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Spotlight on India: Gemius, Tonic, Dream Theatre, Times Bridge and Fruitbowl on key trends


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

October 1, 2019 | 17 min read

The Drum's 'Spotlight' is a bi-monthly series that take a look at the key trends, influential people, rising stars and important events in interesting Asia Pacific countries. We previously looked at Singapore and Hong Kong. This month, we are looking at India.


Gemius Design Studio, Tonic Worldwide, Dream Theatre and Fruitbowl Digital Media, what to look out for in India in October.

Home to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, India, which is also the second-most populous country in the world, is quickly becoming the go-to destination for companies looking to expand their business and succeed in Asia.

In this edition, we ask the industry, namely the likes of Gemius Design Studio, Tonic Worldwide, Dream Theatre and Fruitbowl Digital Media, what to look out for in the South Asian country in the month of October.

What are the current trends in India at the moment?

Saurabh Pacheriwal, co-founder of Gemius Design Studio

With regards to the field of marketing and branding, India is moving towards impactful storytelling which is not only meaningful but also engaging and creates a ripple effect in the market.

Content creators are focusing on creating easily consumable content and marketers are developing campaigns which could help in a larger outreach.

A wave of international influence is seen at large in all the content distribution channels and India is becoming a better global market, every day.

Chetan Asher, chief executive officer at Tonic Worldwide

Video content consumption has exploded in India. With data becoming faster and cheaper, India is seeing a content renaissance of sorts. Stories that otherwise did not get a platform are being lapped up by platforms and audiences.

Creators, OTT platforms, brands and even non-entertainment aggregators are creating content and vying for Indian consumers watch time. Creators are being celebrated and are getting the attention that would only a movie star would attract in the Bollywood obsessed country.

It’s an exciting time for anyone who is remotely associated with the content ecosystem and of course Indian consumers.

Jiggy George, founder and chief executive officer, Dream Theatre

Licensing as an industry is really coming into its own now. Licensing in India is valued at a 1594 million dollars at retail for 2018 as per the Licensing International global study 2019, and what is really encouraging is the emergence of genres. '

Licensing is no longer identified just with character licensing anymore, brand, celebrity, sports licensing are growing by leaps and bounds and more importantly, mainstream industries like FMCG, banking etc are now leveraging licensing to grow their business. So we are in a good place and growing stronger every year.

Dedeepya Reddy, founder, Fruitbowl Digital Media

With clearer marketing and communication objectives, content marketing has seen a growth in various forms and most brands are shifting towards a content-first approach.

From creating engaging videos themselves to collaborating with micro-influencers on TikTok, brands are investing more and more in platforms and mediums where content is actually consumed, in the formats that are being appreciated.

Content and micro-influence combine to make the next buzzword in digital marketing today - micro-moment marketing, where a brand’s popularity can unexpectedly shoot up on Instagram based on their take on a creative trend that Pablo Rochat initially designed.

Viral Jani, senior vice president of investment operations at Times Bridge

India has witnessed a rapid rise in its middle class in the past decade which offers brands a gigantic base of aspirational consumers with significant disposable income at hand.

Businesses, both online and offline, have been swift in adopting neo-tactics such as personalization, premiumisation, omnichannel approach, direct-to-consumer delivery, culture-guided communications among many others.

What’s been brewing in the Indian digital space is the most exciting with brands being at their innovative-best in engaging and bonding with India’s mammoth internet user base of 560 Million. India-specific innovations and localizations such as deferred payment and cash payment options, voice-led search, lite-version apps to accommodate with India’s low-connectivity scenario, availability of content in tens of vernacular languages among others are being undertaken at scale by global brands.

This, combined with the ubiquity of smartphones and internet, is helping brands to ride on the next wave of growth emanating from the Tier III & Tier IV towns of India. We, at Times Bridge, strive to be at the top of this trend through our portfolio companies such as Smule, Wattpad, Houzz, Uber, MUBI among others.

Harikrishnan Pillai, chief executive officer and co-founder of The Small Big Idea

Tapping the otherwise elusive non-metro millennial through neo-social apps is in vogue.

In India, youngsters these days from non-metro cities are creating, consuming and curating content in their own regional languages while giving their English consuming and conversing counterparts a run for their money.

Currently, a lot of brands are exploring opportunities through these apps and are connecting with consumers in their native language.

Rajesh Patalia, chief strategy officer at Agency09

Lack of censorship/interference by authorities in India has led to the creation and proliferation of content in a big way. The freedom of expression on the Internet in terms of content, language, practices, etc prevalent in India today had led to generation and customization of content for masses to a degree unheard of in the past.

These factors contribute to the off-take & popularity of content in the B Towns in a big way apart from Metros.

