Audio-based social media platforms have become safe spaces for some users, owing to there being less regulation or fewer cultural restrictions. Is this why you focused on audio for Sango?
For sure, one of the reasons that we chose audio – and the Middle East as our primary market – is that people in this region face a lot of restrictions in their personal life due to religious beliefs and other cultural sensitivities. There is huge demand for entertainment and social media, but due to such restrictions, there is conflict between the two.
We believe the audio format can solve this conflict. In the Middle East, a lot of female users want to use social media, but they don't feel comfortable showing their faces. Through audio, they feel more comfortable and they're not challenging their beliefs. Equally, we don’t want the platform to become too political – it’s more about people having fun and feeling happy.
How have you integrated Muslim belief systems or celebrations into the app?
There are a lot of elements in this vein. One section is called Tribes – it's a fun section that gives users a storyline and a mission – but it has been created based on the Qur'an. In some of our audio chat rooms, there are themes or conversations that focus on Muslim beliefs; people read the Qur’an and interpret it together. In this way, Sango becomes an extension of their real life. In the Middle East, there is a tradition of getting together to have in-depth discussions. So, we’ve created similar scenarios online so they can recreate such social occasions, regardless of the distance and the pandemic.
Sango experienced huge growth during the pandemic. How will it remain relevant as people go back to physical socialising?
We believe that Sango will continue to be highly relevant because, even though our users are getting back into real life, they have developed new [online] habits that have lasted for almost two years. We'll also continue to develop our product to make it more culturally adept. We have plans for members of our team to move to the Middle East to provide more localised operations. While we already have local teams there, we need to do more work on branding, marketing and working with local communities.