Instagram outlines India plans, to tap into local creators and communities through major initiatives

‘Creators’ have emerged as a goldmine for global tech companies in India. After YouTube and TikTok, Instagram is launching new initiatives to unearth and engage with local talent, and help people turn their passions into livelihoods.
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Instagram will be a decade old in 2020. 

Even though its founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, exited their active roles at the Facebook-owned company in 2018, current executives believe that the “culture” they brought about continues to define Instagram. 

“It is a nice, warm, and relaxed vibe - the Insta vibe,” said a top-ranking Facebook official as we stepped into the inaugural Instagram Experience (IGX) event in India. 

IGX is Instagram’s flagship event to “celebrate, discover, and showcase” creators and communities on its platform. 

It is also at the core of what the company plans to achieve in India going ahead. 

Like some of its Silicon Valley peers, Instagram is increasing its focus on local “creators” or independent content producers - from fashion vloggers and travel photographers to comedians and film stars. 

“IGX is an attempt to bring you closer to the people and things you love. India at large will feel what users on Instagram feel: passionate, engaged, and authentic,” Vishal Shah, VP - Product, Instagram, told a select media gathering. 

The aim is to unearth and engage with local creative talent, and enable smaller creators achieve visibility on a national level.

Helping people create businesses out of passions

The company unveiled its ‘Born on Instagram’ initiative, where 250 Indian creators will lead, mentor and offer collaboration opportunities to other users. 

These creators include actors Taapsee Pannu and Priya Varrier, online celebrities Mallika Dua, Pooja Dhingra, and Savi & Vid from Bruised Passports, and even regional celebrities like Guru Randhawa, Nusrat Jehan, Kajal Aggarwal, and others.

Instagram will take the initiative to 15 Indian cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, and even smaller towns like Guwahati, Patna, and Bhubaneshwar.

Manish Chopra, Facebook's Director and Head of Partnerships in India, said,

“Instagram is spurring incredible new livelihoods every day. Today, ‘creator’ and ‘influencer’ are legitimate professions that we couldn’t think of a decade ago. ‘Born on Instagram’ will help people create businesses around their passions.”

Vishal, who’s been instrumental in Instagram’s product design globally, concurred. He said, “We realised that our community is greater than the product [Instagram].” 

‘Born on Instagram’ will, of course, reflect India’s diverse cultures and numerous passions from food to fashion and give representation to urban and regional trends. It will be as multi-hued and “vibrant” as India is, the company said.

Influencing users’ buying decisions

Interestingly, ‘Born on Instagram’ is being seen as a successor to Branded Content Ads - a feature Instagram launched earlier in 2019. 

It allows businesses and advertisers to reach out to audiences better by promoting creators' branded content as feed and Stories ads

More than 60 percent of businesses on Instagram are already using interactive elements like Polls and Stickers in Stories to create ads, the company revealed.

Swiggy [and other food brands] is a great example of that,” Vishal said. 

He added,

“Almost 95 percent of our one-billion-plus users make buying decisions based on what they come across on Instagram. ‘Born on Instagram’ will make it even easier for businesses on the platform to build trust with their users.”

Out of this one billion, 500 million are daily active users on Stories. There are more posts on Stories than on the feed now.

Challenging stereotypes, enabling a ‘kinder’ environment

Besides ‘Born on Instagram’, Instagram is also rolling out the ‘Unlabel’ content series in India in partnership with Yuvaa (a homegrown youth media platform). 

The series will feature videos of young Indians challenging stereotypes and expressing their authentic selves.

Instagram has already tapped into a bunch of local LGBTQ activists and human rights storytellers for the purpose. ‘Unlabel’ will address issues from mental health and gender-based discrimination to alternative sexualities.   

Vishal said, “We believe that Instagram is the kindest community online, and #Unlabel will further outline that. It will have raw videos where people express their real selves and use Instagram to break stereotypes and feel accepted.”

#Unlabel is, in fact, an extension of Instagram’s ongoing attempt to make the platform safer, kinder, and free of bullies. 

New safety and anti-bullying tools

Instagram reckons that people will express themselves freely “only if they feel safe and supported.''

To foster that, the photo-sharing network recently released a new ‘Restrict’ feature within its app. It gives users more control and allows them to protect their accounts from unwanted interactions, especially from bullies.

Users can swipe on a handle to place them on a ‘Restrict’ list (just like they can add someone to the ‘Close Friends’ list). This implies that they or their followers will no longer see comments from the bully.

The user will also not receive any notifications from restricted accounts, and all messages from them will remain in the ‘Message Requests’ tab. Also, no user will ever come to know that they are a part of someone’s restricted list.

Vishal explained,

“Instagram’s three pillars have always been Creativity, Community, and Safety. Even as we roll out new tools for innovators and creators, we are fully concerned about online bullying, and are finding new ways to tackle it.”

The ‘Restrict’ feature launched in the US in October to coincide with the National Bullying Prevention Month, but will soon be available in India and other territories.

Instagram is hopeful that ‘Born on Instagram’ will get a fillip if the platform is “safer and kinder”.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)


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