"We're exploring ancient Indian mythology for original IPs": Rusk Media’s Ajit Manerikar

"We're exploring ancient Indian mythology for original IPs": Rusk Media’s Ajit Manerikar

Over the next five years, we aim to expand to 100 plus diverse IPs, catering to trending themes.

Ajit Manerikar

Mumbai: For Gen-Z, it's always a mix of snackable entertainment and quick bites of captivating content that fuel their digital cravings. Understanding this appetite, Rusk Media, a Gen-Z first mobile entertainment company, delivers premium social and OTT video IPs tailored to their tastes. Some of their shows include Playground – a gaming entertainment championship, Roomies, Dude, Couple Goals, Date with Senior, and more.

Spearheading Rusk's journey into the heart of Gen-Z storytelling, Ajit Manerikar, Sr VP of production & commercials, orchestrates a team of passionate storytellers dedicated to weaving data-driven narratives that resonate with the digital generation.

Indiantelevision.com caught up with Manerikar to gain more insights on Gen-Z’s behavioural trends, the studios’ upcoming projects or collaborations, Rusk's strategy of blending TV-style storytelling with snackable content, and more…

Edited Excerpts:

On Rusk Studios’ inspiration to focus on becoming a Gen-Z first mobile entertainment company and the behavioural patterns of Gen-Z audiences that Rusk Studios has observed

Rusk Studios was inspired to focus on becoming a Gen-Z first mobile entertainment company due to the significant shifts in digital behavior observed in recent years. With the explosion of internet and smartphone penetration, there has been a notable trend of individuals, particularly young adults belonging to Generation Z and Alpha, gravitating towards consuming content on their personal screens.

This surge in mobile entertainment consumption prompted the emergence of a new industry, where content began to be predominantly consumed on mobile devices. Recognizing this trend, we identified a crucial gap in the market – despite the abundance of content available, younger audiences were largely consuming content that was created for older demographics. This presented an opportunity for us to cater specifically to the preferences and interests of Gen-Z audiences.

Today, as the largest Gen-Z/A focused mobile entertainment company in India, we have strategically positioned ourselves to deliver premium serialized content across various platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and OTTs. Our content spans diverse genres including fiction and non-fiction, and encompasses both short and long-form video formats. By aligning our content offerings with the behavioral patterns and preferences of Gen-Z audiences, we have successfully carved a niche for ourselves in the competitive landscape of mobile entertainment.

On Rusk Media navigating the ever-evolving landscape of digital entertainment

At Rusk Media, we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of digital entertainment by staying closely connected to our audience. With a robust presence across four major social media platforms and nearly 20 million subscribers, we're continually tuned into what content our target audience is consuming. Each month, our channels collectively amass an impressive one billion views, giving us invaluable insights into audience preferences and trends.

Moreover, our dedicated research and analytics team gathers industry insights, allowing us to stay ahead of the curve. By combining these first-hand observations with comprehensive data analysis, we develop content that is not only relevant but also resonates deeply with our audience, particularly Gen Z.

Our focus lies in creating premium, snackable content tailored to the preferences of today's audiences, who often have shorter attention spans. By crafting themes and storylines that resonate with our viewers, we strive to offer entertainment experiences that captivate and engage, ensuring that Rusk Media remains at the forefront of digital entertainment.

On upcoming projects or collaborations that Rusk is particularly excited about

We're thrilled about several upcoming projects and collaborations at Rusk Media. While we're excited to announce new seasons of our popular shows like School Friends, Couple Goals, and Playground, we're also venturing into exciting new territories this fiscal year. One area of focus is our expansion into content based on real-life stories, biographies, and docu-dramas. We believe in the power of authentic storytelling to captivate and inspire our audience, and we're eager to bring compelling narratives to life on screen.

Additionally, we're delving into the rich reservoir of ancient Indian mythology to develop original intellectual properties (IPs). Drawing from this vast and culturally significant source material, we aim to create innovative and immersive storytelling experiences that resonate with audiences both locally and globally.

These projects reflect our commitment to diversifying our content offerings and exploring new creative avenues. We can't wait to share these exciting ventures with our audience and partners alike.

On Rusk ensuring its content resonates with audiences across different regions and demographics

Ensuring that our content resonates with diverse audiences across different regions and demographics is a key priority for Rusk Media. While our primary audience largely consists of the 15-30-year-old demographic from North India, predominantly Hindi-speaking markets, we understand the importance of catering to a variety of tastes and preferences.

