New Delhi, Aug 11 : With a deeply-engaged community of close to 3 million users in India, who spend more than 37 minutes daily reading, writing, and engaging on an average on the platform, global user-generated stories platform Wattpad says it registered a significant increase in user activity during the lockdown, worldwide and in India.

"Lockdown was a critical time for everyone across the country. People were suddenly isolated and were not able to continue with their normal lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, as more people were stuck at home and in quarantine, one global trend we saw early this year was more people turning to storytelling as a way to connect and cope with the situation. Users who were previously readers turned to writing as a way to express themselves. A related thing we heard from writers was that people are finding solace in the community of readers and writers around their stories. Writers tell us that being able to connect with fans and other writers has been a positive experience for them right now," Devashish Sharma, India Country Manager at Wattpad told IANSlife in an interview.

Earlier this spring, the platform saw a global increase in sign ups from pre-COVID levels, with a more than 50 percent increase in April over early March. Some regions were much higher, likely due the people being quarantined and social distancing starting at different dates around the world.

From January through April, the number of new stories written on Wattpad grew a whopping 151 percent. In the same period, the number of new writers increased by 125 percent. Writer activity overall increased by 200 percent from January through April.

"In India, these growth trends meant a 50 percent increase in reading time, a 30 percent increase in new stories, and a 60 percent increase in writers," Sharma shared.

Wattpad, which came into existence in 2006, houses stories that went to become some of the biggest recent hits in TV and film: Hulu's "Light as a Feather", Netflix's "The Kissing Booth", and teen hit "After". As per Sharma, today, they have 50 TV and film projects in development around the world, and to date, nearly 1,000 Wattpad stories have been published as books, or adapted for TV and film.

The website and app made its way to India in 2015 to cater to a vast audience of story-lovers and storytellers in this country who shared a love for literature and books. "India is one of the global leaders in producing incredible stories and IP. We want to unlock even more of the amazing stories that are waiting to be told by Indian writers. Organic growth for Wattpad in India has been possible partly because of the high penetration of smartphones and mobile web apps in India," said Sharma.

Asked about user data and activity, the country head revealed that Wattpadders in India have shared more than 4 million uploads in English, Hindi and nine other Indian languages (including Malayalam, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Assamese, Marathi and Oriya).

As for the demographics, 90 percent of their users are GenZ and Millennials (between the age group of 15 and 30), 65 percent are female users and 45 percent are from the non-metro cities.

While Wattpad is home to multiple genres, data suggests that Indians love reading sci-fi, and romance that touches on forbidden-love and arranged marriages to name a few. We are also seeing a growing readership for several new age genres like thrillers and the paranormal.

"With users spending an average of 37 minutes daily reading, writing, and engaging with Wattpad stories, we know that Indian users get hooked on stories and can't put them down. Users binge on chapters because they can't wait to know what happens next. What is truly unique about Wattpad is the social nature of the experience, readers can engage in conversations with each other, connect with the author directly, and discuss what they love about a story. For readers, the experience can be very similar to a book club, where passionate book lovers spend their time reading and discussing stories.

"For writers, this creates an incredible connection to their fans. They can hear what readers love about a story, or learn where a story could be improved. Owing to such readership dynamics, we are now seeing established, best-selling writers like Neil D'Silva choosing Wattpad to release his new book on Wattpad to connect directly with his readers. A few days since launch and the book is already a hit, and in just one day, his new story accumulated nearly 10,000 reads!" What is the future collaborations and plans for Wattpad in India?
"Our vision for India is to continually build a platform that provides writers with an opportunity to tell stories, make money, and be seen and heard in India and around the world. We want to make TV shows and films from Indian writers, and with the largest catalogue of IP on the planet, the next international TV or film sensation could be on Wattpad right now.

"We also want to work with Indian brands, to help them understand and tap into the power of social storytelling and long-form content. We're living in an age when people want more genuine engagement from brands. Gen Z wants to see that brands understand their perspective, which is why our massive and diverse audience stands out." Sharma concludes: "Not only is Wattpad a great platform to discover great stories, but it is also a true community of literature enthusiasts, who connect over stories to share thoughts, opinions and ideas. To add to this, many upcoming writers here in India have chosen us to be their to-go platform to publish or launch their literary works." (Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

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