Not just content creators anymore: How India’s influencers are expanding their horizons

Influencers are venturing into films, launching their own fashion brands and conducting shows & workshops. The creator economy set to grow despite looming recession, experts say

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Dec 2, 2022 8:37 AM  | 6 min read
content creators

Over the last few years, the creator economy in India has grown exponentially, attracting millions of independent creators joining various social media platforms and starting businesses. As the creator economy has grown to the size of $75-150 million in India and $1.75 billion globally, as per AdLift, marketers are investing more of their social media budgets on content creator partnerships with leading creators or influencers. 

Some of the creators are so popular and talented that they have started bagging bigger platforms to showcase their talent. Prajakta Koli, for instance, who is known for her YouTube and Insta channel MostlySan with millions of followers, made her Bollywood debut with Karan Johar’s ‘Jug Jug Jeeyo’. Koli gained prominence by focussing on observational comedy related to daily life situations. Creator Viraj Ghelani has also joined the tribe and shared the trailer of his debut film ‘Govinda Mera Naam’. He will be seen alongside Bollywood’s favorites Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar, and Kiara Advani. YouTuber Beyounick will also debut with the film ‘The Virgin Tree’.

“One of the most prominent trends in the creator economy currently is the movie projects that the creators have been bagging under big production houses. While the creators get a bigger platform to showcase their talent, producers can take advantage of their huge fandom. It’s a win-win situation,” says Divyansh Gala, Group Head - Outreach, SoCheers. 

The demand for influencer-led merchandise is also on the rise and creators are increasingly leveraging their loyal customer base to build personal labels and brands. 

Bhuvan Bam, who runs a popular comic Youtube channel ‘BB Ki Vines’ with 28 million followers, started his label named Youthiapa with friend Arvin Bhandari way back in 2017. It was India’s first platform to have store access on a YouTube channel where subscribers can shop for their favorite merchandise right below videos. 

Influencer Vishnu Kaushal has also come up with his merchandise brand ‘Peach by Vishnu’ in 2021 and has released four collections since, all of which got sold out within days. Koli, also launched her merchandise line in 2021. It comprises T-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts and mugs among other things.

Many creators such as Ankur Warikoo, after creating a huge follower base, have started taking workshops on topics of their expertise. Similarly, we have seen a lot of educational creators taking up online effective sessions, and students seem to appreciate it. There’s a strong potential that they can start a paid subscription model for this in the near future, according to Gala. 

With influencers having such a strong resonance with their audience-base, some brands have them onboard as their official content creators, not just on a case-by-case basis, marketing experts say. 

Esports content platform Rooter for instance has recently signed a long-term deal with leading streamer Lokesh Raj Singh, popularly known as Lokesh Gamer. 

Dipesh Agarwal, Co-founder and COO, Rooter, says, “The market for live game streaming and game-based content creation as a medium of entertainment has exploded over the last few years. Bringing top creators like Lokesh on board is another step towards our long-term goal of becoming the de facto live streaming and engagement platform for Indian gamers and gaming enthusiasts.”

Not just video or game creators, podcasters are also emerging as influencers for many brands though the audio influencer segment is niche in India as of now, says Arjun Koladi, Head of Sales, Spotify India.

 

It’ll be interesting to watch such shifts in the brand-influencer relationships in 2023 which are set to get even bigger thanks to all of the attention and investment that the creator economy is drawing in this year. 

Siddhant Mazumdar, Head of Mediabrands Content Studio – India, says, “I think creators will look to diversify and create different types of content and not just stick to what they started with. Being versatile in your approach will be key to developing a strong base across platforms. The possibilities are endless.” 

 

No recession impact 

With a looming global recession, a reduction in advertising spends are expected across the board. This poses a pertinent question-What lies ahead for the creator's economy in the coming months? Experts say there is nothing to worry about.

Mazumdar explains, “With a looming recession, brands will be forced to rationalize their spending in a big way. And in doing so, I expect expensive creative/content productions to face much deeper scrutiny as brand managers will look for smarter and more economical approaches in meeting the same objectives. This is exactly why creators should continue to bloom as their low cost of production can help them become recession proof.”

