How these entrepreneurs aim to nudge traditional SMEs out of their comfort zone with their influencer marketing platform
Influencer marketing is a million-dollar business, and it helps companies turn into multi-million dollar businesses. It’s no wonder then that brands across verticals are collaborating with influencers in a big way.
According to Dentsu’s Digital Report 2021, the advertising budget spent on digital media has increased from 20 percent in 2019 to 28 percent in 2020, while the market size has increased from Rs 13,683 crore to Rs 15,782 crore. It is expected to reach 34 percent by the end of 2022.
And, through all the glitz and bling of social media influencers, Kanishk Kanakia and Nikhil Kothari could see that it is not a straightforward process. From finding the right influencer to executing the campaign, the challenges were aplenty, and a lot depended on manual work.
To solve this pain point, the duo launched, a platform that delivers data-driven influencer marketing to Indian brands across verticals. What it also seeks to be is a platform for content creators or influencers in India to monetise their creativity and influence.
Opportune, founded in 2020, is based out of Kolkata and Pune, and according to its co-founder Kanishk, “Our mission is to make influencer marketing more ROI centric for the Indian SME segment.”
He explains that the startup is betting on the thesis that nano and micro-influencers — mostly influencers on social media platform Instagram who have between 1,000-100,00 followers — are a good fit for Indian SMEs as they are cost-effective and highly engaged with their audience.
“Through our proprietary technology suite, we can speed up influencer discovery by 10 times, and reduce campaign execution time by over 75 percent. We are very focused on coming up with developing comprehensive technology solutions to track ROI, performance, and effectiveness of influencer marketing campaigns,” claims Kanishk.
Opportune, available as a mobile app, is a free self-service tool for Indian brands to execute effective influencer marketing campaigns. “Our team also manages campaigns end to end for select clients who have a sizable budget,” adds Kanishk.
The startup graduated from the July 2020 cohort of the Viridian Accelerator Center. Since going full scale in June this year, the platform onboarded about 60 brands and more than 2,000 influencers across India.
Investment banking to the other side
Kanishk grew up in Kolkata and moved to Singapore to do his Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the Singapore Management University with a specialisation in finance. After his graduation, he landed a cushy job as an investment banker in Singapore. He says working in the space for three years gave him plenty of opportunities to meet tech entrepreneurs.
“I realised that technology has the power to transform anything,” says Kanishk. He admits that as an investment banker, being privy to the amount of funding that tech startups attract was also a big draw for him. “Honestly, I felt like going to the other side of the table,” says Kanishk.
And went across he did - from Singapore to Kolkata in 2019, after quitting a job that many would hanker after. He then connected with childhood friend and schoolmate Nikhil Kothari, an engineering graduate, who was also a technology enthusiast and was looking to start something of his own.
Kanishk, who had come across several influencer marketing platforms in Singapore, noticed the trend picking up in India. It helped that his family owned a homegrown fashion brand, for which he soon started scouting for influencers to collaborate.
This gave him a first-hand experience of influencer selection, campaign management, and performance tracking, and all the problems associated with it.
Kanishk and Nikhil set up Opportune in June 2020, and the platform was launched four months later in October. While Nikhil leads product and technology, Kanishk heads business development.
According to Opportune’s estimates, 67 percent of marketers in India feel finding influencers that fit their objectives and budget to be their largest influencer marketing challenge.
“Through data-driven API integrations with Instagram and Facebook, we enable Indian brands to make more informed influencer selection and budget allocation decisions while speeding up influencer discovery by 10 times,” says Kanishk.
About campaign management, he says that a lot of man-hours are consumed in manually running a well-executed and tracked campaign with 15 influencers.
“Through our automated brand dashboard, we can reduce campaign execution time by more than 75 percent, and our technology layers built on link tracking and API calls can enable brands to accurately monitor performance and optimise results,” claims the co-founders.
How does Opportune work?
Opportune sources data directly from Instagram and Facebook APIs once influencer permissions are granted. “We update this data regularly, including influencer pricing and commercials sourced directly from our influencer network, and present this data in an intuitive and user-friendly app interface with complete transparency,” says Nikhil.
Once signed up on the Opportune app, brands can use tools to filter, search and sort influencers based on their budget, and nine other parameters, including reach, impressions, engagement rate, and audience analysis. “Our clients can also create campaigns, create influencer lists, message influencers directly and track social media insights for campaign posts and deliverables on the app,” says Nikhil.
For select clients with a sizable budget, Opportune offers to manage marketing campaigns right from strategy, influencer onboarding, negotiations, product shipment, content creation, and approval, to performance tracking.
Market and competition
The number of influencers is ever-growing across the world. Opportune founder pegs it as an opportunity to impact more than 20 lakh creators and influencers in India through paid endorsement and collaboration opportunities.
In terms of competition, Opportune competes with the likes of Winkl and Freeskout. But Opportune’s USP is its cost-effectiveness, which can be attributed to its roster of nano and micro-influencers, according to the founders. “This class of influencers have a stronger relatability quotient compared to macro-influencers or celebrities. They are also cost-effective and highly engaged with their audience,” says Kanishk.
The platform also has the capability to detect influencers with a high number of fake followers to ensure every influencer marketing rupee is invested wisely. “We believe the Opportune app is a 10 times better product compared to our competition from a functionality and ease of use perspective,” says Nikhil.
Opportune has two revenue streams. On the platform side, it is a free tool that is looking to operate on a freemium model starting September 2021. On the agency side, it charges about a 10 percent service fee on top of the campaign budget and a nominal monthly subscription fee.
“Since the launch of the Opportune mobile app in June this year, we have onboarded over 60 brands on our platform. We have also worked with JK Spices & Food Products and Teal and Terra, and have a strong relationship with ethnic fashion brands such as Radha Krishna Silks, Manisha Creations, and Mulberry Blue,” tells Kanishk.
Funding and plans
Opportune is a bootstrapped company, and now the startup is looking to raise a seed round of funding to the tune of $335,000 for sales, marketing, product development, office and administrative expenses. It is also working on product development relating to sentiment analysis, social listening, and sales attribution.
Kanishk says that the plan is to aggressively onboard more brands onto Opportune while growing its agency business. “Our vision is to be the go-to influencer marketing platform for consumer-facing SMEs in India today, and the aim is to onboard over 500 brands by the end of FY 2021-22,” he says.
“We believe the influencer marketing industry is estimated to be worth Rs 1100 crore but is largely unorganised and fragmented. As the industry is largely dominated by traditional agencies, there is a lot of opaqueness tied to budget allocation. We hope to disrupt this through our transparent technology platform and pass on the benefits to key stakeholders of the industry – the brands and content creators,” says Kanishk.