'Mobile has come of age as a medium that can deliver on all needs of the Indian marketer'

Vasuta Agarwal, SVP and Managing Director, Asia Pacific at InMobi, talks about the key trends in the mobile-tech industry & more

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Sep 29, 2021 8:27 AM  | 10 min read
Vasuta Agarwal

India has emerged as a mobile-first consumer economy thanks to the massive digitisation underway in the country driven in part due to COVID-19 pandemic. The massive growth in app downloads and average time spent on mobile has given a huge fillip to mobile advertising. Bengaluru-based ad-tech firm InMobi is riding the growth in mobile advertising not just in India but in other parts of the world including countries like Japan, South Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia, and New Zealand. exchange4media caught up with Vasuta Agarwal, SVP and Managing Director, Asia Pacific at InMobi, to talk about the key trends in the mobile-tech industry.




What progress has InMobi made in the last 18 months?

Since the pandemic, the advertising industry has witnessed a surge in digital adoption, making it the second largest channel by ad spends. And mobile accounts for 60% of this digital ad spend in the country. Be it branding or performance, mobile has come of age as a medium that can deliver on all the needs of the Indian marketer. In this endeavour, InMobi’s programmatic platforms are helping leading brands attain mobile marketing maturity using real-time insights, personalized creative, and automated media buying.

To ensure that leading brands and our partners can maximize impact from the InMobi programmatic platforms, we have introduced several key platform and partner-led initiatives keeping an eye on the growing demands and trends in the ecosystem – be it advertisers or publishers. For instance, we have announced the availability of blended in-game advertising to help brands across the globe drive unintrusive native ads within mobile games and launched our UnifID solution to streamline and simplify identity resolution for publishers. We have also joined the HUMAN Collective, which includes a direct integration with HUMAN’s MediaGuard solution, enforcing both companies’ commitment to building a transparent and fraud-free in-app advertising ecosystem with real-time visibility and active protection against malicious bot activity. And with the increasing focus on digital, we announced the availability of InMobi Pulse’s Brand Lift Solution on The Trade Desk platform. This partnership will help brands deterministically quantify the incremental brand effect of their campaigns across digital media — mobile web, desktop, and in-app.


How are advertisers leveraging ad-tech solutions launched by InMobi?

InMobi’s end-to-end programmatic platforms help brands deliver on their key tasks either independently or together. For instance, a digital-first brand that intends to drive more transactions on its app would primarily use the InMobi DSP. However, often, we see clients benefiting from the unified leverage of all the platforms. The biggest example of the various platforms coming together is how Godrej Consumer Products utilized the end-to-end InMobi solution to deliver personalized video communications at scale. 


Has the expectation of your clients undergone a change in the last few years, and how?

The overall interest and understanding of mobile programmatic has grown manifold over the last year and a half. Programmatic enhances efficiency, efficacy, and transparency for every marketer – be it branding or performance. And with the availability of real-time intelligence and measurability across the board on mobile, brands are investing more in transparent and efficient media buying and to enhance impact from their first-party data.


InMobi is a global tech company with a presence in multiple markets. What are your expansion plans?

InMobi is present across all major markets in Asia Pacific including Japan, South Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, Australia, and New Zealand. We have enhanced our presence via in-market leadership and teams, strengthened our offerings through strategic regional partnerships such as with WPP in India, Gojek in Southeast Asia and The Trade Desk across APAC, and contributed to shaping the future of the ecosystem by collaborating with industry bodies such as Interactive Advertising Bureau and Asia Video Industry Association. Undoubtedly, programmatic is expected to be the preferred method of media buying across Asia Pacific over the next couple of years and we will continue to double down on our efforts to enable brands with the best-in-class offerings.


What opportunity do you see in India's mobile-first market, and what are your key focus areas in the market?

The tremendous digitalization that India experienced in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it a leading mobile-first consumer economy, according to InMobi's Annual Mobile Marketing Handbook 2021 report. India has had a four-times greater YoY growth rate in app downloads than the global average (7% YoY) in 2020. Mobile and the app economy is not just owning consumer’s share of screen time with 4.5 hours daily but is also the primary screen for learning, exploring, and buying online or offline.