With successful scripted IPs such as Dude, Couple Goals, School Friends, and Playground, we've already established a strong connection with our target audience. These shows have resonated well with our audience, providing us with valuable insights into their preferences.  To continue engaging with our audience and staying relevant in the ever-changing landscape, we focus on creating content that reflects the top genres and themes of the time. Whether it's romance, a slice of life, friendship, or aspiration, we ensure that our content addresses themes that have demonstrated strong acceptability and watch time among our audience.

By remaining attentive to audience feedback and trends, we strive to produce content that not only entertains but also deeply connects with viewers across different regions and demographics. This approach allows us to maintain a strong rapport with our audience while adapting to their evolving needs and interests.

On Rusk's strategy of blending TV-style storytelling with snackable content for a holistic viewing experience

At Rusk Media, our strategy revolves around crafting storytelling experiences that resonate with Gen-Z audiences. As the saying goes, "Don't just do it, be it." We believe in immersing ourselves in the issues, concerns, and motivations of Gen Z, ensuring that our content reflects their worldview authentically. Recognising the infamous short attention spans of Gen Z, we've embraced the concept of snackable content, typically lasting around 15 minutes. This format allows us to deliver engaging stories in a manner that aligns seamlessly with our audience's preferences.

When it comes to incorporating "TV-style storytelling" into our approach, we're focused on creating multi-episode, multi-season franchises that provide a holistic viewing experience. While the term "TV-style telling" often refers to content with extended narratives and the potential for franchise expansion, we prioritise developing relatable characters and compelling storylines that viewers will want to revisit time and again.

Whether it's a finite series or a multi-season franchise, we aim to captivate audiences with characters and narratives that leave a lasting impression. By blending TV-style storytelling with snackable content, we offer viewers the best of both worlds: familiar storytelling formats presented in an easily consumable manner, akin to enjoying a quick snack!

On Rusk staying ahead of emerging trends in digital entertainment, and the role you see technology playing in the future of content creation

Staying ahead of emerging trends in digital entertainment is a cornerstone of Rusk Media's strategy. With a substantial presence across four social media channels, boasting close to 20 million subscribers and over one billion monthly views, we have firsthand insights into the content preferences of our target audience.

Our research and analytics team diligently gathers industry insights, enabling us to develop content that is not only relevant and relatable but also resonates deeply with Gen Z—the primary demographic we cater to. By focusing on top genres and themes like romance, slice of life, friendship, and aspiration, we ensure that our content maintains strong acceptability and watch time among our audience, predominantly 15-30-year-old males from North India's Hindi-speaking markets.

As digital natives themselves, Gen Z expects personalised and real-time content experiences. To meet this demand, we leverage AI-led solutions to understand their dynamics and preferences better. From AI-driven content recommendations to influencer culture shaping consumption patterns, we closely follow these trends to anticipate and adapt to emerging shifts in the digital entertainment landscape.

Moreover, we recognise the transformative role of technology, particularly AI, in content creation. Gen Z's affinity for digital expression and creativity is complemented by AI-driven photo and video editing tools, empowering them to produce high-quality content for social media platforms. Additionally, innovations like "Sora" and other text-to-video AI apps herald a new class of entertainment experiences, which we are eager to explore and integrate into our content offerings.

By embracing technology and closely monitoring emerging trends, we position ourselves to deliver innovative and engaging content experiences that resonate with our audience and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving digital entertainment landscape.

On Rusk Media’s future plans

Our future plans at Rusk Media are centered around continued growth and expansion across multiple fronts. Firstly, we aim to further enhance our IP library by adding to our existing repertoire of over 20 premium IPs. Over the next five years, our goal is to grow this collection to encompass more than 100 diverse and compelling IPs, catering to a wide range of trending content themes.

In addition to strengthening our content portfolio, we are committed to extending our presence across all major platforms in India, both social media and OTT. By maximising our reach and accessibility, we ensure that our content reaches audiences wherever they are, fostering deeper engagement and connection with our brand.

Furthermore, we have ambitious plans to take our IPs global, leveraging their universal appeal to reach audiences beyond Indian shores. By expanding our footprint internationally, we not only broaden our audience base but also establish Rusk Media as a recognised player in the global entertainment landscape.

These strategic initiatives reflect our commitment to innovation, growth, and delivering high-quality content experiences to audiences worldwide. We're excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to realising our vision for Rusk Media's future.