Influencer marketing ready to explode in India: ClanConnect's Kunal Kishore Sinha

ClanConnect claims to be India's first and only AI-driven influencer marketing agency.

MUMBAI: Even as the economy and businesses were reeling under the global upheaval in 2020, there were some that saw an opportunity in the disruption and took off during this tumultuous period. One such business was ClanConnect, a start-up born during the lockdown. Inspired by the growing investor interest in the digital and influencer marketing sector and the sustained visibility of brands on it during the lockdown, the ClanConnect team decided to take the plunge six months earlier than they had initially planned. In an in-depth conversation with’s Anupama Sajeet, ClanConnect COO and co-founder Kunal Kishore Sinha talked about the booming influencer marketing industry, the impact of the recent ASCII guidelines, and how the fledgling firm plans to transform the digital marketing landscape with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Edited excerpts:

On ClanConnect’s business model and what it means to be ‘India’s only AI-driven influencer marketing agency’.

Influencer Marketing (IM) is in its infancy in India right now. It has opened up lots of opportunities for brands to connect with their consumers. But, it remains largely unorganised, which also led to fraudulent activities as creators began exploring unethical means to increase their followers. There was no scientific method to decide which influencer would be most suitable for a brand or campaign.

We started ClanConnect to make this entire process more scientific with the help of machine learning. We came up with a marketplace where a brand has all possible tools to discover the right influencer for its campaign, engage with them online and also help them to manage its entire end-to-end campaign in an automated form.

The technology engine is an amalgamation of some of the leading influencers across scale, categories, and geographies. Our AI recommendation tool can pull out any data point of any influencer with a following of more than 1000, across any geography in less than 24 hours. It also distinguishes between genuine and fake followers. We are trying to build an ecosystem where technology becomes the big differentiator.

On the size of the influencer-driven market in India and globally.

A global survey done by Business Insider on 5,000 marketers showed that 80 per cent of the marketers budgeted 10 per cent of their total advertising spend in influencer marketing. Globally, the influencer marketing spend was $9.7 billion for 2020 and it is expected to go up to $13.8 billion in 2021. It can be more in the case of some categories like online gaming. In 2019, the ad spend on gaming influencers in the US was $849 million. In India, companies engaging in mobile phones, automobiles, fashion, lifestyle, entertainment use a huge chunk of their ad spend on this segment.

Two platforms have emerged in a big way – Twitch, an online game streaming company, and TikTok, though the latter has been banned in India. There are Indian companies like Rooter which provide a platform for online gamers to stream their game. With the increasing number of user-generated content platforms, there will be more and more content creators and this will translate into more advertising budgets. So this market is only going to explode.

On the Tiktok ban effect.

We were going live with our Instagram and YouTube and our next platform was TikTok. But, by the time we were ready with the TikTok platform engagement, it was banned and our six months of technology development work went down the drain. By far, TikTok is leading in the global IM space in terms of ad marketing spend. We are hopeful that other equivalent players will emerge. In short video format, we already have Instagram Reels, Mitron, Chingari, Moj, and some other local players. Each of them has some share of the market. The scale of the market is huge and I am sure brands are not going to wait to invest in it.

On the new ASCII guidelines and challenges it entails for the industry.

ASCII came out with these policies because they realised that influencer marketing was becoming a mainstream advertising space. We welcome this move because it highlights the potential of this market. We do not expect the guidelines to affect the influencer business per se, because most influencers anyways tag the brand while sharing a post. Instagram had, in fact, started this concept of tagging the brand when it’s a paid content much before ASCII came out with the policy.

Also, I do not think any brand wishes to short-change their users by pushing something as organic when it’s a paid content. The influencers too want to ensure authenticity in their content. Now, if the influencer can provide visibility and awareness to a product that helps translate into sales, it generates RoI. It does not change if they mark it as a sponsored content. I believe this is going to help the market to become better. The problem, however, lies in implementation as there is still a grey area as to what is organic and what is paid content. How will you define the transaction between two parties when it’s a self-regulatory guideline? That will be a challenge for ASCII.

