Doshi tells BestMediaInfo.com about his multi-faceted career, the evolution of digital and what Facebook is doing with content
Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | March 27, 2017[caption id="attachment_83313" align="alignnone" width="464"] Saurabh Doshi[/caption]
A Kolkata native, Saurabh Doshi, Head, Media Partnerships at Facebook, has come a long way in the media and entertainment industry. He moved to Mumbai when he was offered a job in the strategy division in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group. Today, Doshi thinks that he is in a peculiar position because he has studied CA, then MBA, and is working in a tech company handling content.
In conversation with BestMediaInfo.com, Doshi tells us about his career in the M&E industry, how digital has changed over the last five years, and what Facebook is doing with content and content partnerships. Excerpts:
You have over 15 years of experience in the M&E industry, mostly in content and business development. How has the M&E industry changed in terms of digital?
I started off as an investment banker. It was the obvious job after I completed my management degree. Sometime in 2005-06, Reliance ADA happened and I moved from Kolkata to Mumbai. I got into the strategy division there and thereafter I’ve been in a few media companies. I’ve worked with StarDen Networks and then Viacom18, which marked my entry into digital and from there I got into Facebook.
People tell me that I’m in a very peculiar position. I studied finance, CA and MBA and I work in a tech company handling content. At Facebook, I’m heading the media partnerships team. I deal with a lot of creative content and not so much on the finance front (which I have studied). So it’s just a combination of finance, tech and creativity and I think it’s something unique. It’s been a long journey in the media industry since then. Here essentially I’m a lot in touch with the consumers and that’s what really motivates me to come to work.
“I generally believe that we are at the early stage of making monies. We are just about starting off with the digital population of India. We are at a nascent stage”
Having spent over two years with Facebook, what potential do you see for digital media in India?
I see two major shifts that have happened in digital over the last six to seven years. One big shift is towards video. Consumers want to consume video in any form. Videos can take form of live or 360. Live is a big part for us at Facebook and it’s doing very well in India. Live is not only audio visual, but real time and authentic.
The second big shift is mobile. As of December 2016, we have 184 million monthly users, of which 178 million are mobile monthly users. That’s almost 96.7 per cent. These are the two big shifts we’ve essentially seen. These shifts have changed the way content is consumed, business models have evolved and how companies are adopting to digital.
What kind of content partnerships does Facebook have?
Over the last two and a half years, we’ve worked on building a partnership team. Now the team has grown significantly. There are three things that we’ve done. At a national level we’ve worked on three verticals – news, sports and entertainment. We’re focusing a lot on these partners, whether they are individuals or organisations. Individuals could be celebrities, athletes or journalists and organisations could be movie studios or a music company or a news organisation across verticals. We are working very closely with these organisations at a national level.
The second thing we’ve done is catering to languages. We cater to a large number of languages and we have all verticals in that.
The third thing is that there are a large number of content creators who are medium or small and are doing nice work. But because of the fragmentation in the market, the needs are fragmented too. We partner with creators who support local content. Our partnerships team caters to a whole lot of these creators and that’s how we have a diverse set of content creators and hence give users content in his or her language. Our content partnerships are in thousands. I would just say that the journey is just one per cent finished.
“In the social space, we started off as a friend’s network and we are a strong friend’s network today also. We want to retain that DNA. Having said that, I also believe that there are two more needs – one is ‘being informed’ and the other is ‘being entertained”
Digital ads have been proved interruptive. That’s why Facebook was the first one to launch native advertising. But not all digital formats are able to adapt to native advertising. In such a case, how important is branded content and is that only way forward?
Yes, you are right when you say that. Branded content is basically a tool to monetise. On that side, we understand creating content is expensive. We’ve been working on monetisation for a while.
One of the aspects of monetisation is that we’ve been providing tools to content creators to be able to monetise themselves. That’s where branded content comes in. If a content creator is able to work closely with a brand and give the distribution and content to the brand, then the brand benefits and so does the creator.
The other aspect is when Facebook directly pays the creator – which is allowing ad breaks in both live and video. When creators go live, they can take an ad break and make money. In videos, creators can insert ad breaks in between. Giving tools to creators in making money is how we’re working towards branded content. These are the two things we are working very aggressively on. We are providing them with either tools or a way to give them rewards.
Brands often push their traditional media content to digital. How important is it to tailor-make content for digital?
On digital today, content is consumed in a very different manner. People want to consume content real time and in an authentic way. We focused on Live so that people can have that experience. For instance, you are somewhere and you want to be at a place where you aspire to be and you cannot be; Live actually bridges that gap. With Live, you will actually be able to go to a celebrity's house and interact with him. Hence, content on digital cannot be treated in the same manner as other media is.
At your Ficci Frames session, you discussed how digital models are evolving and challenges the medium is facing in making monies. Could you elaborate?
We are at a nascent stage in the digital space in India. There are a few things that are happening in the digital space. A lot of companies are changing their traditional model and adapting to digital. If they do change their models, then how they are going to make monies is the larger issue.
When it comes to digital models, it depends on the need of the consumer. For instance, if you want to book a cab, you’ll do it via an Uber or Ola, that too via the app, which is digital. For different needs there are different products that are built.
In the social space, we started off as a friend’s network and we are a strong friend’s network today also. We want to retain that DNA. Having said that, I also believe that there are two more needs – one is ‘being informed’ and the other is ‘being entertained’. That makes it three core values of the platform. That’s how consumers want to spend their day.
“There are a large number of content creators who are medium or small and are doing nice work. But because of the fragmentation in the market, the needs are fragmented too. We partner with creators who support local content”
In your opinion what is the best way to monetise each model?
I generally believe that we are at the early stage of making monies. We are just about starting off with the digital population of India. Only people with connectivity and a good phone are able to access the kind of content that is available on Facebook. So we are at a nascent stage.