Bootstrapped Comedy Munch aims to have India laughing

5th Dec 2017
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Delhi-based Comedy Munch offers amateur and professional comedians a platform to showcase their craft, and the country its dose of humour.

It was one evening in 2015 that shaped Anuj Sehgal’s new startup. Attending his first stand-up comedy show in Delhi, Anuj was inspired by the quality of the content and the kind of crowd puller it was. That got him thinking and led to the creation of Comedy Munch, an exclusive digital platform for comedy.

Then 37, Anuj had over 15 years of experience in digital marketing, strategy and operations as senior manager of business development in One97 Communications, and later as the co-founder and director of IT solutions company Inavit Digital.

Comedy Munch curates content and showcases it on the platform. It also organises and helps comedians participate in open mic events, and talent hunt programmes and shows in colleges, cafes and auditoriums.

Making the idea work

The team at Comedy Munch scouts promising talent, and candidates are given a platform to work on both online and offline shows. The company holds the intellectual property rights for all such content. “We have an app and a YouTube channel where we post those videos. For regional content, we have partnered with production houses to curate the content,” says Anuj.

When Comedy Munch started out, there were few players in the market, which worked in the team’s favour, after some initial bumps along the road. At that point in time, larger entertainment networks had not launched their mobile apps and Star Network’s Hotstar had just launched.

There were no players in the comedy space then, and while some shows did showcase stand-up comedy, they were mostly in regional languages. Online comedy content was only in the form of All India Backchod (AIB) and The Viral Fever (TVF).

As he researched the market, Anuj realised amateur comedians from cities like Mumbai could get shows, “But what about people from smaller cities? There was no platform for aspirants,” he says.

It was then that Anuj thought of tying up with telecom operators to launch Comedy Munch as an inbuilt platform in their apps. The team at Comedy Munch, however, continued working on building an independent app.

“The initial objective of Comedy Munch was to power subscription services along with telecom operators in the country with unique content on comedy. Gradually, it took the shape of a business to consumer brand, and powering over-the-top or OTT, players with the comedy genre, extending to live comedy events, and creating a comedy brand,” adds Anuj.

Team at Comedy Munch

Roping in Amit Tandon

Initially focussing on stand-up comedy, Anuj reached out to different comedians to discuss the idea of Comedy Munch. It was during this process that he met Amit Tandon, a well-known comic, who was doing comedy shows for over five years. “We met many times on discussions over a coffee on the scope of comedy, and the gaps we could fill in,” says Anuj.

While Anuj had experience in monetisation and distribution, Amit had experience in the comedy space and content creation. The duo joined hands and started Comedy Munch. Based in Delhi, Comedy Munch is a part of Nasscom’s 10,000 startups programme.

Bootstrapped, the duo initially pooled in a combined capital of Rs 50 lakh from their personal savings.

The challenges of bootstrapping

The first year of operations was the toughest. There was no product or sales team, and the platform was still being built. It took a year for it to go live, both on YouTube and on the app. The team burned through the capital, but revenue from ads on the platform helped with customer acquisition, and cash flows soon stabilised.

“Parallelly, we kept on creating the content, enabled YouTube to showcase some content to the world, and app downloads started growing rapidly and organically,” adds Anuj.

The business model is subscription-based with telecom operators billing content distribution, through advertisements, offline ticket sales for live comedy shows, and corporate shows. The team claims to power the comedy genre on digital properties of large OTT players, telecom providers, handset players, mobile browsers etc.

The team currently works with mobile players like Micromax, Intex, web browsers like Cheetah, and UC Browser, and telecom players like Airtel, Idea, Vodafone and Aircel. Comedy Munch has also been roped in by Ola Play.

The numbers and market

While Anuj did not divulge fees, and revenue numbers, over the last two years, he said the company has garnered over 85,000 YouTube subscribers, with over 13 million views. The Comedy Munch app has seen over two lakh downloads on PlayStore and has 3.5 lakh paid subscribers through telecom subscriptions. The company says it has a month-on-month revenue growth of 25 percent.

As per Forrester Research, the amount of revenue a one-minute video makes is worth over 1.8 million words of text. From $720 million in 2013 to $1.5 billion in 2015, the global video market continues to grow rapidly.

Major players in the space include Nirvana Digital, Qyuki, Pepper Media, Ping Digital, #fame, and One Digital Entertainment, among others. Nirvana Digital has 200 YouTube channels and over 50,000 videos and distributes its content to video platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple’s iTunes mobile apps and devices.

Qyuki is YouTube certified and backed by stalwarts like Shekhar Kapur, AR Rahman, and Samir Bangara. Ping Digital is one of India’s largest food networks with over 1,000 food videos. #fame, previously Famebox, raised its second round of funding of $10 million in January 2015 from existing investor and stakeholder digital media firm To The New Ventures (TTN Ventures).

The firm had previously secured $3 million from TTN in a seed round. Players purely focused on comedy include Pocket Aces, AIB and TVF.

In terms of future plans, Anuj says Comedy Munch plans to focus on companies and brands, and strengthen relationships with comics. “We want to be a one-stop shop for comedy videos, live events, brand extension, and companies, while expanding the marketplace for amateur comics. We want to target the Indian diaspora in Southeast Asia and be the default destination for comedy,” he concludes.

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