We met with Sunil to understand how online vernacular content in India is evolving, its monetization potential, video and the role social media platforms are playing.
ShareChat is a great platform for vernacular content consumption. Tell us about the challenges that it overcomes for brands wanting to connect with new users?
ShareChat was created with the purpose of providing the next billion users with a comfortable social media platform in Indian regional languages pre dominantly coming from Tier 2 & 3 cities of India. For a long time, English dominated the Internet in spite of the fact that In India, 9 out of 10 internet users prefer to be non- English. At the time of ShareChat inception, there was no such platform available for the vernacular audience to express their opinions, showcase their talent or to connect with a community with similar interests. Today, with 60 million monthly active users, we are the largest pool of regional content that is shared enormously on WhatsApp, to be precise 1bn monthly WhatsApp shares.
According to industry reports, 230 mn internet users people prefer to consume content in regional languages and they are said to have an annual spending power of $300bn which is a huge opportunity for local as well as national brands.Keeping this insight in mind, we aim to provide brands an apt platform to connect with users and communicate with them in the comfort of their native language. Localization is one of the biggest challenges which most of the brands face today but our platform can facilitate them to reach out to their target audience in their preferred choice of language.
Monetization of vernacular content has been a challenge for most publishers and platforms. How is ShareChat innovating to overcome this problem?
We are at an early stage and we have just started our monetisation path. We are using this time to experiment and learn. We have received tremendous response from brands who are keen to reach out to the regional language internet users. We are building some strategic partnership as we embark on this new journey.
Do you feel some formats like video do well for brands using vernacular content vs others?
Video is a medium that does well when it comes to social media platforms using vernacular content. In 2016, video streaming accounted for half the mobile internet usage in India, according to FICCI. By 2021, this will reach 75 per cent. When ShareChat was created, most of the smartphone users were majorly on 2G network and hence 95% of the user generated content used to be text. With 4G kicking in, this has changed to 50% video content, 40% static images and merely 5% text. We witness around 10bn video plays every month. When it comes to regional users, we understand that video is the best way to communicate a brand message unlike other formats which makes it one of the most relevant ad property as they are inherently easier to understand.
Since this is a social platform, you receive a lot of data about your users. How do you use this effectively for brands who wish to work with you?
We are a regional social media platform in 15 Indian languages. One of the reasons why ShareChat was formed is fundamentally because regional language users did not have a social media of their own. We started our journey back in 2014 and this gives us the first mover advantage in terms of understanding the content consumption pattern of our users across languages which can prove to be helpful for the brands to understand what clicks the audience in a particular regional.
How do you see the role of micro-influencers evolving on your platform?
Regional language internet users are an altogether separate subset of users. When it comes to marketing your products/services to them, they cannot replicate the strategy applied for English internet users. They have to take a step back, rebuild, rethink and reinvent the mode of communication that will help them reach the mass audience. A native ad banner might not be the best technique. Therefore, marketers are experimenting with local influencers to reach the masses in a language their audience is comfortable with.
At ShareChat, we have the ability of reaching regional audiences at scale. We are a UGC driven platform which is the best way to share knowledge/information within a community. It’s much easier for any brand to spread their brand messaging via the micro influencers on the platform as these influencers are able to build a better connect with other users and thus influence decisions for the brand. If a brand wants to leverage our users to co create content which can drive its own engagement will be an interesting aspect to look at. These are the real users who are genuinely using the product and they would actually drive a significant amount of share of voice at a local market level and hopefully it reflects on the brand sale too.