, says Saxena. While the focus is still on creating social networks, brands are being integrated to add value to a teenager’s life. They offer internships, create clubs, launch products, provide quality learning materials, and interact directly with users for feedback. They see immense value in making meaningful connections with their teenage audience, says Saxena.
The app is intentionally ad-free to counter the negative effects of advertising on young minds and is free as they want it to reach the widest possible audience – 10 million teenagers by the end of 2023 is the target set.
Social media has become a medium for everyone. Then there is a certain fatigue and saturation with one media for all, and there is segmentation. It’s an idea whose time may have come, but reaching scale is the secret to success in this place. It is extremely critical to have to reach a large audience sooner rather than later. A subset of this scale is participation. Participation is the ultimate metric to see if a site is alive or dying. An engaging networking app for teens should be fully participatory, fully active and instantaneous, says Harish Bijoor, brand and business strategy consultant.
Although still in its infancy of monetization, revenue comes from e-commerce that takes place in the U-store and premium learning materials made available on the platform. Uable is only expected to break even in 2025.
Adults need to shift the conversation around teens’ use of social media away from general mistrust and antagonism and more toward creating safe spaces for healthy socializing and exploring different interests.
“Today’s teenagers are digital natives. They are going to use smartphones whether we like it or not. It is therefore about making the use of their smartphone more valuable than just browsing social networks aimlessly, instead of imposing restrictions. We need to nurture their diverse interests, provide them with a judgment-free zone to express themselves, and give them a platform to discover the products that interest them,” says Saxena.
April 17, 2022