“We are playing the role of a connector between talent and viewer”: Samir Bangara


Samir Bangara started his career in venture capital with IL&FS Venture Corporation and moved on to becoming an investment banker. Focusing on the tech space with Ernst & Young, he drove several US sell side mandates in the IT services BPO and wireless sector as a VP in the M&A team. Post that he held stints at Indiagames and The Walt Disney Company India (Disney UTV) as the chief operating officer and Managing Director-digital respectively. 

Thereafter he decided to don the hat of an entrepreneur by collaborating with well known industry faces like Shekhar Kapur and music maestro A R Rahman, and co-founded Qyuki Digital Media. In 2012, it was reported that Cisco Systems pumped in Rs 27 crore into the social media platform thereby becoming a strategic investor. In a freewheeling chat, the man who has a keen knowledge about the digital ecosystem talks to Indiantelevision.com’s  Herman Gomes about the multi channel network and more.

Excerpts: How did the three of you come together and what is the stake-holding pattern in the company?

Cisco was an investor in my previous company. They helped me re-connect with Shekhar Kapur and through him I met A R Rahman. We started talking about my plans and saw a common interest and decided to do this together. It took close to four to six months to launch after that. I worked in digital media and content for seven years prior to this selling games and video content. Those learning’s helped shape what I am doing today at Qyuki. The three of us together hold a majority stake with Cisco as an investor.

What is the investment pattern by the three of you in Qyuki?

We are building a large scale media business and that requires significant investments. We have already spent a few million dollars and in the near future I see us investing close to $20-30 million additionally.

What are the evolving opportunities you see in the digital ecosystem?

The opportunities are very clear when you analyse the macro fundamentals. From 200 million internet users, we are set to grow to 450 million users over the next 12-15 months. The confluence of video and music is very compelling and now with better access to 4G, 3G and broadband I think the macro fundamentals are very strong in terms of consumption. Companies like us are looking at building the future digital broadcast networks. 

On platforms like YouTube it can be hard to find good content because it is very vast and discovery is a problem. We are therefore looking at organizing this plethora of content for viewers by packaging content better and paralelly adding value to talent or the creators by empowering them with technology, production resources and distribution. Thus we are playing the critical role of a connector between the talent and the viewer without thrusting our brand before that of the creators. We are a creator brand first and then a consumer brand and not vice versa.

How do you plan to pursue the role of a connector?

The old philosophy used by traditional media platforms said please come to my destination. We are using our production capability, technology and distribution strength to connect the talent and the consumer and in doing so across thousands of creators and channels we are creating a digital broadcast network of the future. With regard to the business model let’s appreciate that every time you see a YouTube video I am sure you are waiting to click the skip button to avoid the ad. That space of putting an ad before the content is going to become passé. I think the real growth will come from branded content or content marketing where ads actually give way to real content to communicate the brands message. This is a multi billion dollar opportunity where brands will look towards creating talent driven content that will leverage the fan base of creators and thus deliver better engagement and reach. Research clearly shows that such ‘influencer’ based marketing is more effective than doing a plan vanilla ad.

How do you see brands employing such talent?

Brands want to employ talent to tell a story using digital influencers rather than produce just an ad. This also comes at a cheaper cost and is a win-win situation for all. So the talent benefits, we benefit as a network and the brand receives engagement and saves on cost.

Which are the genres that Qyuki is focusing on?

While music is our main focus it’s not the only thing we do. One example is a very popular show with Pooja Bedi and her daughter Aalia called Eff N Bedi. Our network consists of established artists like AR Rahman, Ranjit Barot, Salim-Sulaiman, Shweta Subram and Youtubers like Shraddha Sharma, Gaurav Dagaonkar, Siddharth Slathia and lifestyle and entertainment channels like Miss Malini, The Boss Dialogues etc. The Boss Dialogues has already moved from just being on digital to a prime time TV show on NDTV Prime and will soon have a sponsor on board. 

Who does the digital IP rest with?

There are two formats. When we produce the content we share the IP with the creator. But when the creator creates the content and we help them distribute, they retain the IP.

What are the facilities offered by Qyuki?

We have five studio facilities. Three of these are based in Mumbai and are solely designed for digital. We have in-house teams that shoot and edit content. Besides production facilities, we offer technology to distribute content online. Our network can actually help drive traffic online. The technology therefore helps in discovering and distributing content, the network helps in driving traffic and in some cases we also aid in production. We also bring in brands who are looking at communicating with audiences via digital influencers.

While audiences who come to view content online are seen as ‘snackers’ and TV viewing is seen as appointment bound, do you see this as a challenge?

Not at all! It  may be a challenge for TV producers who have to create content online or Ad film makers  who find it challenging to create content for digital and adapt to a digital scale of production vs. the significantly larger budgets they have in traditional mediums.  It’s important to remember that in digital the cost of production and quality of content are not necessarily co-related. Some of the largest content creators on Youtube have more views than large companies like Disney and Coca Cola and yet their production budgets are near zero per episode. It is hard for large scale media companies to come up with such guerilla ideas for content and frankly no one person or team can predict what can work. It needs to be something that naturally blossoms from the ecosystem. We are thus enabling and empowering the long tail of content creation to allow precisely this.

Which are these brands you have been working with?

The usual suspects! We have worked with OLX and Volkswagen and are currently working with some e-commerce labels and a major liquor brand. We are working across the spectrum in categories like automobiles, FMCG, financial services companies etc.

What is the revenue model followed by the network?

Just like a broadcast network we will have different revenue models. These models are constantly evolving and focused towards the future. One, there will be brand sponsored shows like Roadies, which was done for Hero Honda. Two, we are looking at syndicated content. For example, the way it is done via Netflix and Amazon through licensing of shows. Three, through ad funded programming. And finally the pay per download/pay per view model common to mobile operators. One has to look at all models including ad funded on YouTube.

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