After exploiting the open platforms on social media for screening paid ads, the next wave will be dominated by efforts to penetrate closed loops or groups such as WhatsApp; not through initiatives such as WhatsApp for Business, but, truly penetrating the End User Groups; by seamlessly integrating advertisement communication with user-generated content

What are some of the best works you have seen in India this month/recently?

Saurabh Pacheriwal, co-founder of Gemius Design Studio

Several media houses and brands keep on creating stories which cannot be missed. Veteran brands like Amul, Badshah Masala and Frooti are creating noise on digital platforms.

Younger brands like Epigamia, Alpino, and Raw Presserry are coming up with digital campaigns which are attracting more and more consumers and attracting their loyalties.

The work by these brands is definitely not to miss.

Chetan Asher, chief executive officer at Tonic Worldwide

I am fascinated by the way regional content creators have broken the mold and creating quality content. YouTube is full of these creators waiting to surprise you.

On another note, I was awed by this painting that had 40 iconic Indian ads hidden in them. Interestingly this piece of art that was almost an ode to traditional Indian advertising was being celebrated and talked about on Twitter and other online platforms.

Jiggy George, founder and chief executive officer, Dream Theatre

There are tonnes of exciting things happening in the industry. A highpoint for us in August was the launch of ChuChu TV toys in the US and a global launch follows in October; Chu Chu TV is the world's most popular network of kids channels on YouTube with 30 billion views and 44 million subscribers, and a brand we represent globally for licensing and merchandising and content syndication.

This is not just a sign of things to come of how digital content is gaining momentum in the licensing space, but it makes us immensely proud to bring a "Made in India, Loved by the world" brand into the global merchandising space.

Dedeepya Reddy, founder, Fruitbowl Digital Media

The new television campaign by Fevicol celebrating their 60th anniversary that depicts the journey of a sofa that has seen history unfold right before its eyes manage to capture a lot of eyeballs. It runs for a little longer than the conventional TVC but manages to keep the viewer engaged with the heartfelt narrative.

Netflix India has been jumping on every social media wave, owning the topical space online with their "Friends" 25th-anniversary posts. This only helps reiterate the idea of content being king and the medium being the message. Hail, McLuhan!

Harikrishnan Pillai, chief executive officer and co-founder of The Small Big Idea

We see a lot of interesting work happening in the movie marketing domain. Hindi cinema is experiencing a wave of change.

We have been witnessing story and character-driven films performing better than star-driven films. Strong plots are giving rise to smarter marketing campaigns.

The recent campaign for the film Dreamgirl is one such example.

Rajesh Patalia, chief strategy officer at Agency09

Here are my favourites:

Flipkart’s equals day campaign

Allen Solly Woman

Zomato's puns on iPhone11 launch announcement

What are some of the key events in India this month and over the year?

Saurabh Pacheriwal, co-founder of Gemius Design Studio

One of the most talked-about events in India that happened was the Chandrayaan 2 landing.

The entire country gathered together and hoped that the landing goes successful. Reportedly, ISRO would launch its first unmanned space mission in the month of December which may attract a lot of eyeballs.

Chetan Asher, chief executive officer at Tonic Worldwide

We are bang in the middle of the festive season. India which is a melting pot of cultures starts celebrating various festivals this time of year all the way up to New years.

We will see brands and agencies going into overdrive during this period and a lot of interesting work will come through.

Jiggy George, founder, and chief executive officer, Dream Theatre

We recently had the India Licensing Expo in July, which is India's licensing industry congregation, and while there are networking events and learning sessions available through the India chapter of Licensing International on a monthly basis, the next big thing is the Brand Licensing Europe expo in London from 1-3 October, which will be the stomping grounds for the fraternity.

Dedeepya Reddy, founder, Fruitbowl Digital Media

With the festive season around the corner, e-commerce brands will issue sales and discounts as they try to hold onto the lazy customer, their lowest hanging fruit. Later in the year, the award season for marketers will bring in a plethora of sentimental advertising.

The craze for topical/moment marketing will continue, even as doubts linger over their effectiveness.

This quarter marks the last chance for a rebound in the economy, as negative headlines seem to continue, dampening sentiment and leading companies to cut marketing budgets with digital budgets being the first on the chopping block.

Viral Jani, senior vice president of investment operations at Times Bridge

A bunch of future-defining events will be taking place between October ‘19 and October ‘20 in India. A few events that will affect the cultural, economic, political and technological fabric of the nation are state assembly elections in highly-strategic states like Maharashtra and Delhi, the Union Budget for FY 2021, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Oct 2 this year, adoption of BS VI emission standards by the auto industry, India becoming the fifth largest economy in the world among many others.

Harikrishnan Pillai, chief executive officer and co-founder of The Small Big Idea

The festive season begins in India starting September. Indian festivals like Dussera and Diwali are the most important festivals from across the years and are celebrated across the country. This is the peak season for Indian consumers, brands and more importantly for marketeers.

