I wouldn't be surprised if spend on influencer marketing reaches INR 1,000 crore, says Kwan Entertainment founder

Kwan Entertainment founder: 'Won't be surprised if digital spending driven by influencer marketing in India is close to INR 1,00 / Kwan

The Indian media and entertainment market alone is expected to be worth INR 2tn by 2020. Entertainment firms are tapping into the huge potential this has to offer. Kwan Entertainment is one such firm which manages celebrities/influencers like Deepika Padukone, Pritam and Shraddha Kapoor among others.

The India Influence Report 2018 by Zefmo estimates that 92% of marketers will turn to influencer marketing this year. The report further states that 89% of marketers consider influencers to be effective for marketing. An estimated 62% are also planning to increase their budgetary allocations for influencer marketing campaigns.

Anirban Das Blah, founder of Kwan believes that's because consumers are more likely to make a purchase decision if they feel the recommendation comes from people that they can relate to.

He says: "Influencers have a raw authenticity about them, which develops an affinity between them and their audiences that other marketing approaches find difficult to replicate. Giving the exact market data would be difficult, but Deepika Padukone has over 82 million social media followers – more than 6% of India’s entire population – across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

"This is a much larger, and more committed, audience than many big broadcasters and newspapers have. I won’t be surprised if the total digital spending driven by influencer marketing in India is close to INR 1,000 crore."

India is currently the second-fastest growing advertising market in Asia. Both print and digital ad formats are registering healthy growth, with internet-based advertising growing at a CAGR of 28%.

Kwan is currently an investor in digital platforms like Saavn, All About You, Gigstart, Rooter, and Gamezop, amongst others. As to what value Kwan derives by associating with these brands, Anirban says: "We’re living in an investment environment where there is a lot of financial capital floating around, but most of this capital is just dumb money which delivers very little value-addition.

"On the other hand, the businesses which we invest in are able to utilise Kwan’s extensive network of assets and people to gain a competitive advantage and drive growth. From our point of view, we’re able to capture more – and better – enterprise value rather than just commission income."

Kwan recently announced partnership with sports marketing and entertainment veteran Ravi Krishnan, who is also the co-founder of Stepathalon Lifestyle to launch Kwanabler.

According to Anirban, Kwanabler will aim to provide end-to-end support for global sports, media and entertainment brands, companies, investors tapping the Indian market.

He further talks about the strategy behind Kwanabler: "Kwanabler is essentially based on three fundamental pillars. The first is the asset base and industry expertise of Kwan, which works with a lot of Indian companies and brands to help them leverage popular culture to reach out to their target consumers. The second pillar is the business networking capability that its promoters – Ravi Krishnan, I, and other senior leaders at Kwan – bring to the table and explore new relationships.

"The third pillar that KWANAbler is founded on is Ravi’s strong position in the international market. He is the longest-serving expat in the Indian business landscape and is well-known in the international circles. Ravi is a reliable and familiar presence to prospective global partners looking to make inroads into the Indian market."

Meanwhile, Kwan's sports division at the agency manages many sports franchises in India, including Ranbir Kapoor-owned Mumbai City FC and Sanjay Dutt’s cricket franchise Leo Lions (part of the Masters’ Champions League in the UAE).

In fact, according to Anirban, it’s right time for big football clubs to invest in Indian football and also for global companies in the media and entertainment domain.

He says: "I feel it is the right time for top football clubs like Manchester City and Real Madrid to invest in the Indian consumer market. India has a population of 1.3 billion. Even if the business opportunity is barely 10% of the overall market, we’re still talking about around 13 million prospective consumers. And the actual business opportunity, as we discussed above, is way higher and growing robustly. What’s more, these consumers belong to the fairly affluent section of the society, presenting a lucrative proposition to big football clubs.

"As far as the larger media and entertainment market goes, I think India today is where China was 10 years ago. The only difference is that India is a free market. It has the kind of business environment which makes capital flows and outward remittances quite easy. We’ve been speaking about India and China as competing markets for around 10-15 years, but the truth is that the opportunity in China has already been created and realised, while in India it is just beginning. This is why global companies are looking to be a part of India’s consumer story."

If Anirban's predictions for spend on influencer is true, he's put the company in the right place to capitalise on this growth. However, a recent research by Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that advertisers continue to invest in influencer marketing, despite being unsure of its merit which questions its efficacy, leaving the future for influencer marketing still unclear.

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