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Vice India CEO on targeting India's youth, censorship allegations and localising languages

Vice India CEO affirms that no stories were cut at any point in the past / Vice

Vice Media recently launched in India with the aim of reaching the Indian youth population.

It's one of the most comprehensive launches for Vice outside the US and Europe, showing a significant commitment to India and the wider APAC market.

However, before it even began its operations, there were allegations of Vice India shooting down a story on an activist from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – parent organisation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who is gay.

The Drum spoke with Chanpreet Arora, Vice India's newly appointed chief executive officer whether allegations of censorship, which run against Vice's subculture roots, were true.

She, says: "No stories were cut at any point in the past. Although, few stories will now not be run because people who have resigned from the company have asked for them to not run and Vice India will fully comply."

Vice Media is globally known for its quirky and edgy stories and as to how it'll translate that to the Indian market, Arora says: "Vice India has a strong focus on culturally-relevant topics and experiences of what it is like to be young in India today. Our local programming will span conversations across topics like identity, sex, food, music, politics, sports, science and tech and nightlife. There will be a healthy mix of both video and editorial."

In terms of the formats of coverage, Arora adds: "With a content-first strategy, Vice India is committed to creating content for TV, S-VOD, A-VOD, OTT Platforms and Open platforms like Facebook and YouTube. With more details on multiple platform partnerships to be announced in the coming months."

Vice Media launched in India via a partnership with Times of India, of which Arora adds will create new formats. "We will also be premiering a significant late night prime time television block across the Times of India portfolio - bringing the best of Viceland’s award-winning content to a mass market."

Part of this is because the Indian online video consumption market has grown 4.3X times in the last year, a trend which Arora believes Vice is primed to take advantage of.

Vice has already collaborated with comedian Gaurav Kapoor for an episode of 'How a city works.' About other projects in the pipeline, Arora adds: "We will be working with different people for various episodes of that particular series. In general, Vice India is working with a large number of personalities across industries and walks of life to create content and a community that truly resonates with our audiences."

According to a report published by Google and KPMG titled ‘Indian languages – Defining India’s Internet’ , brands will need more localised content to advertise in India. Vice, being a youth platform, will be seeking be relevant and as to how it plans to localise, Arora says that Vice India is in a position to analyze what works and what doesn’t in the Indian market.

She adds: "While consumption habits of the Indian audience on our Vice global platforms have given us a fair insight, which has been used to design the current content slate, this is an ever-evolving process and in three months’ time, we should be able to have enough data to know what our users want to hear about the most and tune our content accordingly.

"For the time being, readers can expect premium content that matters to the India’s youth – in English and Hindi. In the coming months, we will be expanding to other regional languages and hope to create content and experiences that matter to India's youth, irrespective of the language or regions we come from."

Launching alongside The Times of India Group, which entails working with Times Bridge, the arm of The Times Group which invests in and provides strategic market, also provides a local link during its infancy.

Arora elaborates: "It invests in and provides strategic market enablement for big, global ideas committed to India - including the likes of Airbnb, Coursera, Houzz, MUBI, Thrive and Uber. The role of Times Bridge is to provide support in terms of navigating a new market as an incubation partner – setting up processes, infrastructural help, HR support, etc."

As to how Vice plans to make money, Arora says: "In terms of platform partnerships, beyond Vice’s main partnership with The Times of India group, additional, partnerships, including with Facebook, will bring Vice’s content to millions of new viewers in the region through original local production and reporting, and licensing.

"Virtue Worldwide, the creative agency borne out of Vice, has entered into major brand partnerships that will provide creative services throughout India. Launch partnerships in the region include Mountain Dew (PepsiCo) and Anheuser-Busch InBev."

Arora added that more brand partnerships were due to be announced.

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