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International players with in-app short video offerings, like Insta Reels and YouTube Shorts, have also made a splash. (Dr. Taskeen Nadkar)

A huge appetite for short-form video content is fuelling the content creator ecosystem in India. This report reviews the latest trends in the thriving user-generated content (UGC) market and identifies new business opportunities.

Content is king. And the Creator rules.

Rasode mein kaun tha? – a 57 sec video by Yashraj Mukhate recently made him an overnight internet sensation. The phenomenal success and virality of Saloni Gaur’s satirical comedy and Esha Kutty’s hula-hooping-in-sari videos are a precursor to the next content revolution in India.

With over 5 bn views every month, India is one of the biggest consumers of videos in the world today. YouTube finds its highest active user base in India, at an estimated 325 mn unique monthly viewers engaging with its long-form content. However, the country is seeing a paradigm shift towards snackable personalized content that grabs the declining attention span of users. The Indian market for short-form video content has grown sharply from 20 mn users in FY16 to 180 mn users in FY20 with TikTok being one of the driving contributors to this trend. Before the app was banned in June 2020, not only had it amassed over 200 mn Indian users but had also given rise to more than 2,00,000 influencers.

It wasn’t long after its departure that several Indian players were raking in the spoils. With an accelerated focus on product, tech and marketing, Josh, Moj and MXTakatak have successfully brought back 97% of the TikTok user base.

International players with in-app short video offerings, like Insta Reels and YouTube Shorts, have also made a splash. Collectively, these platforms are democratising creativity and have catapulted everyday people to influencer fame – Sameeksha Sud and Mr Faizu recently crossed the 30 mn subscriber mark on Josh, while extraordinary talents like those of Sommya Jain and Avi Vinay have them climbing the charts. Overall, the content creator community has grown to 45 mn i.e. 2X its strength in the TikTok era, and 50 mn posts are being created per day across platforms [3]. Nevertheless, these are just a speck in the country’s content creation ecosystem, which is waiting to explode in a market estimated to grow to 580 mn by 2025.

The flywheel is set in motion

Short-form content platforms have three key stakeholders – consumers, creators, and advertisers. Creators depend on consumers to become their followers and increase their popularity, while consumers look forward to original and entertaining content from the creators. Many of the hugely followed creators become influencers. Influencers can influence purchase decisions of brands through their content – an opportunity advertisers leverage, generating an immense opportunity for Influencer

marketing on these platforms. According to data, investments in the digital content space have doubled to $900 mn in 2020 compared to around $400 mn in the previous year and are likely to cross $1.5 bn in 2021.

Content creation flywheel. (Dr. Taskeen Nadkar)

With a prolific number of next-gen internet users adopting the platforms, the consumer base is growing fast, motivating creators to increase the quantum and originality of content. To further the cause, platforms are diverting their focus and funds towards grooming, spotlight, and content creation programs – Josh’s World Famous, Moj’s Creators Program and MXTakaTak’s Launchpad are proof of the pudding. Platforms are working closely with creators to empower them with the right tools that will accelerate their journey to becoming influencers. The growth of the influencer community is attracting more advertisers to the platform. Truly the flywheel has been set in motion, spurring the growth of the ecosystem, and opening several prospects for its players.

Mind the gap: Identifying the opportunity

While the video apps are thriving when it comes to active users and downloads, their success is also measured based on engagement indicators like the number of sessions and session time. It will be imperative for the platforms to sustain their engagement by improving the quality, quantity, and variety of content. The next-gen users, who are spoilt for choice, will want differentiated and unique content that breaks away from traditional categories like comedy, dance, lip-synching, and steers towards specialized genres like lifestyle, fitness, and tech.

Platforms could benefit from being the early birds in onboarding, identifying, and grooming influencers at the start of their journey. This will help them regulate the quality of content being created and build a brand identity in the process. It will also enable platforms to create trusting relations between its users and influencers, and in turn enhance monetary prospects for influencers.

Yet another opportunity lies in building creator education platforms. Talent-hunts initiated by platforms are sporadic and benefit a few. The need of the hour is a sustained approach towards content creation that will maintain the supply-demand balance. In the current ecosystem, where a vast majority of content creators either self-learn or emulate their favourite influencers, a formal learning platform could fill the void. Such platforms can enable users to become creators, and creators to chart their journeys to influencer fame. Learning opportunities can include basic aspects like storyboarding, scripting, and editing to advance concepts like understanding user- engagement analytics and revenue models. Mentorship from successful influencers and experts, and peer-to-peer groups can greatly benefit the burgeoning creator community which is likely to cross 100 mn over the next 5 years.

The domestic short-form UGC market is here to stay and poised to take giant strides towards global success. Identifying the unique opportunities to nurture its stakeholders will accelerate the success and enhance the monetisation potential for the entire ecosystem.

By Dr. Taskeen Nadkar)