On the way ahead for digital IM trend for consumers and brands.

We are starting to see brands – be it hotels or cruise companies – who want to get their customers back after a year of bad business and less revenue. But they want to do it at a cost that has a larger RoI. They are following a cautious, focused approach. We have also had brands that had not experimented with influencer marketing until the lockdown happened. They saw the impact of the campaign on digital and increased their budget for influencer marketing.

There are many young start-up d2c (direct to customer) brands, whose influencer spend is as much as 50 per cent of their total marketing spend. This is only going to grow. The pandemic opened up opportunities, which were previously not considered by the brand managers. Even in a back to pre-Covid scenario, the immersive valuation that an influencer could bring about a product or service would be difficult to achieve through say, an outdoor campaign, internet banner, or a newspaper ad. So there will always be space for all categories of advertising, including influencer marketing, in times to come. And just like digital marketing fought for its place in the past, this is a digital disruption that will eventually become the mainstay.

Latest Reads
Adani Wilmar IPO to open on 27 January

Mumbai: Edible oil major Adani Wilmar Ltd has announced that it will open for public subscription next week on 27 January and conclude on 31 January.  The price band of the issue has been fixed at Rs 218 to Rs 230 per equity share of the face value of one rupee each for its Rs 3,600 crore initial...

MAM Marketing MAM
Oyo launches new campaign capturing pulse of today’s travellers

Mumbai: Hotel booking platform Oyo has launched a multi-film brand campaign that will be visible across television, social media, OTT platforms, etc through January and February. The brand film features Bollywood actors such as Gul Panag, Kalki Koechlin, Chitrangada Singh and Kunal Kapoor, who...

MAM Media and Advertising Ad Campaigns
ET Medialabs bags performance branding mandate for Kapiva

Mumbai: Growth marketing and analytics company ET MediaLabs has announced its collaboration with Kapiva, a modern Ayurvedic D2C nutrition brand. The association will strengthen Kapiva’s performance branding services with an aim to build awareness and eventually amplify and retain the loyal customer...

MAM Media and Advertising Account
TBO Tek rebrands itself as

Mumbai: Global travel distribution platform has unveiled its new expression of customer-centric brand name, logo, tagline and brand identity as The customer-centric brand name along with the tagline is now: -Travel Simplified.

MAM Marketing MAM
Bira 91 partners with boAt to launch 'Boom' audio collection

Mumbai: Bira 91 and earwear brand boAt have come together to launch an exclusive ‘Boom’ limited-edition collection of audio devices. The 'Boom' collection will be available exclusively on Bira 91’s Merch store and the boAt website starting 20 January.

MAM Marketing MAM
Shauvik Ghosh joins KnowledgeHut as PR & communications head

Mumbai: KnowledgeHut, a Bangalore-based short-duration skills provider has appointed Shauvik Ghosh as head of PR and corporate communications. The appointment is part of the ed-tech start-up's plans to aggressively expand its business and drive growth in its business across its domestic and...

MAM Media and Advertising People
LML partners with former Harley Davidson manufacturing facility in India

MUMBAI : Laying the groundwork for a long-term future in the EV business in India, LML Electric on Thursday announced a strategic partnership with Saera Electric Auto, which formerly handled manufacturing for global major – Harley Davidson.

MAM Marketing Brands
Levi's Music Project partners with Ritviz & Kayan for India edition

Fashion clothing brand Levi’s has announced its partnership with Ritviz and Kayan for the India edition of its music enablement project – The Levi’s Music Project.

MAM Marketing MAM
Trell announces ‘Fashion Democrazy Sale’ to celebrate Republic Day

Mumbai: To celebrate the freedom of choice and expression, homegrown lifestyle social commerce platform Trell has announced its 'Fashion Democrazy Sale' which offers attractive discounts of up to 70 per cent on all things fashion and lifestyle.

MAM Marketing MAM

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required