From self expression to social commerce, here’s how the Indian short video has evolved

A few days ago, Instagram collaborated with 200 Indian musicians to launch ‘1 Minute Music’, a collection of tracks exclusively geared towards Reels or Stories. Before that, Viacom18 announced a new platform for bite-sized content, Fully Faltoo. From streaming DSPs like JioSaavn (in collaboration with Triller) to messaging giant WhatsApp and Amazon Mini TV have all bet on the power of short videos, even as Spotify is mulling adding a video option to compete with TikTok. The shareability and easy consumption of short videos has presented plenty of homegrown options, but also created a ripple effect in allied sectors.

So much so that India is right behind China when it comes to Internet users and smartphone users. Bain & Company estimates there are around 640 million people on the Internet in the country and at least 550 million who have smartphones. By 2025, the report says that there will be 650 million users across all short-form video platforms in India. “Smartphone users spend about 4.8 hours on their devices daily, of which a staggering one hour on average is spent consuming videos,” said Arpan Sheth, partner and global leader of Bain & Company’s Vector Solutions Group.

Supplementing this content creation is India’s digital ad market that is all set to hit $10 billion by 2025, capturing 50% share of total ad market and growing 10x in the next 10 years, according to Redseer. In fact, short content is touted to overtake longform video. Music Plus has already reported on how this sector’s progress is directly proportional to growth of the Indian music industry.

It takes money to make money

Mint reported that short video creators are promised anywhere between ₹50,000 and ₹7,00,000 per month by Indian platforms and the number only gets bigger for influencers who are often paid upwards of and ₹1,00,000 per post, depending on the number of followers they command.

In addition to leaning on brand deals and of course, raising rounds of capital, short form video apps are heavily inclined towards ad-based models for revenue which seems the fastest way to profitability. Those like Glance, Roposo, Tiki, and others are opting for ‘video commerce technology’. Then there’s Chingari, that’s using blockchain to monetise content. The industry seems to be paced at a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed.

Take Sharechat for instance, which has become the highest valued social media platform in the country. According to Inc42, it crossed the unicorn valuation in April 2021 after raising $502 million. That year, the company raised a total of $913 million in funding. With last week’s fresh $300 million from Google, Singaporean state fund Temasek and Times Internet, the company’s current valuation is placed at $5 billion.

Moj – along with Sharechat, are owned by Mohalla Tech – launched immediately after TikTok was banned in India. Within a month, they had struck a licensing deal with a major label like T-Series. More recently, the company acquired MX Takatak for ₹4,500 crore and now anticipates a total monthly active user base of approximately 500 million.  

In February this year, the platform collaborated with Big Bang for the release of Anumita Nadesan’s single ‘Khwaab’. The music video featured lifestyle creator Bhavi Chandiramani (with 1.7 million followers on Moj), making it a collaboration that goes a level deeper and perhaps a nod towards the enduring relevance of short video content. Big Bang Indie’s Raghav Meattle, a singer-songwriter himself, took to social media to beam about how ‘Khwaab’ accrued over 10 million streams across audio platforms with 17 billion plays on Moj and about 50,000 Instagram Reels. “New revenue models, such as brand integrations, video commerce, and live streaming will enable creators to monetise their reach and content creation efforts,” says Berges Y. Malu, Senior Director – Public Policy at ShareChat says of the future potential of short format video platforms.

Ankush Sachdeva, CEO and Cofounder, ShareChat and Moj, told Economic Times that the revenue share between creators and the platform would continue to evolve. “When you are in the market creation phase, you want to give more incentives to creators, and once the revenue streams go up, we can ask them to share more with the platform. So, I think it will be a variable thing, but it’s going to be a very large pie… It’s going to be a win-win for both, and our job is to increase the size of the pie,” he said.

Stepping stones

With assurances like that, it’s no wonder that creators like music composer Yashraj Mukhate are a little less concerned about how the short videos game will pan out. For him, it’s all about the stepping stone to wider audiences and more lucrative projects outside of short form video and social media. “It wasn’t a strategy for me,” he says. “I was naturally interested in short form content.”

Brands are steadily understanding creator content and it’s changing the way Mukhate gets commissioned for work. “Initially, they used to ask for a jingle and ask me to make a complete song. Now they’ve realised that a short, 15-second hook works better than, say, a very good one-minute song,” he concludes.

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