Amit Chaudhary, Chief Data Officer, Cheil India, echoes the sentiments. “Creator’s economy is built around three pillars – content creators, brands and platforms on which the content goes live. While advertising spends may be cut, brands would still go ahead and engage with content creators that clearly demonstrate good fit –relevance of brand to creators audience,” Chaudhary said. 

However, that doesn’t mean that things will be very simple for them either as with more and more creators popping up every day, competition amongst creators will become even more fierce, Mazumdar warns, adding, “Every creator will have to work extra hard to prove relevance and their ability to deliver on the brand brief. Brands will have no problem pointing out that there is always some cheaper, more flexible way to do the same content piece.”

 

Not all are able to monetise

Grass is not green across the content ecosystem. A large number of creators remain unpaid across the world.  

According to a report by Kaalari Capital, there are around eight crore creators in India, of which only about 1.5 lakh can monetise their services effectively—i.e. less than 0.2 per cent. 

As per the report, creators with 10,000 to 10 lakh followers earn approximately between ₹15,000 to ₹2 lakh per month. A few with more than 10 lakh followers have the potential to earn approximately between ₹2 lakh to ₹52 lakh per month. 

So from the other side of the smartphone screen it may look like everyone can become an influencer and monetise their content, but it’s not easy for everyone to make a livable income off it. Even those who are successful in doing so, claim that constant and steady income is unlikely or rare.

Chaudhary says, “To outshout competitors, brands are constantly on the lookout for new creators. In 2023, young and emerging creators especially with a fast growing audience and a robust brand fit would be able to monetise content quickly and the gap is bound to shrink as brand outreach efforts would improve too.”

This gap will most definitely shrink as more and more creators are entering the content ecosystem and there are clear success codes to follow already, set by the most successful ones. While every creator will not earn a million dollars, most will at least get started with basic monetization with the help of the many platforms and avenues for them to do so, Mazumdar noted. 




 

 

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‘Monetisation of news platforms biggest challenge in digital era’

At e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference, Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Businessworld & exchange4media, spoke to CEOs on monetisation, fake news, consumer attention & much more

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 10:58 AM   |   3 min read

DNPA

At the e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference, a panel discussion with CEOs of top companies was held to discuss digital media and how the new generation of readers is influencing media houses and their ways of connecting with their audiences.

The panel was chaired by Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, Businessworld & exchange4media. On the panel were Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network; Puneet Jain, CEO, Hindustan Times; Hemant Jain, President and Business Head (Digital), Lokmat, and Sanjay Sindhwani, CEO, The Indian Express (digital).

Avinash Pandey spoke about the challenges in the digital era. “The biggest challenge today is reaching out to the consumer. When everybody has become a publisher and a broadcaster, how your authentic news reaches the consumer first, and how you monetize it best is the biggest challenge today in our industry.”

Speaking on the opportunities that the digital world has created for publishers, Puneet Jain said: “I think the biggest opportunity for our publishers’ communities is the tremendous interest and love we see from our users. All of us continue to track millions who are using our platforms to consume news on a daily basis. In fact, what we are seeing is a huge reinforcement towards credible journalism in these interesting times of a social world we are living in.”

Sanjay Sindhwani veered the discussion to the problem of fake news and how publishers and consumers together can fight it. “The opportunity is massive. But I think the cost is also massive. I think today what is happening is if the media business doesn't become viable, then we'll see a lot of fake news floating around. When you're trying to bait clicks, you try to provoke people with things, which may not be real or factual. So, I think that's the cost of it. And I think in a democracy, it's very important that people value good content and good news sources and learn to pay for it.”

Taking the discussion ahead, Hemant Jain spoke about how the short attention span of consumers is the biggest challenge for consumers today. “While monetization continues to be the lowest common denominator and the most common challenge for most news publishers across the world, I think if you keep the consumer at the centre of your entire ecosystem and the business model, there is a huge shift in consumer behaviour with regard to the attention span. So, if you look at human attention today it is the lowest. Now, how do you evolve yourself keeping the shift in consumer behaviour in terms of newer formats of news media content, which ensures that you are able to create the right connect with the consumer and thereby create a great value proposition is something which would which all of us would have to kind of today embrace as one of our bigger challenges.”