According to a marketers’ survey in the same report, 69% of marketers intended to spend more money on online channels post pandemic, with 87% respondents expected to increase their spends on in-app advertising. However, most brands are still in the nascent and early stages of their mobile marketing maturity and InMobi is keen to guide brands and marketers along this journey.


How big is the programmatic advertising market in India, and where do you see it three years down the line?

Programmatic is growing in popularity among marketers in India and will continue to witness steady growth as transparency, efficiency, and efficacy become primal for all digital marketing efforts.


With platforms like Google and Apple taking/announcing strong measures on user privacy, what impact will this have on the digital advertising market in India?

The industry needs an identity infrastructure to deliver meaningful user experiences while respecting privacy preferences of consumers. While Universal IDs (UIDs) recognize users across different platforms and can help advertisers reach, engage, and connect with them, collaborating with multiple UID partners involves multiple integrations. This means separate legal contracts per each identity partner, along with deployment, activation, and post-activation workflows for each one, which would be time-consuming and operationally challenging for any individual publisher.

To address this challenge, InMobi has launched UnifID, which serves as an all-in-one identity solution for in-app publishers, enabling them to select and integrate seamlessly across multiple leading Universal ID partners, such as Liveramp, ID5, and Birtepool. This solution will help publishers make their audiences accessible to advertisers on any exchange or network while scaling revenues. This one-stop solution means publishers can integrate with multiple identity providers, with minimal legal, integration, and operational work involved. Furthermore, UnifID is an open platform solution that publishers can use to work in conjunction with other external ad tech partners. Advertisers benefit from this integration as they can gain access to a diverse and premium publisher universe, made possible with the flick of a switch. At its heart, UnifID honours privacy regulations across platforms and geographies, allowing advertisers to reach addressable users who have opted in.


What are the emerging trends in the Indian mobile marketing industry, and what will drive future growth for the sector?

To identify the trends in the mobile marketing industry, one needs to be cognizant of key consumer shifts such as:

  1. The app economy has become all pervasive with categories such as groceries, daily essentials, personal care needs etc. all becoming available with a tap on the doorstep. The three biggest gainers in 2020 have been 1. Hyperlocal commerce, 2. Entertainment and 3. Payments. Even your neighborhood cobbler accepts payments via an app today. 
  2. Mobile is the key to learn, explore and buy for most consumers – according to an InMobi survey conducted in Aug 2021, 2 in 3 consumers discover, research, and buy using their mobiles. While India added millions of first-time online shoppers this year, their primary device was the mobile. 
  3. Shifting media consumptions: Entertainment has a new face with OTT, short-form videos, and casual gaming. The time spent on entertainment apps in India grew by 22%, digital subscription of OTT players grew by 47%, and revenues grew by 26% in the last year.

 As a result, we will see that programmatic, video, consumer intelligence, and search on mobile will continue to feature as the biggest trends and gainers in the industry.


The user dependence on the internet for daily needs is growing, do you think search advertising will become even more crucial for brands and marketers going forward due to this trend?

It is most definitely going to see a positive growth trend! Since the outbreak of the pandemic, individuals have spent more time on their smartphones, driving brands to invest in search advertising. As per a report by InMobi, search advertising has grown steadily as a digital medium in India, accounting for about 25% of digital media spending. While some brands leverage this medium to achieve their performance goals, others are leveraging it to create a smarter customer journey and reach the right audience with the right message.


2021 is a sports heavy year, and a lot of chatter on the internet is also around sporting events. What opportunity does this present to brands?

Yes. The connected consumer’s sports research, engagement, consumption, and sharing is all happening on apps as they watch live matches, engage in ball-by-ball updates and commentary, and search and discover the latest content across various apps. This presents brands with a unique opportunity to marry mobile-first consumer intelligence with creative innovation and target audiences intelligently.

