‘The Indian language digital user is looking for more than just entertainment’
Rise of the Indian language digital user is the talk of the season. From old and well known players like Times Internet, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar and Vikatan to new aggregator apps like Dailyhunt and Newsdog are betting big on the everyday Indian consuming content on his or her mobile phone.
Not just publishers, there are many startups which are focusing on enabling the Indian language user in many different ways - from indic keyboards to language chatbots. We caught up with Sachin Bhandary, Vice President, India operations, Roar Media to talk about the Indian language content space. Sachin was a PR professional for almost a decade, before traveling to 14 countries during his 18 month long sabbatical. That is when he became an established travel writer, and a chance encounter with the Roar Media founder made him bring Roar Media to India.
Roar Media is a new age digital publishing company focused on Indian language users with operations in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh through its website and video play in Hindi, Tamil, Bengali and Sinhala(Sri Lanka). The company also operates an English language brand called Roar Lk in Sri Lanka.
1. Why is the Indian language digital space thought of such a big opportunity?
You know, the Indian internet till now was primarily led by English language. And as someone who has traveled to 24 countries, I always used to wonder how Brazilian internet is all about Portuguese and the rest of South and Latin America is Spanish. Similarly, European countries have their own languages and that is the language their internet uses as well.
But I think the problem was that considering we are such a heterogeneous society with a fairly decent adoption of English, it became the lead language on our internet as well. Now, owing to a few factors like the data revolution brought about by Jio, cheaper smartphones and growth in tier II & III cities is making the Indian internet more democratic. And this is just the beginning.
9 out of 10 users joining the internet now are likely to be Indian language users and they are already a majority compared to English language users. According to a Google KPMG report, 536 Million digital users by 2021 will be Indian language users as opposed to 199 Million English users.
Of course, with this kind of population coming online for the first time, it opens up a world of opportunities.There is no doubt that this is an exciting space!
2. How does Indian language content fit into all of this?
Content drives the internet, doesn’t it? Everything you watch, read or hear on the internet is content!
Considering that Indian language users are going to be such a huge population online as well, there is a big demand for content that they can read, watch and understand. There is also need of native language content because that is what connects with them.
‘English is for the brain and mother tongue is for the heart’. I read this somewhere and it could not be more true.
Apart from publishing companies like ours, even big retailers like Amazon, Flipkart are figuring out ways to connect with the Indian language user better. Because connecting and being relevant to them, needs a paradigm shift. You can no longer just think English and translate that into a regional language.
So we think that there is growth for everyone, in fact, in the coming days more players will join in building this eco-system and that will be benefit both the companies and the users.
3. Roar Media, we know, is focused on knowledge based content. Aren’t regional language users more interested in entertainment?
Well, everyone is interested in entertainment! Indian language users are, and so are English language users. But that does not mean that they are only interested in reading or watching bollywood gossip or slapstick humour.
Our experience has been different. We started out by focusing on providing good quality content to our audiences and quickly realised that content that improved their knowledge quotient is something they were craving for.
So yes, the Indian language digital user is looking for more than just entertainment online. That is how we have been able to build about 2 Million actives on our website and do close to 30 Million video views per month.All this in a matter of a few months and these numbers are growing everyday.
4. What is your revenue model?
We are focused on sponsored and branded content campaigns. Just like our editorial content, the branded content also informs our audiences and that is our main source of revenue. We firmly believe that there is lots to be done in this space and are working on some exciting branded content series with some brands!
Content as a service is also something we provide for select clients in multiple languages.
5. Isn’t it difficult monetising regional language audiences?
Actually the point is about getting the focus right. For us, we feel that branded content is the way to go. Many progressive brands are already working with publishers like us and others to create memorable campaigns.
We recently concluded a campaign with MG Motor where we were the regional language partner for the Changemakers campaign. We profiled six women who were changing many lives with the work they are doing. This campaign was run in all of our three language platforms i.e Roar Hindi, Roar Bangla and Roar Tamil.
6. What does the future hold for Roar Media in India?
Future holds a lot of promise, and our preparation will make this promise a reality.
We would want to be present in 7 Indian languages by 2021 and be the leader in knowledge oriented regional content.
In terms of the quality of our content, we would want to keep it knowledge focused yet entertaining. We recently won Gold & a Silver award at Afaqs Digipub for best website design and best Video feature respectively. We would want to build a strong identity in the industry as a knowledge focused content brand in multiple languages.