US-based video social network indi.com, which will make its India debut later this month, is looking to cash in on growing demand for digital content that will allow e-commerce firms to engage more closely with consumers.
"The e-commerce war in India will move beyond pricing and this is where Indi.com will play a major role," said Neel Grover, founder and CEO of the company.
While price has been the key driver of the e-commerce business in India, online firms are gradually moving towards using the art of storytelling to talk to consumers. For instance, homegrown e-commerce firm Flipkart is interacting via Flipkart Stories while lifestyle portal Jabong runs its own fashion magazine called The Juice.
Indi.com allows companies and individuals to create, share and monetise content through videos. The duration of the videos ranges from 30 seconds to one minute, except in the case of short films that are usually 20-minute long.
The platform was started in 2012 in South California by Grover and Greg Giraudi. Both of them previously worked with Buy.com, Rakuten.com and Bluefly.com. The site was officially launched in the US in 2013 and will start its India operations on April 28.
The startup counts among its investors actor Anil Kapoor; Divyansh Bajpai, former managing partner at Nova Travel; and Shikha Uberoi, a former Indian-American professional tennis player.
Grover said he would spend a substantial amount of time searching for digital content when he worked with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten in the US and that Indi.com's plan was to provide access to original content to drive engagement between brands, including internet companies, and consumers. "Ultimately, content is the best way to engage with consumers as it ensures stickiness," he said.
The platform uses Indi Buzz, an artificial intelligence tool, to create content which will generate viewership. The tool provides details on what videos are being watched and shared, the number of times the videos are watched and the duration. Based on the results, a brand can either go with the trend or create a content of its own choice.
"We look for the most engaging video; that is the way we measure the impact of a video. Most platforms look at which videos have most number of views and, maybe, comments. We think this is a better metric," Grover said.
The company will soon launch an open platform for brands to run their own channels. It also plans to roll out a marketplace to allow owners of intellectual property to sell their digital content.
"We will also provide the ability to refer products in addition to allowing content creators to sell their merchandise to e-tailers. However, we will not be anytime competing against any e-commerce platform. We are trying to provide incremental opportunity," Grover said.
Indi.com, which follows an advertising-driven monetization model, is also planning to introduce a few premium services to earn more revenue. Under the ad-supportive model, a content creator gets 70 per cent of the money while the platform gets the remaining. According to industry estimates, the advertising rate for videos is Rs 2-3 cost per view.
Under the premium model, if a brand opts out of advertising it needs to pay a certain fee to the platform. "We are also looking at introducing different data packages. The baseline data will be free and give access to certain amount of content. We will create different pack sizes at various price points," Grover said.
The company is also looking to raise funds. "We try to do the smart thing rather than raise to raise and spend to spend," he said.