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Uable wants to target teen users, but with more than just content

Uable, an app dedicated to teens, is focusing on mixing content with commerce. We spoke to its founder and CEO Saurabh Saxena on how the app works and what it is trying to achieve.

Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi |
Updated: December 30, 2021 12:42:25 pm
Uable app for teensUable is an app dedicated to teens, with a mix of e-commerce and content. Here's what it is trying to do and how it works.

‘Content, community and commerce’: These are the three aspects that Uable, an app dedicated to teens, is focusing on as it tries to gain the next generation of internet users.

“On our app, teenagers come and they can join an interest-based club, connect with like-minded communities, consume and create content. They also earn U-Coins within the app as an internal currency, which can be used for commerce on our U-Store,” Saurabh Saxena, co-founder of the app, tells indianexpress.com.

Saxena, who previously co-founded the Vedantu ed-tech platform, has a logic for why they are chasing the teen audience. “While the money is being spent by parents, the drivers are teenagers because they ask for things,” he points out, and that’s exactly what Uable is hoping to catch.

“Data shows that the pocket money of teenagers has almost doubled or tripled. Their spending power is increasing and the ecosystem is bringing in debit cards, UPI solutions for them. They have a lot of money at their disposal and that’s what led us to believe that commerce is a big play,” he adds.

The Uable app, which claims to have over a quarter-million downloads so far, is ‘ad-free’, and also puts the focus on U-Coins, which can be used to buy products such as electronics, coupons, etc for other products. The way Saxena sees it, the U-Store helps the company complete an important gratification loop and ensures user engagement and retention. In his view, the days when teens would stick to an app just for the content are long gone.

Saurabh Saxena, founder of Uable app. (Image source: Uable)

In fact, Uable also plans to go a step further. It plans to launch financial services with savings bank accounts, debit cards for teenagers, though the company did not give a timeline on when these features would roll out. Saxena admits that when they do add financial services, Know Your Customer (KYC) will be mandated to ensure that users are verified. But right now the app relies on users voluntarily entering their correct age when signing up for the app, which is limited to ages 13 to 21.

According to Saxena, users often enter their correct age, which might be higher than what the app permits. If that does happen, they are automatically blocked from logging into the app from that device — we were however able to access the app with an age beyond the limit, which Saxena called a glitch.

But the cofounder is confident that 80 per cent of their users are teenagers. Plus he says for those who are older, the content will not be relevant given it is aimed purely at a teen audience.

An important aspect of the app is the ‘Clubs’, which can only be started by the Uable team, though this is done to ensure that the number of clubs remains manageable. However, Uable has made some teens who are managing these clubs as moderators with advanced rights such as the ability to temporarily suspend those indulging in suspicious activities. And within a Club, teenagers can launch their own discussion, micro-communities, etc.

The Uable app logo is seen in this photo. (Image via Uable)

The app also encourages content such as challenges — this is also usually prompted by the Uable team–which could range from gaming or a design or coding challenge. Here the emphasis is on encouraging teens to showcase their work within the app. These challenges can also help them win more U-Coins.

And how does Uable manage security for its young audience, especially since anyone can message anyone else within the app? “Safety has been super important for us, for almost four months, we were in closed beta because we knew that we were entering a space that is sensitive. We have a 15-member moderation team right now which does manual moderation, manual verifications, and takes on all sorts of content that comes onto the app,” Saxena explains.

They are also using automated tools to filter out problematic content, and the app has banned certain kinds of words, phrases, which could be harmful. All messages go through a moderation layer as it is not end-to-end encrypted.

Further, when a user gets blocked three times on the app by others, they will be suspended permanently. In Saxena’s view, they are trying to maintain a fine balance on the app, by letting the onus of reporting content lie with the audience.

But is he worried about compliance risks from a regulatory perspective, especially with the new Personal Data Protection Bill coming up? Uable’s founder knows that from a regulatory perspective, engaging with teens does have risks, but feels that they have covered most bases when it comes to safety. He feels that since they are not exposing teens to unnecessary ads, the risks are far less compared to traditional social media apps.

Interestingly, the app also encourages ‘mentors’ on the platform. Mentors are adults who are brought on to the app by Uable to inspire the teen audience. These mentors could be digital creators, YouTubers, or well-known personalities. “These mentors provide inspiration and learning, where teenagers can learn something of value. For example, if a teenager is aspiring to become a YouTuber and has relevant questions, then the influencers and mentors can help out with that on the app,” he explained, stressing that mentors are not permanent entities on the app, and only come by invite. But he makes it clear that the stress is on activities for teens and by teens.

One thing to note is that the app does not have an option to delete the account in it and a teen has to send a separate request, with which the company complies within under 24 hours. However, the feature to delete the profile from within the app is coming soon with a new update.

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