Tired of typing and reading texts/IMs? Would you much rather deal with voice messages instead? There’s an app for that. It’s called Katha, and it’s 100% Sri Lankan.
Katha aims to revolutionise the way we communicate by going back to basics: Talking. The service allows users to not only send direct voice messages to each other but also broadcast to a wider audience of subscribers. Think of it as a Snapchat for audio, except better and more versatile.
While existing instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger already allow users to send audio messages, Katha is unique in that it’s built specifically as an audio-only messaging service that doubles as a podcasting tool. The app’s unique channels feature, its creators hope, will provide a platform to private individuals, journalists, businesses, service providers, nonprofits, opinion leaders, et al. to take their message to the masses efficiently and in a personal capacity that until now was simply not possible.
Walking us through the app, founder Mahen Ratnayake explains that a single message can last up to five minutes and will cost next to nothing in terms of data as audio messages take up very little space. The service, he says, is entirely free of charge except for a commission Katha will get from its premium and verified channel owners who may charge their subscribers (with in-App pricing limitations – typically less than 1 dollar).
“Premium users can also use the Katha backend to upload audio content,” he adds.
Initiatives like Lanka Angel Network have already come on board, setting up premium channels on Katha to reach new audiences. The renowned think tank Verité Research is hoping to create an election update channel on Katha in the run-up to the coming parliamentary elections.
“Katha is a good platform for journalists. It can give them a voice, and they can in turn use it as a preview service. Let’s say you’re conducting an interview with someone important; in the middle of it, you can take a quick soundbite and post it on Katha which will go to every single follower of your choice. It’s better than typing a quote as your subscribers can actually listen to their voice. You can even reshare it on Facebook” says Mudith Uswatta, who handles marketing for the startup.
But how many would realistically want to put themselves out there like that?
“No one would want to say anything incriminating on a service like this using their own voice. Traditionally, it was always more a case where people would say something that they might wish to go back and change. Unfortunately, you cannot do that with audio. It’s a very spontaneous, very immediate channel. That’s basically what we sell,” explains Mudith.
The duo also hopes that Katha will provide a platform for struggling artists and even provincial politicians.
“It’s a channel to collect micro collections in an easy way and gather support for any cause. For a struggling musician, for example, going to a studio and getting something recorded could be prohibitively expensive. He or she could easily create a channel on Katha and work their way around the issue,” says Mudith.
“In a wider sense, what we’re trying to do is democratise the medium of podcasts by making it possible for anyone to have their own channel,” he explains.
The response to Katha once launched will determine the next phase of Mahen’s and Mudith’s plans for the app.
“We’re experimenting to see if this viable, and if enough people are taking it up, then we could go international,” says Mahen.
Katha is a simple yet ambitious project that has the potential to be a worldwide hit, provided it lasts the test of time locally. It is refreshingly original and is without a doubt the single most user-friendly homegrown app we’ve seen to date. If all goes according to plan, it’s not a stretch to say that this will be the next big thing.