Social community platform for women Pankhuri raises $3.2 million in funding led by Sequoia India’s Surge
Pankhuri aims to build an inclusive and positive community experience where women in tier 2 and 3 cities in India can safely and actively participate in beauty and lifestyle conversations online
Bengaluru: Pankhuri, a social community platform for women, today announced US$3.2 million in funding led by Surge, a rapid scale-up program by Sequoia Capital India for startups in India and Southeast Asia, alongside India Quotient and Taurus Ventures. Pankhuri is a platform for women in India to network, learn and shop through live streaming, chat, and cohort based sessions, enabling them to be active participants in beauty and lifestyle conversations online instead of being passive consumers.
While there are over 240 million digitally connected women in India, only 27% of social media users in India are women. Many shy away from engaging online due to a lack of confidence and a safe environment, coupled with the rise of online bullying, trolling and harassment.
However, more Indian women are also going on the internet for the first time, with the country adding 15-20 million new users every month. This has led to a rise in female digital consumers who are now accessing content and buying products online. This digital influence has become a game-changer for India’s $18 billion beauty market as women are replacing traditional ways of discovery (print and TV ads) with social media and creator driven discovery of products.
Pankhuri was founded in 2019 to harness this opportunity by creating a safe, inclusive space for women to engage online. The platform currently provides users with information on topics such as beauty and personal care through various video formats : live and short videos, and encourages ongoing conversation with expert creators through hosted live sessions. Blending entertainment with social commerce, it allows users to browse content and ask questions tailored to their needs while shopping. Pankhuri currently boasts a completion rate of 95% for its live-streamed sessions and has a community of over 250,000 active women of which more than 60% have transacted via micropayments on the platform since January 2021.
CEO and Founder, Pankhuri Shrivastava said, “For many women, the thought of going online can be a daunting experience, especially given the rise in online bullying and trolling. Very often, these women also face social barriers which restrict them from pursuing their aspirations and socialising outside of their homes. Pankhuri was created with the ambition to break down these barriers facing millions of women in India, improving their digital literacy and empowering them to regain their right to expression. In building this inclusive online community, we want to provide them with a safe space to fulfil their aspirations, explore, get answers and engage with experts and creators for all things beauty and lifestyle related.”
Pankhuri was founded by Pankhuri Shrivastava, previously the co-founder of home rental startup Grabhouse, which she started after a fellowship at Teach for India. Grabhouse, which was backed by Sequoia Capital India, Kalaari Capital and India Quotient, was acquired by Quikr in 2016. She is a Computer Science graduate with years of hands-on marketing and startup experience.
"Beauty products and services are one of the first high involvement verticals which will get disrupted. The characteristics of the vertical - high AOV, very sticky users and curiosity for newer products and trends make high engagement, creator-driven social commerce a promising opportunity. The tremendous traction and love from women for creator-driven content is building up a thriving and sticky community on Pankhuri. I am eagerly looking at this fast evolution of product and community and it seems not very different from magic," said Madhukar Sinha, Founding Partner, India Quotient.
Pankhuri is backed by India Quotient, Taurus Ventures and angel investors Farid Ahsan, Krishnan Menon, Kunal Shah, Sai Srinivas and Sweta Rau.
The startup is part of Surge’s fifth cohort of 23 companies that have developed new digital solutions to help companies and individuals work, live and learn better in a rapidly evolving post-pandemic world.