Bestho was founded in 2012 as a social interaction driven user-generated content platform, more like Quora for Bangla speaking population. Bestho has turned five recently, congratulations to team Beshto, and many things have changed, in the meantime, for Bangla language on the internet.
In 2012, when Bestho started, it was ahead of its time. Yes, there were a handful of similar online forums but internet was not friendly towards Bangla language contents. Bangla search was not available and most of the online advertising platforms did not support Bangla language yet making it challenging for Bangla language platforms to monetize. The challenges like internet penetration and others were there as well.
Fast forward five years, things have, in terms of ecosystem and environment for digital platforms in Bangladesh, improved significantly. However, the new challenges have come forward. Facebook has become extremely powerful making it difficult for other platforms of any sort to attract users, particularly in this part of the world. Hence, building a platform where users engage and contribute will be an uphill battle.
Theoretically speaking, there is a demand for Bangla language content online. Over the years, we have seen major platforms and companies like Google and Facebook have come to integrate Bangla into their platforms. This has solved many challenges related to using Bangla as language on the internet including monetization, to some extent.
Now you can search in Bangla in Google. And writing Bangla on the internet is equally simple with a growing set of tools. In fact, we have seen the rise of a handful of Bangla phonetics apps in the recent months. This means we are rather seeing a very early stage of Bangla language going mainstream on the internet. This reality makes a wonderful case for companies like Bestho. In terms of timing, Bestho is in for a wonderful opportunity if it can get it right. In Inside Bestho Ibrahim wrote:
“There is a large Bengali language user base online. By population, Bangla is the 4th largest language in the world. Compare to that, available content for this population is not even close to the existing demand in the market. There are opportunities to generate and feed and monetize Bengali content. But most of the efforts are meager. Bestho is better positioned here. Few reasons: generating content is difficult and media and one way platforms can’t do much here. Bestho, since it is a social platform, can generate varieties of content at a good pace with strong distribution system in place.”
If you look closely Bestho is a community and also a user-generated content platform where users generate a variety of contents including Q&A, stories, jokes, tips and so on.
It has three major features, one is called Adda which is basically where you can find as well as contribute any type of content, then there is Q&A which is basically Quora-like question and answers and then it has a feature called Chottor/Public Club where you can create channel, follow celebrity profiles and channels and so on.
Bestho has enough features for keeping an audience engaged but the platform lacks in user experience. It is clumsy and does not offer a good experience. If you compare it with Quora or similar platform, it is far behind. There are confusions around how and why to use certain features and so on.
One of the prerequisites for the growth of platforms like Bestho is user-friendliness of the platform because unless users find it easy to use and thus don’t take part, the platform does not matter. It is the experience of the platform in the first place that attracts users and then probably network-effect of the community and other engagement features keep them on the platform.
Hence, the challenge for Bestho now is to make the platform user-friendly and improve the user engagement, the latter should come relatively easily if the former is taken care of.
Business model wise, Bestho is no different from other UGC platforms, the plan is to make money out of advertising. Bestho has already started serving ads, mostly through Google as well as content as well.
However, there is room for further exploration, particularly around finding even better ad format and Bestho is willing to launch contextual ad format in the near future. Quora has already launched an independent ad format recently and it has proven to be effective given the nature of the platform. However, in order to dictate the terms of the conversation with the advertisers, it has to be able to make its business case solid. Here again from Inside Bestho and our conversation with Fahim Mashroor, one of the founders of Bestho:
“The common money machine for almost all online content platforms is the advertisement. “At Bestho, we aim for a similar model,” says Fahim Mashroor, “but we would go for more of contextual advertisements. Top of that, there are few other features that we want to test over the time as a means for earning revenue like instant Q&A, and feedback. You need an answer or public feedback or opinion on a particular idea or topic, you could put it on Bestho and we could try to give it extra visibility to get a fast response. We may charge a small fee for this and share the revenue with content creators for that particular Q&A or feedback.” These are all very common money making ideas for a content platform like Bestho but there is more to it. As we all know by now, content is king. Once you have built a platform that has a continuous stream of content and users, you can easily monetize it and there should not be lack of options to do so. For that Bestho just need a little more time.”
In our 2015 feature on Bestho, we observed that Bestho would have to wait and slog through before seeing a real growth.
Given the recent developments in the market, it seems that time has finally come. Bangla as a language has become widely popular on the internet. Major platforms now support Bangla and monetization through ad network has become feasible.
At the same time, writing Bangla online is no more a huge challenge. All these developments support the hypothesis that there is a solid chance to build an “open and public Bangla language content platform driven by social interaction.”
Timing-wise, it seems this is the right time for Bestho. Having said that, as I mentioned earlier, the startup has to fix the user experience first to get to the next level.