Since no other sport captures the attention of readers better than Cricket, I can share an example from IPL 2021. In the first half of this year’s IPL, to reinforce the core brand communication #CLEARHAI and to serve as a chilled-out escapade for its audience, the brand partnered with us to conceptualize and launch the Sprite Cricket Premier League (CPL) - a highly engaging virtual cricket tournament that allowed users to choose and play for a city of their choice.

The brand helped young India hit “Refresh” via the CPL on Glance, the leading lockscreen platform. Smartphone users discovered the game during the natural course of engaging with content on Glance. As the game loaded, a 15-second glimpse of the latest Sprite campaign video delivered the message and captured any intent generated by taking them to the Coke2Home page to purchase the product or leading e-commerce platforms to instantly complete the transaction.

While this is just one example, there are several such brands that are leverage the potential of mobile to its fullest around the sports season.


The gaming segment has emerged as the big winner due to the pandemic. Will gaming sustain its growth, and how can brands leverage gaming as a media vehicle to reach a captive audience?

Gaming will continue to sustain its growth. And therefore, there are 4 key elements to Doing Advertising Right on Mobile Gaming.

  1. Brands new to advertising on gaming need to leverage programmatic to Identify the category of games and genres that their core target audience is most likely to engage with. For instance, an FMCG brand intending to target women can include casual, board, and puzzle games as the best fit in their media planning.  
  2. Gaming is an extremely evolved and advanced arena when it comes to ad experiences. However, brands must be cognizant of the ad formats (vertical/ horizontal/static/ dynamic) and orientation of the game to deliver the most seamless experience and prevent user friction.
  3. Brands must leverage rewarded videos – a placement where players watch the ad in its entirety in exchange for game currency or progress rewards, to maximize exposure and thus drive better CTRs and conversion rates. This type of ad is entirely opt-in and typically generates far higher viewability/ engagement and downstream metrics for brands.
  4. Blended in-game advertising is the latest innovation in the field of gaming advertising and it naturally places ads in the game’s existing environment. For instance, Vodafone branding and advertisements appeared on in-game digital billboards in Trackmania, a mobile racing game, in a way that mimicked real-life advertising on physical racetracks for realism. When combined with programmatic technology, advertisers can further personalise ads to the player without breaking immersion, thereby creating the ideal combination of more effective, less disruptive ads.

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Mark Zuckerberg announces new WhatsApp app for Windows

The app will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 3:25 PM   |   1 min read


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new WhatsApp app for Windows, which will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people - all from your desktop.

Making the announceemnt on Facebook, he wrote, “Launching a new WhatsApp desktop app for Windows. Now you can make E2E encrypted video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people.”

“The new Windows desktop app loads faster and is built with an interface familiar to WhatsApp and Windows users. You can host group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people. We’ll continue to increase these limits over time so you can always stay connected with friends, family and work colleagues.

Since introducing new multi-device capabilities, we’ve listened to feedback and made improvements including faster device linking and better syncing across devices, as well as new features such as link previews and stickers.

As we continue to increase the number of devices which support WhatsApp, we’ve just introduced a new WhatsApp beta experience for Android tablets. We’re also launching a new, faster app for Mac desktops that is currently in the early stages of beta,” he wrote further.

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MarTech can brilliantly answer the ROI question: Hareesh Tibrewala

The Joint CEO of Mirum India spoke to e4m Editor Naziya Alvi Rahman on a host of questions with respect to the India MarTech Report 2023 that will be unveiled at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit today

By Naziya Alvi Rahman | Mar 23, 2023 2:41 PM   |   1 min read


Hareesh Tibrewala spoke to e4m on a host of issues related to MarTech while delving deep into the India MarTech Report. He started by addressing the roadblocks in the implementation of MarTech in the country.

He also explained the point about MarTech explorers in terms of the sectors, which is invested in this marketing technique.

Tibrewala further spoke about how martech was critical in the role of a marketer and how it could be extremely significant for calculating ROI.

The conversation also veered toward the importance of MarTech in the cookie-less world and the advent of Web3.

