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What home-grown video apps have to offer to lure advertisers as they race to replace TikTok analyses a few local apps that continue to grow on the back of the ban on Chinese apps. From greater reach and ROI for brands, the founders explain how they are betting on brand safety, cost-effective collaborations and data security

The government’s ban of 59 Chinese applications has benefitted local and home-grown apps as many of these, including Chingari, Roposo, Bolo Indya and Mitron have reported a good surge in downloads. 

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This act of protectionism has definitely created a fertile ground for local start-ups to grow further as they continue to ride on the ‘local’ and ‘Make in India’ sentiments too.

However, sentiments or mere replacement is not enough for any app to sustain in the market as they constantly have to keep luring advertisers as well. TikTok was undeniably the top choice for advertisers for long even when a few of these recently-became-famous local apps had co-existed.

The reach of these applications matters. But the quality of the content on the platforms matters equally. Especially in times of crisis, when fake news can take a toll on the demand of the apps, each of them need to be constantly up to date to be the next best alternative. spoke to the founders of some of these apps to know more about them.

Advertisers love engagement on their content, performance on expected CTA (call to action) and if the platform can trigger sale of their product and go beyond just brand recall.

Bolo Indya is working on some innovative solutions beyond and more effective than just brand recall marketing. The platform has multiple ad units that advertisers can go for and this is not limited to interstitial ads, auto play videos or display ads.

Varun Saxena

“For the first time, we have introduced AI-driven conversation commerce for brands to leverage what will generate a trigger in the mind of the user for the advertiser's product. In addition, brands can work with us to create regional language content and advertise it through videos customised by our content creators. Our ROI has been pretty good and that has led to 95% NPS for us in the advertisement category,” said Varun Saxena, Founder, Bolo Indya.

Another short video sharing app, Chingari, saw some 2.3 million users creating a total of eight million videos in June 29-July 5 time period. 

Sumit Ghosh

As it plans to soon work with brands and advertisers, Sumit Ghosh, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Chingari, said that with this growth, a lot of advertisers and brands are already showing massive interest for partnerships.  

Shivank Agarwal

Shivank Agarwal, Founder and CEO of Mitron, said the app, which allows users to create, upload, view and share entertaining short videos, witnessed its daily traffic jump of 11 times a day after the government announced a ban on 59 Chinese apps. He said it is open for branded content opportunities.

It takes a lot of innovation, effort and experiments to build a ground-breaking product. The idea usually is to understand the consumer and their growing needs and offer tech-driven solutions that make their lives better and easier.

Launched last year in April, 2019, video-led social app Public helps people connect to their community and local authorities through real-time updates. Within six months of launch, it became one of the fastest-growing Indian social app and ranked #1 on Play store for local updates.

The app has logged 50 million+ users and one million videos being created every month and is currently available in 16 states and eight Indian languages. It aims to have 100 million+ users by the year-end and to be available in all Indian languages.

Azhar Iqubal

Azhar Iqubal, Founder and CEO, Public, said, “We have been getting inbound queries from various national/local businesses regarding advertising on our platform but we are yet to start monetising the platform.”

Aiisma is another social platform built over a data marketplace concept, which implies that users are rewarded for their engagement with the platform. Along with this, the brands are given an opportunity to sell directly by creating not just a monotonous store but engagements.

Ankit Chaudhari

Ankit Chaudhari, CEO and Founder, Aiisma, said the app is growing at almost 100% week on week user growth and in its pilot for businesses, it has seen almost 17% conversion with engagements.

While other platforms, including YouTube and Instagram have become quite expensive in terms of collaborations and partnerships, TikTok was often considered to be one of the cost-effective deals.  More than that, considering the huge user base globally, the ROI it had procured for the advertisers was huge.

Effectiveness in terms of cost of collaborations, reach and ROI:

More than cost, Saxena said the brands prefer effectiveness and return on investment for collaborations and partnerships.

This is where TikTok went ahead of Instagram and Facebook.

“With some of our innovative solutions like conversation commerce, we are redefining a new set of ad units for brands, which comes at FB, IG – one level, i.e. even before one needs to run ads on FB and IG. Simultaneously, those triggers lead to immediate or quick purchases of products or services. That's where we have been creating a new category for brands and advertisers to leverage,” he said.

Bolo Indya is seeing a strong traction of TikTok influencers and over the last one week, more than 700 TikTokers have joined it and are regularly engaged in content creation with its team and on their own. It is enabling multiple monetisation ways for its content creators and influencers, where the benefit of the partnerships goes to the influencers only. The app acts as a channel between brands and them.

Being an infotainment platform, and the average spending power of users being a lot higher than what it is on platforms such as ShareChat, or earlier TikTok, Saxena said the platform is a good fit for brands across the categories.

Currently, the majority of its customer base is from healthcare, education, food, fashion and fitness.

Ghosh said the pricing at Chingari will remain very similar to TikTok and more affordable compared to that of Instagram and YouTube.

