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BW Businessworld

Media Future Is In Marrying Creators With Communities And Commerce

Mobile and data access led democratisation is the foundation on which a plethora of disruptive ideas are being built and here lies tremendous opportunity for media to emerge as a massive industry, in a new avatar. Sai Kumar, Founder, Arré cites the example of how going regional in the past needed to have a linear market wise approach, but today technology enables language adoption at a pace and cost that is disruptive in itself. “Layer this with millions of new creators, sticky digital communities led by technology and avenues of monetisation beyond advertising and this could actually be media’s finest hour,” he tells BW Businessworld. Excerpts:

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Among the media startups that have attracted investments, do you see any underlying characteristic? Is there a particular type of media startup that attracts more attention?

The short answer to that is that any kind of disruption in the way audiences are built and monetised will build disproportional value. The longer answer lies in carefully analysing the trends that we already see around us in global markets whether it’s the live shopping offering of Taobao or the content subscription service of Onlyfans or Patreon, where a tech-led product has birthed new habits of content creation and consumption.
 At Arré, we began our journey with digital entertainment content that was primarily monetised by branded content and advertising and then we moved onto monetisation by working along with OTT platforms (Arré Studio), currently a billion-dollar market expected to double every few years. The next step for us which will be unveiled soon is what we believe would be the future of the media business which is marrying creators with communities and commerce.

How are you seeing consumer behaviour change on the whole that is fuelling the growth of media startups?

The holy grail for success in media has been the stickiness that digital communities with a consistent and engaging idiom have been able to attract. While this continues to be the case, an increasing number of consumers are now comfortable being creators, whether it is creating a 15 second reel or starting a live room on Clubhouse or publishing your own newsletter on Substack. This new breed of ‘creators’ in my opinion is changing the way media is created, consumed, perceived and monetised. Any skill-set can now be showcased and monetised. The tools offered by social platforms have truly enabled this content creation and consumption, giving shape and form to a whole new creator economy that could eventually be fuelled through commerce, transactions, tipping apart from the traditional advertising-led monetisation. Social commerce, currently a $1.5-2 billion GMV market is showing signs of transforming India’s ecommerce sector, paving the way for a more distributed model that’s built on community, connection and trust and is expected to grow to $20 billion in just five years.  

Last year, did you see the kind of growth you had expected from this sector, in terms of both audience and revenue?

The pandemic has been a significant tipping point for social and OTT platforms. It has brought more people online and thus content consumption has increased manifold during the past year.  This is clearly visible in the viewership numbers even for our content. People stuck at home have learned to go beyond passive consumption and have been taught to expect more immersive participation and even creation across social platforms. I don’t really see this changing even as the world opens up. Yes, the downside is that revenue is trailing consumption for players who were dependent on large productions and shoots which is now catching up with the explosion in consumption but yes, the bar for demand has been reset and supply has to catch up.

What are some of your growth strategies for 2021 and the years ahead?

For Arré, video content monetised through branded content, licensing and syndication along with rich/long-form video content created in partnership with OTT platforms through our studio business (Arré Studio) will be the primary revenue driver this year and maybe next year as well. Arré’s content is distributed across 20-plus platforms in India from MX Player, Jio, Amazon Mini TV to shorter video platforms such as Josh and Trell, cumulatively reaching more than 200 million people.

We will also continue to focus on growing our engaged community for our non-fiction content across other formats as well such as the long form essays and podcasts that Arré is known for and these will adapt to business models of the future as they evolve beyond advertising and branded content. I believe the future for us and the media industry lies in growing the communities via newer, technology led products that offer a deep and immersive experience for the user, bringing in new business models beyond advertising/subscription and moving into creator/user-led monetisation tools. More on this in a few months. 

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October Magazine 2021 investments startup