Watch the entire conversation here.

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Google opens up access to Bard

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 1:07 PM   |   1 min read


Google has said that it is opening up access to Bard, the ChatGPT competitor, as per media reports.

The tech major will be expanding the access to Bard in more countries and languages.

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts.

Google unveiled Bard in February. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the soft launch of the AI to "trusted testers". 

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MarTech no longer only about marketing, it needs to drive sales: Mirum India report

The survey for the report shows 88% of respondents expect to increase spending on MarTech over the next 3 years

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 12:43 PM   |   2 min read


Mirum India, a Wunderman Thompson company, has put together a report on the emerging MarTech landscape in India.

The report captures how MarTech solutions are being utilized by brands to effectively communicate their brand messages to the right set of audiences at the right time.

The report highlights that while the global spend on MarTech solutions is around 25% of the total marketing budget, in India, majority organizations spend less than 15%, indicating significant potential for growth. With MarTech spending set to increase across company sizes and sectors, 88% of respondents expect to increase their MarTech spending over the next three years. The report also emphasizes the need for brands and organizations to work with growth partners as preferred by MarTech HEROES, focusing on ROI, and delivering value to the brands.

The report will be unveiled on March 24, 2023, at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit in Mumbai. The summit will see India's most reputed brands and top management coming under one roof to interact and share insights on their game-changing success stories.

Speaking on the report, Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO – Mirum India, said, "The estimated size of the MarTech industry in India is expected to be between $35bn and $50bn by 2026, presenting a sizeable opportunity for businesses. Our latest report highlights how brands are using MarTech solutions to effectively deliver the right brand message to the right customer at the right time, creating fabulous customer experiences and increasing brand loyalty. It is interesting to note that marketers globally spend 25% of their budgets on MarTech solutions, and our report shows the emergence of MarTech EXPLORERS, who are keen to leverage the power of MarTech. This presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to grow and thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape."

CVL Srinivas, Country Manager – WPP India said, "To succeed in the rapidly evolving tech and data driven world, organizations need good marketing automation tools and diverse skill sets. The report highlights the need for growth partners, preferred by MarTech HEROES, to ensure strong ROI for clients. It brings clarity to the ecosystem and presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to create fantastic customer experiences and increase brand loyalty. At WPP, we've invested heavily in building our tech and data practices, creating a comprehensive ecosystem where value is delivered at every touchpoint."

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Why contextual advertising is making a comeback

As part of e4m TechTalk, Dimpy Yadav, General Manager - Xaxis India, writes contextual advertising is re-emerging for delivering relevant & targeted messages to India’s audiences

By Dimpy Yadav | Mar 23, 2023 9:18 AM   |   4 min read


For years, contextual advertising has taken a back seat in favour of hyper-personalised behavioural targeting. But with tightening regulations and deepening concerns around data privacy, contextual advertising is reasserting its place within India’s marketing ecosystem. And it’s about time too.

Contextual advertisement placement is a proven marketing strategy that dates back to the very origins of the modern industry. In today’s digitised world, this tactic involves showing ads that are directly relevant to the content that a user is viewing or even to the user themselves. They can align contextually with anything from a web page to a geographic location or even the weather.

So why is contextual advertising making a comeback in India in 2023? And how can the nation’s marketers and agencies rise to this new digital challenge?

The right context

It’s been seven years since the Indian government launched its digital India campaign and the nation’s digital economy has grown at a phenomenal rate – 2.4 times faster than the overall economy between 2014 and 2019.

Meanwhile, smartphones have become more affordable, internet infrastructure has expanded, and data has become significantly cheaper. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the adoption of digital interactions has accelerated even further, with food deliveries, telemedicine, and online gaming surging in first-time usage.

