This year we expect TrendLoud to grow 5x: Chidambaran Natesan

Chidambaran Natesan, Director & CEO of TrendLoud Digital India, tells us how the OTT market has evolved and how the entry of Amazon and Netflix will change the game

e4m by Simran Sabherwal
Updated: Nov 11, 2019 12:19 PM
Chidambaran Natesan

The OTT space in the South has seen huge growth in the last couple of years and TrendLoud has been one of the players who have witnessed all the action in the space closely.

Chidambaran Natesan, Director & CEO of TrendLoud Digital India Pvt. Ltd. tells us how the OTT market has evolved, how the entry of Amazon and Netflix will change the game and being confident of 5x growth.

How has the original content creation in the Digital space evolved in the regional space?

Short-form content started in 2011-2012. This slowly evolved with content creators, such as YouTubers, becoming a professional content generator. In 2016, some of the content creators started creating long-form content, such as web-series, which got a good response on YouTube. In 2017, platforms such as Hotstar and particularly Viu and YuppTV started focusing on South as a market and were the early movers in the market. TrendLoud was among the first players to associate with Hotstar for As I'm Suffering from Kadhal – a 10-episodic Tamil romantic comedy web series - our first series in collaboration with director Balaji Mohan. We also created originals for Viu and helped them in marketing too. In 2018, ZEE5 became aggressive in the market and we experimented with America Mappillai – a series that focused on the LGBT community. In 2019 MX Player and SonyLIV entered the fray and next year, we expect Amazon and Netflix to be aggressive in the market.

How has the last year been for TrendLoud?

Last year was really good and we grew by 3x compared to the previous year, and this year we expect to grow by 5x. TrendLoud started in 2015 as the digital arm of Vision Time and last year we became a separate entity, TrendLoud Digital India Pvt Ltd. When we started we focussed on content creation and invested in music through our division, TrendMusic. We slowly ventured into multiple verticals, one being digital marketing and social media, which brought in a lot of clients. Another division looks at online reputation management of celebrities and we exclusively manage over 70 celebrities and also take celebrities to brands. We expect influencer marketing to be a growth area and expect this to be an organized service two to three years down the line.

We are associated with all the leading OTT platforms to produce original content and are also the social media partner for some OTT players. Since 2017, we've produced close to 15 web series in various South Indian languages and next our Upcoming series is Karoline Kamakshi on ZEE5. We handle the complete social media marketing and content planning, content promotion for ZEE5, SonyLIV and MX Player. This is an area of growth for us as we know what content works in the southern regional market. Last year, we associated with 15-16 brands - of which 10 were local regional brands - and the rest were national brands for whom we did digital stories. We did a campaign for Kurkure to help address the rumours that Kurkure contained plastic. We engaged with actor Lakshmi Manchu who visited the Kurkure factory to show that Kurkure didn’t have plastic. Right from ideation to production to execution and also getting the reach for the brand, we executed the entire campaign. We are now reaching out to more brands to create digital stories. TrendMusic is also growing and we have acquired a lot of music rights and are exploiting it. Movie licensing is an area which we have started focusing on. So far we've been licensing only our own content and we are now extending the distribution service, for digital platforms, to other producers also.

What do marketers and agencies stand to gain by associating with TrendLoud? When a brand is looking to create awareness or looking for a crisis management solution, or they are looking at the call to action in the southern market, you need regional expertise. We are a network and not an agency, and provide a one-stop solution to any brand or client, right from ideation of strategy, to content, execution and implementation to getting a reach in the digital space. We understand the Southern market very well; that’s our forte. We draw our knowledge from Vision Time as a group and carry forward that legacy and understanding of the market. We are a unique solution provider.

What are the challenges you face?

As a network, we face challenges and also see opportunities. Talent is one area where we consistently invest money and have set up a process to identify talent. The challenge we face is retaining talent which we have identified and gave an opportunity to. When the talent grows and becomes popular, they develop a community and a fan following. The talent treats digital as a stepping stone and the aspiration is to get into the movie industry. We are not in a position to retain that talent to travel along with us. However, I believe that in three to four years, when digital and OTT evolves even further, the talent will value the platform. Another challenge is that unlike other markets where the agreement between the talent and production house is contractually bound, the south market always works on the basis of relationships. Looking ahead, professionalism will drive the industry. In digital marketing, the challenge we face is providing a solution to reach management and influencer marketing. There are players in the market who sometimes provide a reach that we can't. For example, if a brand wants to reach x million, we can provide the x million but some players in the market provide 3x times the reach through inorganic reach. This is a challenge because as a network we believe in organic reach. Brands may not differentiate between organic and inorganic reach. While other players may provide the reach, this may not be any use when it comes to achieving the campaign objectives. A campaign’s objective is not just about getting the numbers; it’s about engagement and conversions. Of the 50- 60 activations or briefs that come to us, in a quarter, we pick and choose three or four to execute.

What is your mantra for creating binge-watching content?

This is a challenge for both the platform and the creator. Our focus has always been to create binge-watching content but very few content pieces actually get that status. We don't have a formula for creating binge-watching content. As a genre, rom-com isn’t suited for binge-watching and currently isn’t preferred by viewers. At the moment, genre-based content is driving binge-watching as the trend has shown that thriller, biopics and action genres that have seen viewers binge-watching. Every episode of a web series should have a strong start, a high point in the middle and a cliff-hanger ending to entice viewers to binge-watch.

What change will the entry of Amazon and Netflix bring in the market? The Indian OTT platforms have opened up the space and created an impact in this market. Amazon and Netflix are putting their strategy in place and Amazon has tested the South market. Once Amazon and Netflix enter the market, the scale will be completely different. Both platforms invest a lot on quality and get the best talent and technicians on board. Currently, A-listers in the Southern film industry do not understand the value of an OTT platform but they may be open to looking at scripts if it is for Amazon or Netflix.

Where do you see TrendLoud three years down the line?

We want to be the number one player when it comes to the content creation space. We aim to be a one-stop solution provider for OTT platforms, be it in fiction and non-fiction space. We also want to expand our digital marketing services to both our clients and brands. We’re also looking to expand beyond South to other regions in India. We recently launched operations in Singapore - Vision Time International PTE LTD - as we believe that Tamil content has a lot of potential outside the state. We plan to tap, identify and groom talent in the Tamil diaspora to create content. We are also looking at creating collaborative content for OTT platforms, completely created in Singapore or Malaysia with concepts from these markets. We are investing heavily on developing our own ideas and created a writers room; this will be our focus for next year.

For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube