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Are video selfies the next big thing after selfies? VelFie thinks so

Harshith Mallya
posted on 5th May 2015
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Image credit: Shutterstock

‘Selfie’ was Oxford dictionary’s word of the year in 2013. The popularity continued into 2014, with selfies almost replacing autographs. Ankush Johar and Rammohan Sundaram, feel that ‘video selfies’ are going to be the next rage on social media and hence co-founded #VelFie.

What is it?

‘#VelFie’ is a mobile app that lets consumers create personalized video selfies to popular dialogues and sounds and use those for personal messaging and social media. The app is being integrated into the messaging experience. It is currently available on the Android and iOS platforms. The founders confirmed that they are porting the app to work on the Windows platform as well.

#VelFie aims to sit at the junction of two massive growth engines of mobile usage - social media and messaging. Through their mobile-only platform the founders aim to empower users and help them enact songs or dialogues they love in a hassle free manner. Ram said, “All our content is under 10 seconds and abides by the fair trade law.”

The app is seeing good growth numbers with over 10,000 downloads daily since its launch almost 15 days ago, and is trending among the top three apps on Android. The apps growth is driven by users uploading their own sounds (user generated content) and then spreading it through Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, Hike, Line, Wechat, JioChat etc. #VelFie has seen good adoption across India, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey and about 150 countries. The app has categorized their content for different countries based on the popular languages prevalent there.

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L to R: Ankush Johar and Rammohan Sundaram

The duo behind it

#VelFie was co-founded by Ankush Johar and Rammohan Sundaram, and the team now consists of six people. Ankush is a British national and runs the UK-based JLloyds Group, with investments in B2B Mobile Research and Analytics and several other consumer properties with past successes of the short code 8888, which is now a Times Group property. Ram was last CEO for IbiboAds, before which he successfully exited two companies he had founded, PlatformPlay and NetworkPlay.

The team is aggressively working on the product functionality, user experience and retention metrics to further enhance and improve their product. The founders, who are successful serial entrepreneurs, are convinced that they are onto something big, and are keen to grow this into a huge social, messaging and audience platform.

Business model

The app is free to download and use. The founders aim to generate revenue through advertising, tie-ups and campaigns. A parallel effort is in place to grow adoption using alliances with:

- Consumer brands, where they aim to boost the ROI of the brands’ social media spends.

- Movies, where #VelFie aims to elevate the velocity of reach and engage users with the content of the movie before and after the release.

- Handset makers, where the app is being pre-embedded to offer a personalization experience for the user, straight out of the box.

- Messaging platforms, where the app is being natively embedded in the messaging keyboard, as audio and video emoticons.

- TV channels, where the app is being used to elevate the pitch of programming and engagement for the audience.

Others in the sector

While #VelFie can be compared to Dubsmash, they aim to differentiate themselves by offering users additional features such as the ability to pause and continue a video from where they left off and also create another frame. They are looking to leverage their understanding of the local market to offer better services. Currently, as all the content is user generated, users may see same tracks uploaded by different people. In the future, #VelFie aims to curate content and provide a better experience to the user.

Other startups that are leveraging video selfies include Frankly.me, which connects people with celebrities through videos.

Success so far

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In the last two weeks, #VelFie and the Akshay Kumar starrer, Gabbar is Back, came together to create the #GabbarVelFie contest, where users created their own video selfies to the movie’s dialogues, creating viral impact for the movie, and the winners met Akshay Kumar, won couple movie tickets and other merchandise.

The startup claims to have over 12 more movie partnerships lined up, to further amplify the growth of the platform. Bollywood stars are adopting the app, and are helping the platform grow. Akshay Kumar with over 14 million fans on FB and 8 million on Twitter, posted twice to elevate the #GabbarVelFie contest.

#VelFie also partnered with Datsun, where a song sung by AyushmannKhurana was amplified and #KuchNayaShuru the hashtag was trending on Twitter as No. 2 on the days of the campaign.

Future plans

Ankush Johar, co-founder at MobiFirst Media says:

In the long run, as we evolve in the product development life cycle, our plans are to build a social video network. Given the traction we are currently seeing, it is headed towards the direction we had envisaged. For us, consumers should be empowered in the video creation and as a platform we enable both sides of the coin, which is UGC and then subsequent sharing experiences.

Ram, for whom this is the first consumer facing business endeavor, having been largely in the advertising vertical for the last several years, felt that it has been an eye opener of sorts. He says,

When we first looked at the opportunity, we knew we had a winner at hand. However,we kept working on the product innovation, which you would see if you use our app. Features like pause and record, sound share are just one of the few we have launched with this release. With time, you will see a lot of enhancements that will make the user look like a performer, be it in looks or otherwise.

The startup is currently bootstrapped and they plan to raise funds in the next six months.

App: Android, iOS

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