He ends his view by talking about first-party data as a big opportunity for media publishers and how they can monetise it. “The big opportunity I see is our investment of time, money and resource in building the first-party data because it's not just about collecting data, but it's about managing customer lifecycle. So, most of us complain about the lesser frequency of visitations in a month, lesser time spent and how do we increase frequency and time spent to increase a better value proposition for advertisers? Now, that's interesting, because we have to start thinking like B2C brands, where we start not only capturing consumer data, but also start serving content which is more relevant more contextual, and in the process, collect enriched data, which can be monetized or leveraged at a higher value or premium when it comes to advertising.”

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Twitter advertisers to know if ads seen by real users or bots

The platform has tied up with Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify to ensure that the ads are seen by potential customers

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 27, 2023 11:26 AM   |   1 min read

Twitter

Twitter has decided to team up with ad verification companies Integral Ad Science and DoubleVerify to enusre that the ads are being seen by real people and not bots, media networks have reported.  

IAS officials were quoted as saying that the move was intended at giving marketers the "confidence to continue to invest in Twitter".

In another move to lure advertisers, Twitter had said end of last year that it would soon bring new controls to allow advertisers to prevent their ads from appearing above or below tweets with certain keywords.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk recently said that Twitter higher-priced subscription models will be completely free of ads.

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Recognition as a separate industry & more: All that creator economy wants from Budget 2023

Well-defined guidelines and relaxations in TDS for micro-influencers are some of the other demands of the industry

By Shantanu David | Jan 27, 2023 8:32 AM   |   5 min read

Aaj Tak becomes world's first news channel to cross 50 million subs on YouTube

The record-breaking milestone comes just three years after the channel crossed 10 million subscribers on the platform

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 9:50 PM   |   2 min read

aaj tak

Earlier this year, Aaj Tak became the first news channel globally to cross 50 million subscribers. Ms. Kalli Purie, Vice Chairperson, India Today Group, met Mr. Gautam Anand, Managing Director of APAC - YouTube, in Singapore to commemorate the special achievement. 
 
“Thank you so much, YouTube! This is just amazing. The team is already planning its way to 100 million so YouTube had better start designing the next button,” Ms Purie quipped to Mr Anand. “Trust has always been the foundation for audience engagement at AajTak. It’s no different with our YouTube channel, but on a much wider scale with hundreds of videos getting uploaded every day. We place equal emphasis on having new audiences discover our channel while ensuring loyal viewers revisit, and invest in figuring out what works on YouTube – whether this is a nuanced understanding of thumbnails or producing hero content frequently.” 
 
Aaj Tak started its digital journey by launching its YouTube channel in the year 2009, and started streaming news live on YouTube for the first time in 2017. The massive popularity gained by the channel subsequently led to its Diamond play button from YouTube in 2019 for crossing 10 million subscribers. Now, just three years later, Aaj Tak is the first news channel to reach 50 million subscribers on YouTube. 
 
“Constant experimentation with new formats like Shorts and investment into our Community page has really paid off, and consistently breaking stories has helped create a very loyal fanbase,” explained Ms. Purie. “Events like the Presidential Elections of 2022, Solar Eclipse and the Cricket World Cup just kept encouraging us to do better and better.”
 
YouTube has been at the forefront of India's mobile revolution, by powering the content and creator ecosystem and by propelling the massive upsurge of video streaming in the world's largest democracy. AajTak has also fast evolved its offering to meet new consumer needs, with the introduction of Shorts, and other constantly emerging insights on LIVE Streams. The channel now has a universe of committed audiences across TV, web, app and social platforms through compelling storytelling that’s tailored to individual platforms.
 

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'India will be one of the most powerful start-up ecosystems in the world'

A panel discussion at the e4m DNPA Digital Media Conference 2023 deliberated on 'Challenges before start-ups in the current digital ecosystem'

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 5:16 PM   |   4 min read

dnpa

India boasts one of the largest start-up ecosystems, enabling the dream of the country becoming a several-million-dollar economy. However, despite government measures to boost the start-ups – in terms of investments and profitability – there are challenges.

