Interview of the Week – Shreyas Srinivasan, Founder & CEO, PayTM Insider

The pandemic and the restrictions that came with it have put a temporary end to events in the real world, making the digital space the new playground. Digital platforms have helped content creators curate, create and the audience consume the content almost at will. Artists started experimenting to understand the nuances of this new world and produce quality content and experience. Brands too jumped into the fray and explored the possibility of achieving highest visibility in a cramped world.

This rush to gain foothold and stay afloat among content creators and brands forced the digital platforms to upgrade, upscale and incorporate better technology and be more creative to ensure higher production quality and give the audience a richer experience.

One of India’s leading digital platform PayTM Insider has been at the forefront when it comes to innovative ideas, content creation and execution. It has floated new IPs like ‘Front & Centre’ along with hosting private parties, hand out shoutouts, run polls, have live Q&A or chat and even rewards for the audience.

To know more about these developments and the overall scenario in the digital platform space since the lockdown, and its immediate future, we spoke to Shreyas Srinivasan, Founder & CEO, PayTM Insider for our Interview of the Week.

How has Paytm Insider coped and fared since the lockdown?

The challenge of translating what was earlier a physical experience into an engaging digital format has led us to work closely with organisers to develop new show formats. We’d been quick to move and update our event publishing and ticketing solution, helping organisers take their events online in 3 simple steps. This move, along with our early efforts to develop digital events starting last year, has helped us scale up digital events swiftly. The focus for the events sector is now on further developing the ability to deliver a great experience for fans in new and interactive digital formats.

What have been the technological developments Paytm Insider has invested in to help creators go online?

There are now over 600+ digital events online each week on Paytm Insider. From workshops to performances, we support multiple formats and event setups. Within a span of a couple of months, we have upgraded our self-publishing platform with additional DIY aspects like communication, easy hosting, interactive features and introduced a simpler and quicker way for organisers to publish their pre-recorded content.

Using these capabilities, we have launched our own IPs like ‘Front & Centre’, Private Parties, and Shoutouts for the users. ‘Front & Centre’ aims to bring home the experience of theatre for all theatre enthusiasts. With Private Parties, one can book exclusive performances with a range of artists, delivered virtually in a personal setting for friends and family. For kids, parents can now get a storyteller, a magician, or a puppeteer to entertain virtually in their birthday parties. Shoutouts allow people to get a personalised video message from their favourite celebrities for themselves or their friends and family.

Paytm Insider’s interactive features include polls, fill in the blanks, Q&A, chat, a live leaderboard as well as rewards. This means if you’re hosting, for example, a quiz, you no longer keep a tally on the side on Excel. Your questions pop-up on the screen while you talk about the subject live. The results are automatically calculated and show up on the screen. You get to share a mix of question types, and at the end of it reward participants if you wish! And it’s not just quizzing that this applies to. These tools are made for all kinds of events – apply this to murder mystery storytelling and build a narrative, or use polls for your class on social media marketing!

With Theatre Mode, an organiser can upload their video content, set up a show and it will auto-stream at the set time and date allowing people to buy a ticket and enjoy the experience of watching it together. All they need is a video file and access to our publisher dashboard to create a show. This allows them to record good quality content and stream it seamlessly across different time zones without worrying about their connectivity issues.

What are the challenges in organising online concerts?

The primary challenge with a digital event is the ability to translate what was earlier a physical experience, into an engaging digital format. This challenge is also in fact an opportunity and has led PayTM Insider to work closely with organisers to develop new show formats.

Considering that digital is the only medium currently, talk us through the consumption pattern you have noticed for live music shows?

Over the last few months, PayTM Insider hosted 10,000+ digital events providing technical expertise along with pricing and marketing insights to assist organisers in building these formats. With the understanding that the consumer mindset is one of learning, growth and wellness at this time, we expanded the range of events available to consumers in these categories, even as we have continued to provide new digital experiences in live music and comedy. One will now find a range of digital workshops from listening sessions to audio production workshops. We have also done a wide range of events from yoga and meditation, to financial planning workshops, theatres, dance, and courses on building your own business, marketing and more. 60% of the events we list now are workshops focused.

What has been your marketing strategy for online events?

We have focussed on reaching out to our user base and our strategy was to look at their buying patterns in terms of categories and artists they have been interested in the past. Since events have gone digital, we’ve moved away from region-based marketing.

We’ve seen a resurgence of classical, folk and other regional music artists who with digital events found a new platform to reach out to their fans across the world.

Considering that Indians don’t really like to pay for tickets, has the sales pattern changed and if so, how?

At the onset of digital events, we did see a lot of free events. After understanding what it will take to make an online event going experience an enjoyable one, we worked closely with our organisers to curate experiences and shows that are ticketed. Since then the tide has been turning and we’ve had more ticketed shows than free events. Currently, 75% of the shows listed are ticketed.

Are live digital shows sustainable in the long run? Will digital platforms serve as an option to live on grounds events even after the lockdown ends?

We think digital events and physical events will co-exist in the post COVID 19 world as digital events allow a greater number of people to interact with artists without any geographical limitations. This is an opportunity to grow attending audiences from a local to a global scale and incrementally provide richer and more engaging digital experiences.

How would you like to see the online concert business work?

Digital events is currently a one-time engagement format, similar to a physical experience – a person buys a ticket and heads over to the platform, attends the event, and comes back for another. Given the nature of consumption has changed, the next step is to explore events assisted by new technology and monetisation formats which enable fans and creators to continue to stay engaged over longer periods of time. This could take the form of the erstwhile, “season pass” for physical events changing to subscription to events and communities.

The other opportunity is on the creative side. By its nature, an event is a shared social experience. We believe digital events shouldn’t aim to be a replica of physical events. The experience of a digital event can be richer than it is currently, with more two-way interactions. This gives way for different show formats to experiment and further their experience.

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