It all began during a brainstorming session at a small apartment in Wadala with two big names in the entertainment business: Shekhar Kapur and A.R. Rahman. Samir Bangara and Sagar Gokhale, two acquaintances were planning to start a venture of their own. They saw that there was a great opportunity in the space of content creation and distribution.
Sagar says that the costing, distribution and marketing of the content is an entirely new paradigm that is dominated by the evolving preferences of the 13-to-24 years age group. This gave birth to Qyuki, a creator-based digital multi-channel broadcast network.
Go to market
After testing the team went live with their re-launched platform in March 2014. Qyuki currently claims to be working with over 250 artistes across the country. Sagar says, "There is a reason why we like to define ourselves as creator-based. To us at Qyuki, the creator is at the core of our business. Our aim as a company is to develop an ecosystem that enables artistes to leverage Internet to reach out to and influence the widest base of audience possible."
Sagar had spent over 13 years in the television industry with big names like UTV, Times Group and Network 18. Samir, on the other hand, was in the venture capital, investment banking business and had a long stint running digital businesses like Indiagames and Disney Digital. He also was an angel investor for several startups.
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The team initially began with a focus on music as a vertical. Sagar adds that every popular Indian musician with an online presence, has signed up with Qyuki. As a platform, Sagar says that Qyuki unlike other networks focusses strongly on the creator base in a cross media play. While anchored on a digital platform, it has influence and monetisation streams in several offline engagement models. Sagar says they're producing a film, doing TV shows, live events and several other branded content.
This is a technology-based content business, which means that while the consumer end ‘looks like’ any large content network the back-end is entirely powered by big data analytics, recommendation engines and audience analytics. "It’s an entirely new way of looking at the media business and we believe that the Internet and video are synonymous – hence everything we do is expressed in video as a format," says Sagar.
The team has built infrastructure around the cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. Qyuki also has a studio in Dharavi, built specifically to help hone and develop talent available in the region.
Traction and growth
With tie-ups with Fullscreen, a Los Angeles-based media organisation, Sagar says that Qyuki has a massive growth potential. He claims that Qyuki has over a billion lifetime views on their network of over 200 channels with a run rate of about 100 million views per month.
He estimates that on a non de-duplicated basis they have about 60 to 70 million monthly active viewers spending about half-a-billion minutes of watch time every month. "Some of the top channels on our network include Shraddha Sharma, Sanam Band, Powerdrift, Funk You with some of traditional media’s biggest stars including AR Rahman, Salim Suleiman, Clinton Cerejo and others," adds Sagar.
Team and challenges
A big challenge has been evangelising the new model with creators and advertisers. Sagar adds that in the West, the creators predated the MCNs. In India, he says, we are developing in parallel.
"Interestingly, I think the audiences are clearly showing their preference in the type of content and creators they love – just look at the mix of viral content today and it will be obvious," says Sagar. However, he also believes there’s a lag between early adoption and mass adoption."We intend to be at the cusp of this rising tide where millenials and Gen Z drive mass consumer internet growth and in turn mass consumption of entertainment content,” he says.
Apart from Sagar, Samir, with Shekhar Kapur and A.R. Rahman on advisory levels, the team has Juhi who heads branded-content sales and has a background in radio and events. Just prior to Qyuki, she headed brand solutions at Talenthouse, a JV with Reliance Entertainment.
Anand straddles multiple roles in the company as a product guy, artiste manager and network business development. He is a techie who worked with Samir at Indiagames on their erstwhile rural gaming initiative.
Funding and future
All co-founders have invested in the company in their personal capacity. "We have built a fairly significant business and we are currently closing a Series A," adds Sagar.
One of the first goals of the team is to grow 10x in the next few months. The team intends to add more genres, channels, better fill rates and deeper engagement with brands and offline monetisation.