Josh poised to capitalise on digital advertising growth: Sunil Mohapatra

Josh provides unique & personalized experience to users, says the Chief Revenue Officer of VerSe Innovation while sharing more on the platform’s growth and expansion of local language Internet market

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Mar 21, 2022 8:43 AM  | 7 min read
Sunil Mohapatra

VerSe Innovation, the company that owns and operates news aggregator app Dailyhunt and short video platform Josh, is all set to make the most of the myriad opportunities in digital advertising. In a chat with exchange4media, Sunil Kumar Mohapatra, Chief Revenue Officer, VerSe Innovation, spoke about growth in the local language internet market and the company's key focus areas in FY23.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What are the key triggers for the growth of local language internet usage in the country?

Indian internet users who use the internet only in English are saturated at between 180-190 million users. Internet users in India dominantly prefer to interact in their local languages, which is the primary language of communication - whether offline or online. This user base is a massive 450 million users already (more than twice that of the English user base) and is growing significantly at 30-40% per annum. The Indian internet user base will cross a billion by 2025, and more than 80% of that will be local language users.

The triggers for this massive surge in local language internet users are – the rise of the smartphone, data at really affordable prices and the strong desire to consume information, conduct transactions and tell authentic personal stories in the language of choice. Every user has the potential to be a creator and that pushes the short-form video format in Indian languages to be the biggest enabler in the growth story, which is Indians are consuming and creating content in their own languages.

What kind of revenue opportunity does VerSe Innovation foresee in the local language content space?

Let’s talk about the exciting range of opportunities that local language internet opens up for successful platforms like ours. Across the world, the dominant share of media spends is earned by platforms that aggregate and engage with users at scale. Moreover, platforms that do this successfully communicate with users in a medium that is preferred by them - that is their local language. Even in the traditional Indian media, a dominant share of ad revenue is with local language platforms.

This year, we will watch history being made in the Indian advertising ecosystem. Digital ad expenditure was approximately 41% of the total advertising spend in the country last year. According to the latest industry reports, digital ad expenditure will overtake TV spends in the country by this year and establish itself as the largest advertising medium in the country. Approximately, 30% of these spends are going to be on online video. Short-form video and Josh are poised to capitalise on these trends.

World over, exciting new revenue possibilities are opening up on various fronts like influencer and content led advertising, creator-led NFT and commerce. Platforms like Josh that have a massive scale of creators, users and a rich feature-set is set to capture a dominant share of advertiser and user monetization.

How big is the advertiser base on Dailyhunt and Josh, and how are you expanding it further?

We are right in the midst of a boom in local Indian language content on the internet, and short-form videos, and advertisers across verticals, national and regional, are working with us to drive meaningful outcomes for their businesses.

While the digital advertising pie is growing rapidly, a large chunk of the advertising goes to walled gardens like Google and Meta. Then you have OTT platforms, big media companies, e-commerce platforms who walk away with the remaining chunk of the digital ad revenue. In such a scenario, how challenging is it for independent platforms like Dailyhunt and Josh to get their fair share of revenues?

Online video is 30% of digital ad spends in the country. Short-form video, influencer marketing and digital ads are all part of the pie where Dailyhunt and Josh play in. In-house world class AI/ ML, great relationships with our partners across the advertising community, growth of Indian language content and boom in online video create an ecosystem where the VerSe family of apps are poised to partner with brands to achieve their business goals. Consumers have a variety of ways to consume content on the internet, and news/entertainment and short-form video enable great branding features that make advertising and brand-building very native to the app and to the user experience.

That is a very enviable position to be in. Furthermore, we have solutions that are customized for each brand. This is at the heart of creating successful campaigns with advertisers who repeatedly work with us through the year on multiple campaigns. First-time advertisers are realizing the value that we offer and prefer working with us on their first media exposure, eventually returning to us for their next set of campaigns. Being made in India, for a billion Indians, our platforms are a unique voice in a very dynamic and fast-growing digital space.

What kind of user growth have VerSe Innovation's Dailyhunt and Josh platforms witnessed in the last two years?

With over 350 million MAU in over 15 languages, Dailyhunt is at the heart of Indian language content and how users consume news, entertainment and latest happenings in their local neighbourhood. Josh, in less than one and a half years of existence already has an MAU of 139 million with 50% of its users coming to the platform on a daily basis. It is available in 12 app languages. It is how young Indians are consuming but also creating content in the digital space.

As India’s leading local language content platform, what is Dailyhunt's revenue monetisation strategy?

Dailyhunt offers brands the opportunity to engage with Bharat, that is, the India that doesn’t reside in only in cities and doesn’t speak English. We currently run ads on our platform and are hence giving brands access to our 350-million plus user base that uses the internet to consume content in the preferred local languages.

Dailyhunt has been widening its offering over the years. What are the expansion plans for the platform in FY23?

We’re going deeper into languages, investing a lot more into products, going very deep into hyperlocal content, and beefing up our AI/ML to cater to growing Indian language users who are our core focus area.

Josh has created a large base for itself in the short video space. What is Josh's revenue model to monetise its reach?

With local language content as our niche, the revenue and monetization opportunities are plentiful. Our nation-wide creator community covers a wide variety of niches, enabling us to reach millions across the country. For advertisers, short-form videos and influencer marketing offer exciting opportunities to reach their consumers in an authentic way. We’ve seen an uptake from FMCG, retail, beauty, telcos and OEMs. As we grow and introduce new features on the app, we expect more categories to be included in our ambit.

How is Josh leveraging local language content and short-format video to enable brand engagement with their consumers?
Josh provides a unique and personalized experience to each one of its users. With 12 app languages, covering genres like entertainment, dance, comedy, fitness, lifestyle, beauty and going deep into high-interest areas like devotion is at the heart of how we’re expanding our content and creator network. For us, each user is both a user and a content creator. We’ve invested in technology that personalizes the feed for each user and front-end features, which enable creativity, giving power to every user.

A similar set of possibilities is available to brands to create content, customize the feature set and provide engagement opportunities for users. Brands are loving the creative freedom, from customizing the music, script to selecting the right influencers to engage with users at scale. This communication is not only one-way but also opens up user participation and promotes virality through the creative expressions of Josh’s millions of users. Brands are creating communities, building a share of voice, encouraging expression, virality and creating a loyal advocate of their stories and products.

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