The topic of 'Challenges before Start-Ups in current digital ecosystem-Possibilities and Choices' was discussed during a session at the e4m DNPA Digital Media Conference 2023. The panel comprised Ajay Data, MD, Data Group of Industries; Murugavel Janakiraman, CEO, Bharat Matrimony; Ritesh Malik, Director, ADIF & Founder- Plaksha University; Rohan Verma, CEO and Executive Director, Map My India. The session was chaired by Ruhail Amin, Senior Editor, Businessworld & exchange4media.

Speaking about the challenges facing start-ups, Verma said, “Honestly, I think it is very clear that the entrepreneurial talent in India, especially in the digital space, is extremely high. I see no lack of capability. As we have said multiple times, the key challenge has been there because of monopolistic activities that have been suppressing the Indian digital ecosystem. That is the key challenge of our times and I'm pleased that some things are changing with regard to that. 

Malik presented his observations about the challenges that have cropped up in the last few years in the start-up ecosystem: “It took 125 years for Silicon Valley to become what it is. In India, we are leap-frogging the technology era. I think we are going to be one of the most intensely powerful start-up ecosystems and technology ecosystems.

Citing the success of the UPI system in India, he added: "Our mobile payment infrastructure is way ahead of developed nations. Just think of what we will do with the entire Ayushman Bharat digital health mission. We will be one of the most technology-savvy citizen programmes in the world. So the good part is, for the first time, the government is focussing. I think we are standing on a large opportunity. Having said that, technology regulation is important. Unfortunately, it is always falling behind the actual technological innovation. In my opinion, we need to develop a special ministry whose job would be to ensure that another East India Company does not happen again and that Indians are not to be taken for a ride and that our data remains ours; that we are not just a large digital democracy for other large monopoly companies to come, use, generate revenue but also to make sure that our MSME does not get squeezed.”

Singla noted, “Even while we are sitting here, we talk about start-up and start-up ecosystem, but Amar Ujala is a hyper-local newspaper and has a presence in Tier II and Tier III cities. There, education and awareness are still required. From a media perspective, there is a good amount of innovation that is still seen as a challenge. I would say that there is a lot of room for identifying the right business sustainability model.”

Speaking on the broader challenges that need to be addressed in the start-up ecosystem, Data said, “It is extremely important that all entities work together to ensure – whether it is mentoring or education or incubation centres or investments or subsidies or government support – that the frictions between things have to be reduced. And the knowledge about the availability of those resources has to be made very simpler and easy.”

Janakiraman, who joined virtually, spoke from a sectoral standpoint and touched upon the issues that need to be overcome to render a robust start-up ecosystem. He said, “Digital start-ups can significantly contribute to country growth. Today, Indian start-ups are not only limiting themselves to country boundaries but looking at global opportunities. The Internet, 15 years ago, was free and open. Anybody could set up an Internet business or a dotcom; Internet was not controlled by any organisation. Today, the shift has happened, we all know that. The majority of the traffic is happening through mobile apps. So, more than 90 per cent of the traffic happens through the two dominant players – Google and Apple. What are the implications? Today, they are not simply platform providers or access providers; today, they are the platforms as well as players. The challenge is that when the platform becomes a player, their interest changes. Because they are commercial entities and their primary objective is to make money. And because they are both platform and player, they start abusing dominance and that is not good for Indian start-ups nor Indian consumers.”

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Experts discuss competition laws governing digital media in India

At e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media conference 2023, media industry leaders deliberate on topic, competition laws governing digital media- need for review

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 3:44 PM   |   4 min read

DNPA panel

At e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media conference, industry experts came together for a panel discussion on ‘competition laws governing digital media- need for review’. The discussion was chaired by Dhanendra Kumar, former chairman of Competition Commission of India. The panelists were Karan Singh Chandhiok- Practice Head-Competition Law- Chandhiok and Mahajan; Pawan Duggal- Head- Pawan Duggal Associates; Parthasarthi Jha; Economic law practice; Avaantika Kakkar, Partner-Competition - Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; Vaibhav Kakkar, Partner- Saraf and Partners; Abir Roy- co-founder- Sarvada legal, Anil Malhotra, Head- Public & Regulatory Affairs, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited. 

