This Contech Expert is Building a Social Community Platform Tailored for Women

By: WE Staff

Aparna Acharekar is a senior Contech professional with over two decades of experience in building Content Creation & Monetization Strategies for digital products. She is the co-founder of coto, a social community platform for women. She leads the community-building vertical for coto evangelizing the concept of Communities among women creators, KOLs, and domain experts.

The ever-expanding digital world is a playground of infinite learning opportunities. However, the digital world is also marred by various challenges such as lack of strict regulations and anonymity which can lead to digital users being victims of various forms of abuse. From imbibing misinformation to getting trolled and facing cyber crimes, users are exposed to a lot. This grows manifolds for female digital users. Women often face harsh challenges while navigating the digital world.

The Internet was created as a free-for-all playground, however, there is a growing need for platforms that cater to women’s specific requirements and take into account the roadblocks that they encounter owing to their gender.

Seasoned Comtech professional Aparna Acharekar believes that creating a safe and reliable digital media platform for women requires a comprehensive approach that addresses various aspects, including safety, non-judgmental, and secure community engagement.

By putting these principles into action, Aparna has co-founded coto, a social community platform for women. The platform aims to build a free and empowered space for women through conversations and is built on the principles of consensus and participative ownership. She leads the community-building vertical for coto evangelizing the concept of Communities among women creators, KOLs, and domain experts.

In a conversation with Women Entrepreneurs Review, Aparna talks about the idea behind coto and how the platform empowers women. She also sheds light on the importance of building communities for women. Read on as Aparna sheds light on the importance of women’s empowerment and the plans for coto.

Given your background with renowned organizations such as Zee5, TOI, etc., what led you to focus on addressing the unmet needs of women?

I started my career in journalism and later transitioned to building a digital platform that empowers women to express themselves freely. Being in the content technology space for so long, I have realized women are often subjected to trolling and judgments online.  coto was our solution to address this major gap by building a decentralized platform that gives women a safe space online to express themselves without judgment.    Our goal at coto is to build an all-inclusive community where women feel safe to discuss their concerns, access valuable information, and gain financial independence.

What was the idea behind establishing coto? How do you intend to impact women’s lives through the platform?

The inspiration behind coto stemmed from a personal encounter in Tarun's family, which led us to establish a secure digital environment specifically tailored for women. This vision expanded to challenge the monopolistic data control by tech giants, opting for a decentralized framework that can empower women content creators with ownership and control, bolstered by groundbreaking AI features for gender verification and engaging content delivery. Concerns over data privacy and the disproportionate ownership of user data by large corporations drove us to explore the possibilities of building the platform on decentralized principles.

How can live consultations aid women's growth and empowerment in various aspects of their lives?

coto provides a platform that offers women-led live consultation commerce. The live consultation feature allows women experts to offer their expertise directly to other women users seeking guidance through live sessions on topics like mental health, astrology, food & nutrition, menstrual health, and sexual health. It will enable seamless service consultancy providing a more personalized and efficient way of accessing professional services by the experts. With this new offering, coto aims to help women experts set up their online business and reach lakhs of customers by hosting live sessions, as well as offering one-on-one sessions on the app. Moreover, experts can set their pricing, and enjoy a flexible, profitable venture that aligns with their personal and professional goals.

On the other hand, women looking to avail of these services get 24/7 access to advice around diverse taboo topics and discuss their problems on a personal level with an expert. New users can access complimentary initial sessions to experience the value of expert advice, encouraging more women to seek assistance and fostering a supportive community. coto’s unique 'Pay Only When Happy' policy ensures users only pay for consultations if they are satisfied with the service. This policy further builds trust and confidence among users, encouraging them to seek help without financial risk. It also includes a constant feedback loop to maintain and improve service quality.

By bringing live paid consultation services, coto is integrating live commerce to boost the economic empowerment of women and make them a crucial part of the digital transformation.  As a platform, we are forging a safe and secure digital ecosystem where the power of community building transforms the professional journey of women. Our goal is to empower women to become entrepreneurs by providing their live consultation services to others and gain financial independence.

Over the past few years, digital media has emerged as a catalyst for change. What are the prerequisites for creating an effective, safe, and reliable digital media platform for women?

Creating a safe and reliable digital media platform for women requires a comprehensive approach that addresses various aspects, including safety, non-judgmental, and secure community engagement. User privacy and security for us are non-negotiable for any digital media platform. Hence it is crucial to have a clear outline of how user data is collected, used, and protected. At coto, we have always been strong advocates of digital technology, recognizing it as a significant benefit when applied effectively. We have implemented multiple measures to offer women experts a safe environment to build their businesses and grow. We provide our users with the option to stay anonymous and have a verification process to avoid any fake profiles on the platform.  The platform utilizes AI-powered facial recognition technology to identify users and their gender. This enhances the user experience, promoting a safe and secure platform for women users. Beyond this, we leverage AI for real-time sentiment analysis, search enhancements, automated scheduling, real-time moderation, and predictive analysis, among other applications.

In what ways can investing in women and empowering them to accelerate progress and drive long-term economic growth in India?

As economic opportunities have expanded, women have shattered barriers, challenged stereotypes, and propelled advancements toward a fairer and more equitable society. Their impact extends across various industries, reshaping the business landscape and yielding impressive outcomes in various sectors.

Some of the ways through which empowering women can accelerate progress and drive long-term economic growth in India are:

● Education and Skills Training: Ensure women can access high-quality education and training programs that equip them with the skills needed for lucrative employment and entrepreneurial ventures.

● Financial Inclusion: Promote financial inclusivity by facilitating women's digital entrepreneurship opportunities, and access to banking services, loans, and insurance, empowering them to invest, save, and establish their enterprises.

● Equal Pay and Opportunities: Promote equal pay for equal work and implement policies that foster gender parity in recruitment, advancement, and leadership roles.

● Legal and Policy Reforms: Advocate for legal and policy reforms aimed at safeguarding women's rights, including legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination and harassment.

● Promotion of Women’s Leadership: Promote women's leadership by encouraging their representation in decision-making positions across various sectors and industries.

What is your vision for coto going forward? Tell us about the impact the platform has created so far.

 coto boasts over 7000 communities led by women experts in diverse fields, facilitating over 1 million conversations across various genres. Our growth, both in India and the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, has been entirely organic. We're now gearing up to enter the Saudi Arabian market, with plans to expand further into Indonesia. As we initiate monetization efforts, our focus remains on long-term customer acquisition while maintaining our commitment to organic growth.

 Our facial recognition technology, powered by AI, achieves a remarkable 98% accuracy in gender verification, thereby establishing a highly secure environment for women. Additionally, we harness the power of generative AI to create content tailored to the questions women seek answers to. Additionally, AI also plays a pivotal role in various aspects of our platform, including real-time content classification, sentiment analysis, search optimization, automated scheduling, live moderation, and predictive analytics, among other functionalities.