Mumbai: NOFILTR Group is an influencer marketing agency that was conceptualised and co-founded by Sumedh Chaphekar. The agency saw the first light of dawn on 21 September 2017 when the marketing dynamics in India were undergoing a tectonic shift and social media had gradually begun to occupy centre stage, grabbing the spotlight. At that exact moment, Chaphekar hit the hammer on the anvil by signing with the first influencer and laying the foundation for the NOFILTR.Group.
By creating the enigmatic synthesis between influencers and brands, NOFILTR works towards intelligibly devising a network that enables the marriage of personal expression and thought-provoking content that has the ability to hook onlookers at every level of the marketing experience. In a nutshell, NOFILTR connects brands to influencers, who creatively connect with the brand’s target audience, by enticing onlookers with a plethora of services that include personal branding, content creation and curation, influencer marketing, brand collaboration, and campaign design, coupled with the total execution and analysis of the entire activity.
Today, NOFILTR.Group graduates beyond the capacity of a typical influencer marketing and management company. Apart from providing content creators with facilities like brand collaboration and management, content ideation, growth mapping, and production team support, NOFILTR invests in the dreams of content creators, helping them to make them a reality.
Presently, the company has exclusively signed up 39 content creators. Some of the names are Awez Darbar, Nagma Mirajkar, The Mermaid Scales (Krutika), Mr. MNV, and Aashna Hegde. NOFILTR.Group has also joined hands with celebrated YouTubers like Angry Prash and Funcho. The list grows as NOFILTR continues to mine for promising influencers who are on the verge of rising to their true potential.
Indiantelevision.com caught up with NOFILTR.Group partner chief marketing officer Hitarth Dadia. His role involves optimising business collaborations and creating a profitable entrepreneurial blueprint for the influencers collaborating with NOFILTR.Group. While driving profits for the company remains a mainstay, Dadia works closely with the creative departments and plays an instrumental role in charting out the detailed insights in public relations and branding for the influencers. Armed with foresight and a market-savvy streak, he invests in a dint of hard work, giving NOFILTR.Group the edge it has today. He joined NOFILTR.Group as a sales intern and advanced onwards into the role of a business development head before taking over as the chief marketing officer.
His accomplishments at NOFILTR.Group involve fruitful collaborations with international brands of repute. Some of these brands include Cadbury and Amazon Pay. While working with these brands, Dadia creatively coupled his insights in sales and marketing to garner the required traction for these brands on group media. He's also worked extensively with reputed group media applications like Snapchat.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Dadia received her education from a prominent convent school. Being an introvert, he later slipped into his comfort zone during his years at Somaiya College. Soon after, he graduated in banking and insurance from Mithibai College in Mumbai, where he experienced a monumental personality shift for the positive.
Dadia worked extensively towards overcoming all the blocks that would inhibit his growth. He worked at a multinational bank for a year to gain experience in the banking industry. Creativity took a back seat while working at the bank, but the experience helped him garner insight into the organisational hierarchy and structure.
Being an avid reader has worked to his advantage. His passion for non-fiction has enabled him to borrow all the positive attributes from the role models who we look up to today.
On the market gap that was seen when NOFILTR launched in 2017
In 2017, there wasn’t much activity happening. There were a few people on a platform called AskFM. There were a few individuals who were gaining more than usual attention on social media. They were getting more and more relevant. What we understood is that brands do not understand getting people as influencers who are not traditional celebrities. Because of platforms like Instagram, we felt that these people would become more relevant. When we started, hardly any brands were interested in working with individuals who were not celebrities. But as time went on, awareness grew about the importance of influencers and things started building.
On the USP of NOFILTR
We are very focused. It is very easy to get distracted in this space. Technically, we are in the management and advertising businesses. Eventually, you land in the merchandising and brand-building business. Our focus is on incubating talented individuals who can be very effective influencers for brands. The focus is that if an individual is very talented, we will help that person. We are not very advertising-oriented. We are very influencer-oriented. We focus on what is best for talent. So let us say a brand is willing to pay a very high sum of money for an influencer, but it is not the right fit for the creator’s long-term goal and growth. We are not an ad company that does one campaign and moves on. We think long-term.
On the key learnings so far
There is no one formula. Influencer marketing is not about products. It is about human beings. There is no manufacturing blueprint. Every day will be different. Each influencer is different and highly opinionated. You have to make sure that an economy is built around them and not on them.
On the impact of covid
The first lockdown was a surprise in the grand scheme of things. We tried to figure out how to work through the new environment. Marketing was the first thing to take a hit. When you are trying to survive, you do not want to spend. But in the long term, when I retrospectively look at it, covid has sped up the industry. It was a very good thing for the industry. More people are focused on consuming their preferred content, and others are focused on creating their own content.
On the company's outlook before partnering with an influencer
A bunch of things. First, we meet them to get an idea about how passionate they are. This is not conventional work. This is an extremely new space. You put your personality out there. We look at how willing they are to give it their all and how original they are not just in terms of content, but how true to themselves they are and how strong their identity is.
On the rising number of NOFILTR's exclusive influencers
We started with four creators. Now we are at 40. We work with them exclusively. They create content in areas including entertainment, fashion, lifestyle, dance, comedy, etc.
On the influencer marketing's trends
At least for the next 12 months, a lot of creators will become entrepreneurs. They will start on their own. Over a span of say five years, they have been interacting with brands. They have learned how to build their own brand and I think that over time you understand what you personally like, and prefer. They are themselves brands and I think that people are just to realise that. They are taking this space more and more seriously and are coming up with their own projects which are not just about ads or entertainment.
