In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Monalisa Dani, Founder and CEO of Pixights, explains what her company does and how it helps big TV networks with research and data analysis.
As video streaming becomes more popular in India, the way in which we consume media is changing rapidly. We may prefer binge-watching an English TV series on Netflix rather than on the television. But many Hindi or regional language serials are not available to stream, so we watch one or two episodes in front of the TV each night.
Further, we increasingly consume news on our smartphones rather than reading the newspaper. Gaming is another popular form of media consumption. As India goes digital and gets more access to cheap data and affordable smartphones, media companies have to stay ahead of the curve to stay relevant.
How can a television media company or conglomerate understand its consumers better in this age of digital transformation? How can they gain actionable insights quickly enough to help plan their next move?
There was a need for a solution that provided fast and accurate data analytics and insights to media companies. When budding entrepreneurs Monalisa Dani (39) and Sumit Saxena (40) were trying to fill this gap, they also realised that the category required researchers to be avid consumers of content in order to provide relevant and actionable insights. They wanted to start a business but needed to solve this first.
“I found a unique solution that added value to our idea. I tapped into a pool of senior women researchers who had to quit their jobs due to life-stage issues such as marriage and pregnancy,” says Monalisa, who launched Pixights in 2012 and became its CEO. “These women were avid consumers of media content, and I decided to offer them flexible work options and make them an integral part of my new media research firm.”
With the right talent on board, Monalisa and Sumit’s bootstrapped research and consulting firm Pixights started off on the right track. Its USP is providing insights within 24 hours for various shows running on air. It has landed marquee clients such as Star, Zee, Sony, Disney across English, Hindi and regional content.
The Mumbai-based business clocked a turnover of Rs 2 crore last year.
“Since launch, we have supported ourselves through our revenues. Now, we are developing some technology and data products that we would like to bring to the market. We will look for investors for these products in a few months,’ she adds.
In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Monalisa reveals more about the business and how it is keeping up with changing media consumption trends.
SMBStory: What were you doing before becoming an entrepreneur?
Monalisa Dani: I initially worked for 16 years in the market research industry. I developed skills in content generation, maintenance, and management. I also worked as a brand strategy and positioning consultant for numerous leading media houses.
Having worked with Kantar IMRB for eight years, I also gained knowledge across various categories such as FMCG, haircare, skincare, pharma, and tobacco, apart from a holistic view of consumers across socio economic strata through long stints of research in the rural and social areas. I then launched Pixights in 2012.
SMBS: What are Pixights’ focus areas?
MD: We are focused on any media, or broadly speaking, any mass form of communication where one party designs content for consumption by another. This definition identifies the two key elements we work on - content and its consumption. We work with TV channels, over-the-top (OTT) platforms, print, live action and games producers to help them understand their customers and design content for them by using data.
The core promise of the firm is to provide a deep understanding of viewers and their content consumption. Here, the research products, methodologies and timelines are developed to cater to the needs of the industry and our researchers are passionate about the content.
SMBS: How did the company diversify into so many media categories?
MD: We started out by focussing on TV content. Along the way, we realised that the tools we had created could be stretched to different types of content, irrespective of medium. Hence, we did a natural expansion into different types of content such as cinema and live content.
Further, with OTT (streaming) becoming a large part of consumer content consumption today, it was imperative for us to expand into this as well. We needed to stay on top of all the changes in consumer expectations and delivery regarding content as well as gain expertise in an exciting new category.
SMBS: How are you leveraging digital tools to boost your analytical capabilities?
MD: Pixights has been using digital tools very early on in our journey through online quantitative and qualitative research methods. We pioneered a path-breaking digital offering called Sheevi – an app designed specifically to help track campaign efficacy.
It combines the power of audio content recognition technology and the rigor of market research. This allows real-time campaign health checks, making early interventions possible.
SMBS: What were the key milestones in Pixight’s journey?
MD: The first milestone was the first big project from a marquee TV channel. The project came in through someone willing to take a chance on a new firm. Based on the quality of output of that first project, we started getting regular work from the client network through word of mouth. By the end of our first year, we had Star and Zee as our key clients.
The second big milestone came in our second year when we conducted a trendspotting exercise for Disney Studios (then UTV Motion Pictures). Research methodologies were modified to include creative inputs. We travelled the entire country with the client’s creative team.
The final output, instead of a research presentation, was a workshop where the creatives and trends worked well. This year, we pioneered a syndicated nationwide research on OTT viewership in August 2018. It was the first-of-its-kind consumer research that was solely from the viewer’s point of view.
SMBS: How is Pixights different from other media analytics firms?
MD: Our competition varies with the areas of service we provide. For instance, our Local Tadka product for developing content cues has been developed and featured in the media industry for the first time. There are no other providers of this service. Further, our key area of distinction is delivering actionable insights and services tailored to media industry. We have also delivered customised tools for the industry.
Additionally, our HR model is unique. It helps women who want to work as we engage with women who are not able to manage a full-time job at the moment but are experienced and qualified researchers. For example, we have a brilliant resource whose husband is stationed in Jammu and Kashmir and she has two small kids. She is thus unable to work in a traditional research firm.
However, she is able to deliver high quality analysis and reports to us on time, which is what we are looking for. It gives us access to highly experienced and quality resources without having to spend on training and infrastructure. It also helps in sustaining quality of work since all our resources have minimum 10 years of work experience. For the researcher, it is consistent, paid and fun work with flexible timings. We now have a network of about 32 such women across the country.
SMBS: What are your challenges in sustaining and growing the business?
MD: The key challenge is to make the findings relevant and actionable. The audience choice and consumption patterns change frequently. With influx of new content through OTTs, Indian audiences are getting exposed to new genres and story formats. The out-of-home consumption through mobile has boomed. To keep ahead of this trend has been an ongoing challenge.
Every year, we invest time and resources to capture these trends early. Having done several rounds of trendspotting research, we now have a robust model of differentiating trends from fads. Further, it is important to find the right reasons to start up so that one remains motivated for a long time. The industry is dynamic and keeps changing, so one has to be ready to stretch, and flexibility is key here.
SMBS: What are your plans for Pixights?
MD: In the near future, we want to continue to look at developing more data and research products for the media industry. We are looking at incorporating technology and big data into our methodologies to help us generate insights better.
We have successfully used technology as part of some of our recent researches to capture high quality, transactional data to draw insights. This marriage of technology and proven research methodologies is what we are most excited about.