For marketers, digital and mobile media have become more accessible and cost-effective mediums. This year, advertising spending on mobile is expected to comprise 78 per cent of India’s total digital media expenditure. According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending in India grew YoY by 35.9 per cent in 2021 and is forecasted to grow by 28.4 per cent in 2022

India’s digital explosion comes amid a tectonic shift away from the third-party data collection that marketers have relied on for years. Consumers have become more cautious about the data they share online while global regulations around data collection like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have constrained brands’ unfettered access to personal data. In this climate, contextual advertising, which leverages the content of the environment instead of the personal data of its visitors, serves as a privacy-friendly alternative.

A loyal audience

One of the key criticisms of social media over recent years is the potential to miss or misuse key contextual information. Although social media gives brands access to massive audiences, campaigns can easily fall flat if they aren’t executed in just the right context. Even the best creative cannot drive engagement when it appears in an irrelevant or inappropriate environment.

But that dependence on its environment is also one of contextual advertising’s greatest strengths. When utilized in partnership with established publications, it capitalizes on the built-in trust and loyalty that those outlets already enjoy with their audiences. When a receptive audience is combined with the modern capabilities of global scale, digital precision, and algorithmic efficiency, the results can be powerful.

Trust in context

Improvements in targeting capabilities and data analysis have also made it possible for advertisers to target audiences through keywords and topics as well as demographics and interests. Marketers can meanwhile be selective about the types of content they want their ads to run alongside, reserving their investments for audiences that are more likely to take an interest in their products and, therefore, more likely to engage with them. For these reasons, they can feel confident that their content will be well received and their investments will be profitable.

Still, marketing based on context may be a difficult transition for industry leaders who are more familiar and comfortable with behavioural targeting. But it’s hard to argue that the shift towards a contextual mindset will be anything short of necessary and more than likely fruitful. Recent research by Integral Ad Science (IAS) revealed that Indian consumers are more likely to positively receive and remember contextually relevant ads.

Last but not least, contextual advertising will aid marketers in the desired outcome from their campaign. According to a study conducted by IAS and personal computer manufacturer HP, purchase intent was 14 per cent higher among consumers who viewed the in-context ad. In addition, consumers reported a 5 per cent increase in positivity toward the HP brand after seeing an in-context ad

As third-party personal data is becoming less accessible, contextual advertising is growing more sophisticated, giving marketers the power to meet receptive audiences with relevant content. That’s a fundamentally sound path to success that benefits both brands and consumers alike.

Most significantly of all, it has the potential to transform digital media investments into real-world business outcomes. Although the value of premium publishing has always existed, marketers are now able to prove its success with clarity and maximum return on expenditure.

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Brands can be the real winners as gaming firms hit the jackpot with innovative games

Indian gaming firms received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years. This opens up huge opportunities for advertisers

By Kanchan Srivastava | Mar 23, 2023 8:55 AM   |   4 min read


The Indian gaming ecosystem, which boasts of more than 1,100 startups and a 40 crore-strong gaming communities, is thriving like never before.  With their unique offerings such as NFT-based games, fantasy sports, real-money games and cash prizes, home-grown firms have gained popularity across the globe. Over 86 Indian firms have received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years, including two unicorns and seven soonicorns, according to a latest report of the research firm Tracxn. 

Globally, gaming firms received $20.4B funds over the past five years. Of this, India’s share is roughly 6.8%. The United States (42.2%) Chinese (18.3%) firms got the lion’s share. 

Fantasy sports platform MPL ($150 million), which is a unicorn, is among top 10 funded companies globally over the last 2 years. Games24x7, another Unicorn from India, also received $75 million. 

Soonicorns like Zupee ($72 M), WinZO ($65 M), Hike (NFT gaming, $261 M), JetSynthesys, Octro, EloElo and Games2win also bagged the jackpot. Even four early stage startups-Bombay Play, One World Nation, Studio Sirah, Awon Gamez-have also managed to win their first rounds of funding over the last year. 

Even as the cryptocurrency sector across the world tanked, Venture capitalists have shown keen interests in Indian Web3 gaming startups that offer play-to-earn (P2E) entertainment and use crypto coins and NFTs for transactions. Companies with blockchain-based offerings pocketed $620 mn in 2022. Gurugram-based Rario, Bengaluru-based Lysto.io and Delhi-based Hike are among them, Tracxn data says. Hike pivoted from instant messaging to social, gaming, and crypto in 2021 only. 