Kumar opened the discussion briefing the audience about the competition laws governing digital media in India and how they were help in accelerating the country’s economic growth.

Anil Malhotra joined the conversation, “Certain perspectives change when we move from linear to digital media, and we are governed by certain regulations in linear which are not duplicated in the digital domain. The organised media player expects a fair and transparent revenue share because the organised media invest a lot in people, infrastructure, and building networks.”

Karan Singh Chandhiok added, “We have good laws, but lack enforcement. Law creates a framework that is flexible enough to deal with eventualities. Besides looking at the competition laws, we should look at a broad picture that includes more information. From a business perspective, the three things to keep in mind while catching up and implementing laws are: predictability and certainty in enforcement, regulatory dialogue and unintended consequences of both legislations and enforcement.”

Abir Roy mentioned, “The biggest challenge is the enforcement of a particular law. Enforcement needs to be certain and the regulator needs to be more dynamic.

Joining the discussion, Avaantika Kakkar shared her views on digital media. “When the pandemic began and we did not get newspapers, we started reading content online. We evolved much during the pandemic and we witnessed the scenario of subscription-based news platforms. Digital players are creating opportunities, which result in access which was never explored before.”

On the legal system, she said, “We have a robust legal system, IP laws, and data protection laws, some laws are evolving, and amendments are being introduced. 

Kumar then asked Parthasarthi Jha to share how digital media is evolving and how the internet has obliterated geographical borders. On laws, Parthasarthi said, “the new law must be fabricated and addressed in a manner that must contain some base work.”

Pawal Duggal opined that internet has transformed human beings into data entities. “We all have become global authors, global transmitters, and global broadcasters of data, and in scenarios like such, we have to keep aside the traditional perceptions of media and should start looking at things from the digital media point of view,” he said.

Duggal said that chatgpt which has completely changed the landscape of digital media. “It is a revolutionary kind of algorithm that has shaken the entire world and which is probably going to impact the content being prepared by media organisations as it is going to be more AI-based.”

Talking about competition laws Vaibhav mentioned the mendment introduced by MIB recently on fake news
that talks about giving Press Information Bureau the responsibility to declare what is fake news. He said, “We need independent arbitrators to decide more on free speech.”

He also mentioned that India should not always copy the West while framing and implementing legislation. “India is a completely different country in terms of population count and other things. India needs evidence based laws and not perceptions-based laws,” he opined.

As concluding remarks, Dhanendra requested all the panellists to sum up pointers of the conversation. The key pointers were: sanitise publishers operating out from India to clear the ground for Indian digital players in fair revenue share; study the laws before enforcing to avoid adverse repercussions; law should be evidence-based and it should ensure fairness and reasonability among the market participants; the idea of fairness is more pervasive, it’s not limited to internet and digital media and it is important for marketers to be flexible to get the fair share in the business; the law should be fair and competition law is not the socialisation of private property; India require a dedicated law on digital media; India need to think carefully at the regulations.

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US sues Google, new lawsuit aims to break up tech giant's ad unit

Google contended that the lawsuit by the US DoJ would reverse years of innovation and harm the broader ad sector

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 25, 2023 7:57 AM   |   1 min read

google

Big Tech major Google has been sued by the United States Department of Justice for the second time over anti-competitive practices. This is the US DoJ's second antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant.

Google has been accused of dominating the digital ad market, according to people privy to the matter. The lawsuit will aim to dismantle the tech giant's ad-tech department over its monopoly in the digital ad space.

Reports say that the case will be filed in the federal court before the end of the week.

DoJ chief Jonathan Kanter reportedly said in a press conference that the lawsuit aims to hold Google to account for its "longstanding monopolies in digital advertising technologies that content creators use to sell ads and advertisers use to buy ads."

Google retorted by saying that the lawsuit by DoJ " attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector."

The tech giant doubled down by stating that the lawsuit is an attempt to "rewrite history at the expense of publishers, advertisers and internet users."

Google also highlighted the ad businesses and practices of its competitors Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, TikTok, Comcast and Disney but the government chose not to go after them.

The tech company is also accused of antitrust practices in India where the Competition Commission of India has slapped heavy penalties against it for abusing its dominance in the Android ecosystem.

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