With major focus to deliver value to both users and advertisers, by offering innovative and non-intrusive ad formats, Public offers great user attention, thus offering brands an added advantage of higher brand recall.

“Price point should not be a concern for advertisers if they get the desired values on a platform. Content and audience quality matter the most for the brands. We’ll focus on brand safety, non-intrusive, innovative ad formats and brand affinity uplift metrics rather than the cost of association,” said Iqubal.

However, the platform is yet to start advertising and will analyse the scope/ costs of association in times to come.

Since it is a video-only platform, it is suitable for all brands that are willing to advertise products through short videos.

The app serves a completely different purpose than that of TikTok as it just runs on informative content and has about 5000+ influencers actively making content, ranging from top politicians to local authorities and budding influencers including Hema Malini, Bhupinder S Hooda, Ranveer Brar and Sadhguru.

While Chingari is working with consumer brands, fashion names and brands that appeal to mass consumers, it plans to soon let influencers connect directly with brands.

With majority of the TikTok influencers flocking to Chingari, Ghosh said the app is witnessing more videos being made from its camera app than being uploaded from the gallery.

Also, the reason TikTok had an advantage was that it wasn’t asking brands to create advertisements populated within content but rather content that would engage users while creating a call to action.

Similarly, on Aiisma, brands encourage to engage with the users through content and leverage this engagement into revenue with highly relevant users, thereby reducing costs as well as increasing conversion.

The Aiisma’s AiiStores allow brands to create content that can be re-used or re-marketed by influencers in the way they feel their consumers will accept it better and get compensated by the brands for the transactions they enable. At times these could be purchase transactions whereas at other times, this could just be interactions.

At this stage, it is finding fashion/apparel brands, content platforms (OTT) and electronics more relevant but expecting FMCG, service companies, ed-tech also to increase engagement over the course of the coming days.

Chaudhari said, “We are seeing a small shift compared to what some of the other TikTok-type platforms have seen. But with a major campaign and app upgrade planned for the beginning of August, we expect the numbers to increase considerably.”

In recent times, social media platforms, including the giants such as Facebook and Twitter, have failed miserably in terms of moderating fake news, violent content, hate comments and trolls.

As much as a user needs a platform to put a voice forth, he/she equally desires to be accepted and to not be trolled on the platform. Apart from this, such negative sentiments have also forced brands to go away from these platforms.

With TikTok coming under the scrutiny for the same reasons, it also had to undergo some data security-related allegations in the past.

Fake content moderation and ensuring brand safety? 

“It would hurt the entire advertisement ecosystem if brands pull out. Advertisers and publishers should work in tandem to find the right solution. With more than half of the world population already online, and most of them using social media, some important challenges would need to be addressed,” said Iqubal.

Brand safety is the foremost concern when it comes to choosing the right platform for advertisement.

Public app uses a multi-layered combination of both technology and human interface to ensure that everything going on to the platform is credible and is cross-verified.

He said, “We have strict regulations in place to ensure that both brand and user data is secure and privacy is not compromised. With verified profiles, the app has proved instrumental to these authorities in debunking rumours and fake news and calming down panic in the community.”

Combating fake news has always been a challenge for any social platform and in the current times, it becomes more important than ever that people get authentic information.

While Saxena believes that negative sentiments have become a part and parcel of social media and brands do not turn away from social media because of that but rather they try to leverage it with a synced brand positioning and management, Bolo Indya leverages the power of community significantly to combat fake news.

“Our community helps us in flagging fake news or fake content first. This is followed by our own machine algorithms running on the scripts of the videos to ensure no violating or fake content is posted. Anything that may get left has to undergo a manual moderation within 30 minutes of having been posted,” he said.

Aiisma is a platform that is built upon user KYC. So brands aren’t facing leakage challenges like bots and troll accounts and it also has DMCA compliance as a parameter to ensure better brand convenience.

According to Ghosh, in case of Chingari, all the branded content (in future) will be curated and moderated via its moderation in-house team before it goes out on the platform.

The founders also discussed how Modi's app challenge is a big stage for every Indian founder and entrepreneur and it shall provide an opportunity to showcase the talent as well as the use case of the positive impact one's app may create on the lives of Indians.

“Simultaneously, getting appreciated by the Prime Minister shall help the founders to get further focused, determined and motivated to achieve the bigger goal,” said Saxena.

The vibrant technology ecosystem of India has produced various technological solutions time and again. The pandemic brought a huge disruption, which is being handled with the use of technology and the ‘Digital India Atmanirbhar Bharat Innovate Challenge’ will further provide an impetus to the tech community of India.

“The challenge is an opportunity for young brains to develop indigenous solutions to various underlying problems and make us more self-reliant,” said Iqubal.

However, the critical aspect is while we can copy the best practices from developed economies, we have to bring in Indian uniqueness to the apps, which Chaudhari believes is missing right now.

Tags: TikTok
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