“Indian gaming companies have been building local products with capabilities to cater to mobile-gaming markets across the world. Gaming as a category has shown itself to be driven by a highly monetizable audience base: one that tends to spend a lot of time on content and online engagement, is likely to be a trend-setter, has the propensity to spend and is often the chief purchase influencer in his/her family and friend circle,” opines Piyush Kumar, Founder & CEO, Rooter - Gaming and Esports Content platform. 

He further noted, “Indian gaming startups have been quick to encash this opportunity. Gaming content platforms like ours are building scalable, tech-driven, revenue-generating models that have garnered interest from marquee global investors.”

According to Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus,

“Since gaming is an industry that is completely digitally led, there is an almost infinite reserve of digital content that can be converted into NFTs. Also, the gaming audience is more tech-driven and understands the concept of NFT quite easily. These two factors give the NFT-based gaming industry a big advantage.”

Karan Taurani, senior VP of Elara Capital, echoes the sentiments.  “Indian gaming companies have quickly realized the shift of casual gamers towards real-money games. Web3 gaming is a far more sustainable ecosystem for both players and gaming companies and hence there are huge growth opportunities. Investors know this fact.”

Big opportunity for brands 

Such overwhelming investment in the Indian gaming startups opens up a huge opportunity for advertisers. Most of the gamers are young and have a significant purchasing power. 

The Indian online gaming industry is estimated to grow to more than Rs 15,000 crore in 2023, representing a CAGR of nearly 22%,  as per the latest 'India Online Gaming Report' of GroupM. 

“Most of the potential of this platform is still unutilised”, an advertising executive said. He added, “Gaming platforms offer tremendous scope such as in-app advertising, brand integration, rewards and advergaming. Brands can also reach their target audience through communities, e-sport tournaments, team associations, NFTs and influencers.”

The in-game advertising market globally is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7% to reach about US$220 billion by 2027, almost two-fold compared to 2020, according to a report of Research and Markets.


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How Nikhil Gandhi led strategic growth for MX Player

Gandhi, who has stepped down as COO, had three focus areas to drive the platform’s evolution when he took over the role two years back

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 8:24 AM   |   2 min read


Nikhil Gandhi, who stepped down as the Chief Operating Officer of MX Player on Wednesday, has the credit of leading the OTT platform for two years with a specialised business strategy.

Gandhi made a mark with his team leadership, brand management, and strategies for generating revenue through digital content.

When Gandhi joined MX Player from TikTok, he was clear on three key areas for growth. The first was to grow users in India and internationally and expand MX Player’s markets by increasing the watch time on the app. Secondly, he spoke of deploying data in creating strategies for content and the third area was to identify new business areas. Gandhi had spoken about these key focus points in an interview with e4m in May 2022.

With Gandhi at the helm, MX Player emerged as the fastest-growing OTT platform in India. As per Data.ai’s “State of Mobile Report”, released in January this year, MX Player was India’s most-downloaded OTT app and the third most-downloaded worldwide in 2022.

Industry observers shared that Gandhi had bigger plans. “He has been striving to take the AVOD model to the next level and crack the Bharat market, which largely relies on cost-free entertainment options,” an industry expert said.

He was also instrumental in acquiring the Lionsgate library for international content, industry sources said.

MX Player has over 650 advertisers on its platform, Gandhi had said last December, explaining how his “team goes into smaller markets and gets new advertisers”.

Under his leadership, the platform was able to launch several new initiatives in the last one and a half years. Among them was MX Advantage, the self-serve ad platform targeted at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It allows new advertisers to log in and place ads on the platform. MX Player also helps brands design their ads.

Another feature, launched in October 2022, was MX Live. It helped creators monetise content. MX Live works on a D2C model that allows content creators to interact with fans through live sessions. Users can even buy MX coins and MX tokens.

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