Big Idea

Selling better stories

Forget dogs, this start-up wants to be a content writer’s new best friend. Meet Instoried

Regardless of profession, we’re all salesmen. You’re either in the process of selling a service or product, or in the business of helping to sell something better. LIC agent? You’re selling insurance. Doctor? You’re selling people their health and well-being. Techie coder? You’re probably trying to build the next world-changing app and then sell it for millions of dollars. Heck, you’re a salesman even when you go to the supermarket to buy groceries. That’s because when you buy that fancy carton of brown eggs, you’re selling an image that says ‘I buy top-quality goods.’

Traditionally, selling or marketing comprises some form of communication. The most common is written content, because who doesn’t like a good copy? You’ve surely used or at least heard of Grammarly, the free online proof-reading service. In addition to grammar checks, think of a solution that analyses the tone of your text (positive, negative, neutral), scores it on five chief emotions (joy, disgust, anger, fear, surprise), and even suggests words and phrases to improve the emotional content of the passage for a target audience. Sharmin Ali and Sutanshu Raj claim that their creation, Instoried, is exactly that.

After stints as a techie, playwright (founder of Artrightis Theatre Group), author, and content writer for corporates, Ali realised a major challenge for any writer — that is to figure whether their content will really connect with their audience or not. Science has thankfully come a long way in understanding what attracts the human mind. There’s an entire division called neuromarketing dedicated to finding the ‘sell button’ in our brains. “As per principles of human marketing, if you can trigger the right set of emotions in your customers, you’ve just sold your product,” says Ali. Joy, disgust, anger, fear, and surprise are chief among these, and Ali says having three of these in your content should help get those cash registers ringing.

Ali wanted to develop a tool to help writers gauge the emotional quotient of their copy, and also help enhance its impact on its target audience. Having written over 70 plays and two books (How I Was Forced to Become a Staunch Racist!YOU), Ali was well versed with content. To bring in expertise in technology and development, she roped in Raj, a Masters in machine learning and specialist in Natural Language Processing (NLP). An alumnus of Tampere University of Technology, Finland, he was part of Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia project back when the brand made waves with their 21-megapixel camera phone.

Every sensible piece of content is made from three steps: research, writing, and editing. The third step is where Ali and team plan to monetise their software as a service. The tool suggests changes to your copy and even shows you the new EQ scores once the editions are incorporated. However, it won’t make any changes to the text by itself. That discretion is left to the author/content team. Thankfully, machines haven’t turned smart enough to produce content, so writers will stick around for a while.

Unlike Grammarly, Instoried doesn’t offer a ‘freemium’ model. A yearly subscription of Instoried’s tech will cost your company Rs.1.06 million, but the amount could vary according to the company’s scale of content requirement. The rival to text editors such as Grammarly and has raised $ 500,000 from Venture Catalysts, Axilor Ventures, IIIT Hyderabad, and CoWrks Foundry.

As per Apoorv Ranjan Sharma, co-founder, Venture Catalysts, the addressable deep-tech content space is pegged at a whopping $300 billion. Founded in June 2018, Instoried has already hit a revenue of Rs.7.4 million for FY20 from 40 clients. The start-up claims that clients across the board have seen 30% increase in efficiency in content production and a 10-12% bump in click-through rates on their websites. The B2B start-up is particularly betting big on FMCG and e-commerce companies for this growth. The team offers solutions for content in English and Hindi, but the next step is to go vernacular.