Interview of the Week – Janhavi Parikh, Business Head, MX Taka Tak

The growing smartphone penetration, affordable data price, and quality content, has helped the short format video platforms emerge as the fastest-growing content consumption avenue.

India has emerged as the fastest growing app market in the world with 19 billion apps downloaded in 2019, up from 6.55 billion in 2016, according to the State of Mobile 2020 report published by analytics and market intelligence firm App Annie.

One of the leading players in this format is MX Taka Tak. Since its launch, the platform has managed to garner more than 130 million active monthly users and has one of the highest daily users in the market. It has a pan India presence across age groups and gender.

In our Interview of the Week, we spoke to Janhavi Parikh, Business Head, MX Taka Tak about the platform’s content strategies, standing out in a saturated market, benefits that artists can derive through it and much more.

MX Taka Tak has recently recorded the most number of downloads in a month for short format apps in India. What do you feel is your USP in a crowded market that is going to be more saturated by the day?

I am going to break this into 2 parts. Firstly, we are a marketplace for content. There are suppliers or creators and there are consumers. From a suppliers or creators perspective, we are building a sustainable long-term ecosystem which is driving them to MX Taka Tak. We have 12 of the top 20 creators on our platform along with millions other who are creating content on a daily basis. This is because we are able to give them success and discoverability. Because of MX Player and the Times heritage, we are able to get them featured in PR campaigns, get them collaborations with celebrities on our platform and become famous. This drives engagement and increases followers for them.

Secondly, we have unique features for creators. Our best in class creation experience which helps creators. Our live streaming and calling features enables them to connect with their audience which helps in increasing followers. From the consumption perspective, we have been able to get a huge section of quality creators on our platform. This drives consumption for us because the person visiting our platform is really entertained as MX Taka Tak also offers them a personalised feed. This is what differentiates MX Taka Tak from other short video content platforms.

What are the key content areas that MX Taka Tak targets? Is the content planned to target the youth in particular or is it demographic?

From a content strategy perspective it is important to have diversity across categories and languages. We are not focusing on the top level but also delving deeper to ascertain if there can be diversity within a category or language. Users have long tail interests, their priority maybe Bollywood, fashion or comedy but they would like to explore other categories too. We are focusing on building long tail content by driving the users on our platform to create.

Where does music stand in the list of content that is created on your platform?

Music is the backbone of the short video format. There is always a background associated with the content. The language is not important as the music and video convey the message. Music is important to increase the coverage and also makes a pool for the creators to choose for their content. But it is also important to recommend the right kind of music so it eases their content creation. When I create a video, I want someone to recommend 5-10 songs that will go well with the content. If one has to browse through millions of songs it would make the experience very hard.

It is also important in creating the music creator and music artist ecosystem. Along with this, it also drives consumption through music consumption. A couple of weeks ago, Arjun Kanungo released his new track, Famous, on MX Taka Tak. This is helpful for the artists as they have a ready audience to connect with. It also provides our consumers the opportunity to listen to exclusive music. Building a music ecosystem where artist can address with their audience and the consumers get access to unexplored as well new music is thus possible.

Why should an artist share their content on MX Taka Tak? How does an artist benefit through your app? Does MX Taka Tak promote the content aggressively?

A big part of the short video format is the technology that is built. Our technology figures out what content is a good fit for the audience. When we take a creator on-board, we try to figure out if the content is a good fit with our audience. The ones that fit well, witness a huge success instantly from a viewership and followers perspective. A creator from a small town can attain fame quickly which in turn can help in monetisation.

Short format video apps make the biggest hits and is a very important part in making a song go viral. Can you share any such examples on MX Taka Tak?

As I said earlier we have released Arjun Kanungo’s song ‘Famous’ and the artist also had a live performance which also helped in gaining huge traction. We are looking to get actively involved with music releases and have build up a team to concentrate on the music vertical. MX Taka Tak would be aggressively pursuing it with an objective to make artists discovered and the content viral.

Does MX Taka Tak have some sort of a deal with music labels/artistes?

There are a variety of business models which we will be exploring and may be even be a personalised one. It also depends on whom we are associating with. It can be across labels, individual or indie artists and even aspiring artists. Any talented artist can get discovered on short video formats which is the beauty of this platform.

You recently collaborated with Virat Kohli for content, any such plans for the stars from the music industry? Or would you like to tie up with aspiring artists?

Celebrities surely drive the viewership due to their huge fan base who like to watch the star’s candid content. This not only gets us engagement but also helps in content creation as fans get motivated watching stars creating their content. It is a very important vertical for us and figuring out the next steps. Riteish Deshmukh is associated with us for the vaccine campaign. We understand the importance of celebrities on the platform, the value it brings to their fans and also the engagement it can create.

What has been the impact of this format on the Indian music industry?

It’s an evolving business but music labels are already discovering the value they can drive from short video format platforms. MX Taka Tak has over 130 million active monthly users so the labels have access to a huge subscriber base to distribute their content and potentially get it viral. One critical thing for labels would be to figure out the kind of content they drop on the short video format as against the long video format platforms. Labels will have to adjust some of their mechanisms of operations to suit this format. Localisation and targeting the right demography would be the key for the labels.

With a spurt of digital platforms, the licensing societies and also the music labels are closely monitoring the use of their content? Do you feel there should be a blanket license? Or what is a simplified way out?

This is a question that can be answered a little down the road. It’s a bit too early to speculate about a blanket license or a simplified way out. The more we interact and deal with licensing societies and music labels, the more we can learn as to what is a win-win situation for the labels, artists and platforms like us. We need to build an ecosystem that benefits everyone. The pros of such partnerships are very clear, we just have to figure out and build an optimal commercial model.

India is one of the fastest growing app markets in the world. How do you perceive the future for short format video apps? What can be the game-changer?

There is a huge potential in India. There are over 500 million internet users with around 80% of them being smartphone users. Short format video apps are very well suited to mobile usage. Currently, the format has around 200 million users so there is a significant room to grow in terms of how many users we can bring on board. As we go continue to build up our content supply across demographics and languages we will be able to address more users. There is a section of users who prefer to consume content in their regional languages so that want has to be addressed.

The platform that can be the game-changer will have to focus on long-term technology from a recommendation perspective. Because only if you can match someone’s interest with what you serve in terms of content, will they revisit the platform and spend more time on it. One of the other aspect is that the content quality should be cutting edge. Finally the content fed into the recommendation engine is very important as it can provide the right experience to the user. I think these 3 are the keys and any platform which masters them will win this race.

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