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‘The next billion YouTube users are going to come from India:’ Ajay Vidyasagar

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MUMBAI: Even as Google CEO Sundar Pichai prepares for his India trip with a mandate to outline the company’s vision for the new smartphone users in the country later this month, YouTube has trained its eyes on India in a big way. With a global community of over one billion people that gives anyone the power to create something that everyone can watch, YouTube APAC director of partnerships Ajay Vidyasagar is of the opinion that the next billion users of a platform like YouTube are going to come from a market like India.

Citing Pichai’s example, Vidyasagar adds, “Senior leaders at Google are very excited about India. India is one of our most valuable opportunities in the world. YouTube is already a mainstream platform in the country. The next billion users of a platform like YouTube are going to come from a market like India.”

As a definitive step towards its vision for YouTube’s growth in India for churning out original local content, the company has launched YouTube Space Mumbai - the destination for web content creators and aspiring YouTube stars. YouTube Space Mumbai is India’s first and the world’s 8th YouTube Space.

When asked what influenced the company’s decision to set up YouTube Space in India, Vidyasagar points out a few important stats. “While the year on year growth for YouTube globally is 60 per cent, in India the growth in watch-time has been a whopping 80 per cent. Needless to say India is a very important growing market for us. YouTube Space Mumbai is just one of the many initiatives the company has in store for the country.”

Not just as a country of viewers, but as content creators too India has seen a steep rise. “There has been a growth of 90 per cent year on year, when it comes to uploading videos to YouTube in India. So getting Spaces to further empower the creators in the country was the obvious next step,” Vidyasagar informs.

Moreover, YouTube users in India have also made an exponential shift on mobile devices to watch videos. “This year we saw 55 per cent of the total viewership on YouTube in India coming from mobile devices alone. It’s the first quarter when mobile device viewership eclipsed desktops.”

When asked what this means in a country where mobile marketing is just setting up a roadmap unlike a developed market like China, and how it can impact a YouTube content creator's revenue, Vidyasagar says, “Our way of looking at mobile or desktop viewership is fundamentally ‘bought and sold’ on a promise of a video view, which is pretty much the same thing on any device. Therefore monetisation isn’t a challenge, even if the device changes. We actually have figures to show now that monetisation is pretty much the same in all devices."

Further explaining the monetisation process in YouTube and how the platform gives advertisers a plethora of choices, Vidyasagar shares, “Our advertising team sells reserve advertisements and auction advertisement inventory. The skippable ads that you see are part of a suite that we offer in auction advertising. What ad will be placed on the channel is not decided by the creator but by the buyer of the advertising space. As an advertiser you can choose to buy from the reserve, which means to buy an ad in a specific channel at certain time in a certain volume. And you pay for specific price. But in an auction, you actually bid for an ad to be placed on the platform. So it is not creator led but advertiser led; we give the advertisers a lot of choice in the process.”

A veteran in broadcast media from his earlier stints at Star TV and Sun TV, Vidyasagar shares how differently a VOD platform such as YouTube functions.

“When I came to Google, I really thought YouTube is going to be a lot similar to television and very quickly I realised how wrong I was. In a lot of ways, television is a one way communication. You expect the audience to come at a certain hour to a certain television station and then go away. Everything about television is very different in terms of consumption and engagement from a platform like YouTube. Interactivity amongst creators is what drives YouTube and its community at heart. The single biggest difference for me has been realising the power of how creating, sharing and commenting plays such a big role in what was originally a one way communication,” he offers.

Comparing the television medium to online, Vidyasagar says that in his stint with television, it was mainly the opinion of a handful of decision making people that was more often than not reflected in shows. “On television, we got a very filtered version of what people thought about the content. But when content goes out on YouTube, I have a pretty strong idea of what people actually think about it. This makes you very responsible over what you put out there as a content,” he says.

That said, both YouTube Spaces global head Lance Podell and Vidyasagar stress the need to get more and more Indians be active on YouTube. While infrastructure and lack of uniform access of internet through the country, specially in Tier II and III cities remains a challenge, the duo is happy to inform that their previous marketing initiative YouTube Offline, which was first introduced to India, has borne fruit and shown a 500 per cent growth in usage across the country. Additionally, a slew of services are being thought of to pull in more users to the platform, Vidyasagar informs.

With an aim to attract tens of thousands of fully functional content creators who can add to the YouTube community and also inspire others, the 4G wave in the country will only add an impetus to facilitate the video network’s plans in India.

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