Write like nobody's watching

Updated: Apr 20, 2020, 17:13 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

Last year, the former founding member of SBI credit card launched an anonymous venting platform. At a time of crisis, it's buzzing like never before

Sumit Mittal
Sumit Mittal

OVER the last couple of weeks, entrepreneur Sumit Mittal's health-tech platform, VentAllOut, has seen a barrage of reflections, confessions, and opinions. From rants about entertaining toddlers during quarantine to how countries are handling the pandemic, users have been venting about everything under the sun. "As long as the content is clean," cautions the 45-year-old. The year-old platform is seeing impressive traffic as individuals are looking to express themselves while cooped up indoors. In the last one month, the platform has seen a 66 per cent rise in users. "You can consider it your own diary, which is open to viewing but you remain anonymous." To give it structure, he has introduced categories such as politics, current affairs, confession, entertainment, daily drag, relationships and grievance. Queer issues and women's rights are in the pipeline. When we logged in, the discussions surrounded whether the lockdown extension is justified, and, hearteningly, the benefits of reading newspapers.

Launched last February, VentAllOut is an online outlet to let off steam and candidly express emotions with the intention of promoting healthy discussions. It operates as an interest-based network, where you log in and see content relevant to your interests, regardless of who has posted it. For Mittal, the inspiration came from what he calls the "fakeness" around. "Social media is full of manufactured, Pinterest-worthy pictures. We don't know the reality behind them. A fashion influencer posing with an artfully arranged latte and avocado toast might just be battling depression." For over 15 years, Mittal, a trained six sigma professional, was part of the payment industry. He was the founding member of SBI credit card in 1998. Later, he moved to MasterCard and spearheaded the business in the Middle East.

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In 2017, came the saturation point when he decided to leave it all behind and venture into the "business of emotions". The idea emerged from his personal experience. "I'm part of several WhatsApp groups and refrain from sharing my political thoughts because of the backlash. Here, due to the anonymity, people share on subjects which they feel strongly about." With quality being at the heart of the content, Mittal ensures he vets all posts, and if they carry profanities, the in-built AI regulatory mechanism omits them out, while retaining the essence.

Although they have marketed the product only in India, the app has users from Japan, London, America and Sri Lanka. Indians are more concise in their outpourings, unlike the Americans who are more verbose and veer towards longform, he observes. "Indians say it in a paragraph or two. In fact, we started a minimum character count so that users write a meaningful sentence. I think it comes from all the character limitations that we have internalised due to Twitter and Instagram," he laughs. Not surprisingly, it's relationships that top the list followed by politics. "Suddenly, work from home has intruded our space, especially because Indian homes are not large. A lot of stories that are coming are stemming from the fulltime togetherness and forced family time." They have also initiated anonymous chat groups on alcoholism and mental health. On noticing that some rants are borderline serious, the platform has created an expert panel comprising a mix of therapists, psychologists, life coaches, motivational speakers, and political analysts for personal consultations. This comes with a fee. The system also analyses a user's mood and rewards them accordingly with gift coupons.

Once you log in,  select one of the  eight languages  available. The app  allows you to vent  anonymously and  has a voice-to- text feature for  those who don’t  wish to typeOnce you log in, select one of the eight languages available. The app allows you to vent anonymously and has a voice-to-text feature for those who don't wish to type

Recently, Mittal introduced the app in six regional languages, including Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and Bengali, besides English in order to reach out to 550 million users in tier II and III towns.

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