On the business model
We sign a creator who works exclusively with us. They create content. We help them with the business aspect of things like travel and business production. Doing this helps our creators put the best content out there.
On the recent work
For Diwali, we did a bunch of campaigns with companies like Gold and Coca-Cola. We have a NOFILTR Escapes division where tourism boards partner with our influencers. Influencers are taken to international destinations. This IP allowed creators to create content in different environments. The creators get to travel and create content. The tourism board gets more awareness. It is a successful IP that we have been working on for a while now. There are a bunch of projects in the works now. We will create IPs for our company and also creator IPs. We are working on three to four creator IPs and a bunch of IPs for the company. The creator IPs will leverage the skills of a particular creator.
On the platform Creator 21
Initially, we only worked with five creators. We just adopted them. This is not a conventional line of work. These are 18- to 23-year-old kids. We put in a lot of time, effort, and resources, and the creators succeeded. A lot of other creators wanted to sign with us. But giving so much attention to more and more people was not feasible. So we started another company to help creators with the business aspect of things. We help creators with their businesses and give them the tools to succeed. Brands want more and more influencers. If we also had more people on our roster, it would definitely help. The goal is to help more creators and access more brands.
On the hand holding that NOFILTR does with influencers, given that social media platforms keep tweaking their algorithms
Initially, two years ago, this was the case. The space was relatively new. Now it is a self-sustaining model where their circle can help them out.
On the goals set for 2023 by NOFILTR
There are a bunch of things. We want to make sure that we are helping as many people as possible in the content creation and self-expression space. We want to help the wackiest of creators. We have unconventional things in the works.
On the various metrics that companies use to check the ROI of influencer marketing
There are a bunch of things. There are KPIs and click-through rates. We do not work on deals like that. People will buy a product if it is good. We can give awareness of a product. We check the engagement level with a piece of content.
On the whitespace in tier II, III towns and cities
Vernacular content is growing in importance. This is usually the TG for a lot of FMCG and commercial brands. A lot of niches are forming in tier II and tier III audiences. Brands are diving deeper into assessing and targeting these grounds. People are becoming more aware of different sections of brands or different sections of the community.
On whether companies have misconceptions when it comes to influencer marketing
The situation today is much better in this respect. Earlier, people saw influencer marketing as being a product or a billboard. Today, that is not the case. If the influencer does not believe in your brand, they should have the freedom to choose. This aspect is also better. Brands do not usually focus on individuals who are extremely creative. They have to be creative, or else, you will not be relevant on social media. So brands should give influencers not just money but also creative freedom because they know their audience the best.
On what one needs to keep in mind when using social media platforms like Instagram for influencer marketing
You have to be very mindful when talking about things. You have to dive deep. You have to be aware. One creator has close to 25 million followers on Instagram, which is more than the city's population. As an audience, you have to be mindful of who you follow. Watch enough 30-second videos and you will form an opinion. It is a good thing that Instagram is moving towards video. Video can tell better stories than pictures. It cannot be a one-sided conversation.
On the growing importance of short-form video in influencer marketing
This is a separate skill by itself. You have to be quick and very valuable when telling a story. Long-form allows you to tell a story and develop an intention, cause, and effect. We know that attention spans are going towards short forms. It is about getting a tiny gist or a teaser. It makes more sense for brands to put in more money and for platforms to put more resources into short-form content. It is still a little underdeveloped. Better storytelling can happen there. I am extremely excited to see where the short-form format goes in terms of storytelling. If you can tell a good story in 30 seconds, you are a legend.
On whether LinkedIn is playing a role when it comes to influencer marketing in the B2B space
It is an undervalued platform, if I am being very honest. For finding the right talent and the right team members, nothing has proven to be better than LinkedIn in the B2B space. If you have a project that requires multiple brands and agencies to be in the picture, the goal for us has been to use LinkedIn to find the right individual to talk to. LinkedIn has not been disappointing at all. It would be nice if more and more brands got involved. If brands were more accessible on LinkedIn, they would definitely find the right audience to promote their products. LinkedIn does have creators, but they are highly opinionated and entrepreneurial.
On the challenge of using Twitter, which has a lot of noise
Twitter and Reddit are examples of platforms that are highly opinionated. A lot of noise comes with that. People agree and disagree. You need to be more aware of navigating those platforms. Things can get real on Twitter, and things can get extremely useless as well. Creators have to be mindful of what is being put out. Twitter and Reddit, in the right hands, are beautiful tools. It can help you figure out the trends that will come here in the next three to four months. You have to follow the right kinds of conversations and that will tell you what will happen. These platforms can be indispensable. We offer suggestions based on these platforms. We know what they are going for.
On Elon Musk's owning of Twitter
I am very excited about Elon Musk owning it. There are not a lot of billionaires who are relatable. Elon is extremely relatable. Platforms need a good shakeup every now and then for people to care about them. More people will take Twitter seriously.
On the expansion plans abroad
Our goal is not to be restricted to one domain in terms of platforms, countries, and culture. We want to bring in the best of every space and domain. We want to get better stuff to the crowd here. You cannot set stonewalls on the kind of content you consume or the things you read that are counterintuitive to cultural development. We want to get different perspectives here, and then people will form their niches and form their views on that.
On the potential of the Metaverse
We are working on projects in this area. We are in the initial stages of the Metaverse. It is going to lead to something else. People right now want to understand it out of FOMO. But if you dive deep, it is a beautiful place for identity and self-expression. You can be whoever you want to be there. In terms of self-expression, you will not be restricted to a particular domain.