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No unicorn growth strategy anymore; digital businesses must move to a camel's strategy for sustenance, says Akash Banerji of Voot

Banerji, Head, AVOD Business, Voot, says such times call for strategising for survival in the long run. He talks about the changes the OTT space has been experiencing in this lockdown period

Akash Banerji

OTT platforms have been innovating heavily to compensate with the lack of content. According to various reports, video streaming during the lockdown has increased by 100%. However, with restrictions on producing newer content, these platforms have been carefully navigating the situation.

According to Akash Banerji, Head, AVOD business, Voot, innovation through various channels has helped Voot sail through the situation. He said they have focused on offering newer content and staying relevant. At a time when most of the platforms are focusing on strengthening libraries through acquired content, Voot managed to bring an original show, ‘Go Fun yourself’,  with the user at the centre.

Talking about the show, Banerji said, their aim was to drive consumer participation. “It was not just something on the back of which we were trying to create a marketing story. The UGC videos that consumers shared with us became an integral part of the content and that was largely done to drive consumer participation. In these times, consumers are sitting at home and trying to find the ways to participate with content and brands in a slightly more intricate fashion, which gave rise to the concept of growth for ‘Go fun yourself’.”

The platform also announced its partnership with upGrad, which will open the doorways for Voot to enter the edutainment genre. Banerji said the partnership is a simple one which will benefit both parties. “upGrad gets to create a brand scheme for itself with content and video pieces. They find a platform that reaches out to 300 million of our consumers in the country and evangelises online education for higher education in the country. This is the best means to reach out to people and evangelise something as innovative as upGrad. While, for Voot, what it does is that we get a massive roster of compelling video content pieces that become something like an additional offering that I give to my existing consumers. I’m adding more stickiness to my platform, and also entering into a completely new category like edutainment,” Banerji said.

Banerji also said the platform has tied up with 10-15 live linear channels that will soon be added to the platform’s portfolio. Talking about the challenges they are facing, he said there have been variations in advertising revenues. “From a financial point of view, a lot of platforms that focus on advertising dollars, the graph has shown variation from platform to platform and category to category. A lot of categories have been absent for a considerable period in the last two months. But we have seen a meteoric rise on Voot select as well, that’s the revenue part.”

Talking about their strategy when production resumes, Banerji said they will focus on giving relevant content to the consumers and drive engagement from them. He said even brands and advertisers will gain confidence that the economy is resuming and going back to normal, the revenues will also resume once the numbers start coming in.

He spoke about how marketing has changed for OTT platforms and said content and the platform are closely related and so should the communication. “For OTT platforms, one of the big challenges that we all continue to experience and try to solve is the discoverability of your content. There are close to 35 to 39 OTT platforms, and they also have their own unique roster of content. Consumers are rightly so spoilt for choice. In such a scenario, one of the big imperatives is how to ensure that your content gets sampled, which is the task of the marketing team. Earlier, there was huge focus on just talking about your platform, and the aim was to get the audience to your platform. Now, the story of content and the platform are very intricately linked to each other,” Banerji said.

According to Banerji, digital businesses should work on creating business models that are long-lasting. “Platforms that are here for a long time and have a long-term view would constantly be focusing on the best ways to manage costs. In any business, especially the new-age digital business, you cannot continue to adopt a strategy of a Unicorn, which is growth at all costs. I think now is the time for a lot of businesses to adopt a camel’s strategy that allows them to last longer. We need the strategy of famine right now, and we need to understand the scenario and see where your revenue lines are. What are the costs that can be pushed out for the period.” 

Banerji said they have been acting cost-conscious while driving on relevant partnerships to deal with the situation. He said a strong platform must not be bothered by 2-3 difficult months. “If my business works for people and my ambition to do something around the building of a platform like Voot was to shake up in 2-3 months then I’m not here for the right things. As I said, these have been exceptional times and we believe that this is temporary. At times like these, when things look rough, the strategy is to hunker down. Dig your heels and wait for the worse to get over. The moment the worse is behind you is when you get back in action and start driving again. These 2-3 months have been difficult but I believe this will be behind soon,” he said.

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