Who are the key influential business people in India?

Saurabh Pacheriwal, co-founder of Gemius Design Studio

India’s richest businessmen definitely top the list. Mukesh Ambani, Azim Premji, Lakshmi Mittal, Pallonji Mistry, Shiv Nadar and many other such business giants are largely influential leaders.

However, interestingly, the startups also dominate the industry and attract millions of eyeballs every day. The tech startup space has increased manifold and the founders of companies like Byju’s, Zomato, Swiggy, Dream11, Nykaa, Oyo Rooms, Paytm are creating a lot of buzz in the industry as of now.

Chetan Asher, chief executive officer at Tonic Worldwide

It’s not easy to name one. The next growth engine for India will be driven by disruptive technology-led companies. Fuelling and mentoring this ecosystem are people like Rajan Anandan who are actively mentoring startups, Rajesh Sawhney who apart from running his food tech company, mentors and invests in the ecosystem.

Also, the founders of India's unicorns are influencing this space.

Jiggy George, founder and chief executive officer, Dream Theatre

More than key business people, I would like to point to key industries that can profit from licensing. FMCG has been leveraging licensing for a long time now, but it has been in the tactical promotion led and in the kids' space.

I really think that FMCGs can change the game by leveraging licensing by creating stand-out products, clutter-breaking communication and most importantly, engaging with consumers through iconic brands, IPs and Sports clubs and more.

Similarly, the digital space, especially in the Apps space can really make things pop via powerful licensing associations.

Dedeepya Reddy, founder, Fruitbowl Digital Media

The small buyer is the one to look out for. There’s a lot riding on this festive season for the economy. Will consumers change their minds in the purchasing process for chocolates and dairy products, let alone cars and home loans?

At the other end of the spectrum lie opinion leaders like Mukesh Ambani and the PMO. Brands backed by these leaders show an overall positive sentiment. More brands are moving into the micro-influencer space, hoping their higher engagements can help them build long-lasting digital communities.

Rajesh Patalia, chief strategy officer at Agency09

- Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Group

- Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus at Tata Sons

- Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman at Aditya Birla Group

- Anand Mahindra, chairman at Mahindra Group

- Piyush Pandey, chief creative officer worldwide and executive chairman of India at Ogilvy

- Prasoon Joshi, chief executive officer at McCann Worldgroup India

Who are some of the rising stars in India we should look out for?

Saurabh Pacheriwal, co-founder of Gemius Design Studio

India is progressing in a lot of spheres, especially space science and research. Privatization of space is supposed to be the next big thing and researchers are using artificial intelligence and many other such third world techniques to start the new wave of the Industrial Revolution.

Digital Media is at its highest peak and the country is largely depending on social media to consume their daily dose of content.

One can find several individuals working in the space research, digital media & content development, SaaS-based startups, healthcare and research-based industries, and such similar domains who will surely become the next rising stars of the country.

Chetan Asher, chief executive officer at Tonic Worldwide

Hitesh Dhingra, founder of 'The Man Company' has quickly scaled the brand and has shown with quality products and smart marketing, highly competitive categories are not just domain of the big boys.

Jiggy George, founder and chief executive officer, Dream Theatre

I would like to point to categories. Indian animation, digital properties, sports licensing are the rising stars that we should look out for.

There are tonnes of opportunities now available for companies looking at licensing to drive their business and the early adopters can profit from licensing as they look to grow their business in what is becoming a very competitive environment.

Dedeepya Reddy, founder, Fruitbowl Digital Media

TikTok influencers are definitely on the rise. Consumers are beginning to trust influencers they relate to. They like to be in the know-how of what’s new and fresh, as long as it’s delivered with authenticity. Digital niches including ‘desi’ artists and activists are the perfect way to appeal to the consumers that are on the fence.

Simultaneously, ‘new age’ celebrities, usually categorised as the second wave of show business like Ayushmann Khurana, Kaartik Aryan, Lilly Singh and Vicky Kaushal are slowing tipping the scale of audience sentiment.

Viral Jani, senior vice president of investment operations at Times Bridge

The sunrise sectors in contemporary India include online video and music streaming industry, online rental and sharing economy, experiential marketing, e-commerce, fintech, on-demand food delivery and international tourism.

A few notable companies have managed to be the avant-garde of their respective sectors namely Oyo, Byju’s, Smule, Jio, Ola, Swiggy, Hotstar, Gaana, Flipkart, MxPlayer Paytm, PhonePe, Cred, Makemytrip, Zerodha among others.

Rajesh Patalia, chief strategy officer at Agency09

- Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer of Digital Ventures – Viacom18

- Tarun Katial, chief executive officer at Zee5 India

- Shoumyan Biswas, chief marketing officer at Flipkart

Keep an eye on The Drum's coverage of the India market in this dedicated country portal of the website.


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