Do Your Thng founder, Ankit Agarwal, sat down with Saikat Pyne for the YouInc podcast to talk about the future of India’s creator economy

If you’re a creator, budding or established, or simply interested in the creator economy in India, this podcast is a must-listen. This article distils the most important points and puts them in ink. 

Saikat: Is there potential for micro-influencers to evolve in India’s creator economy?

Ankit: There were times when we could consume content only from Doordarshan. The internet offered everyone a walk-in studio: a studio that not only creates content but also consumes it. That led to democratisation, which helped micro/nano influencers evolve. 

Yes, there is massive potential for small creators, and we’re just seeing the tip of it right now.

Saikat: How did the pandemic impact micro-influencers?

Ankit: COVID changed almost everything. The internet was the only way people could stay connected, which led to increased consumption time in India. 

Secondly, a lot of relatable content started coming in. It became normal to post content without photoshopping it down to every pixel. Combined, it made micro- and nano-influencers the biggest gainers.

Saikat: In terms of content consumption, what trends do you see for the future?

Ankit: People curating what they want to consume will be one of the behavioural shifts.Yes, algorithms will be there to nudge people, but with time, we’ll be more in control of what we see. 

Attention spans are reducing, but the desire to form strong communities, even if it is a niche, has gone up multifold. 

There’s a greater emphasis on individuality – on who you are as a person. Earlier, people used to shy away from what they really believed in. That has changed and will continue to change. There will be more authenticity in content curation.

Saikat: Will Netflix and Amazon be dedicated to studio-affiliated creators as India’s creator economy matures, while UGC is reserved for aspiring creators?

Ankit: Not really. It will be an amalgamation. A classic example is YouTube – one of the places where you’d see both kinds of influencers. Take VirDas, he’s present on Instagram, Netflix, and YouTube. So is Kusha Kapila. So it won’t be one thng or the other. 

Every creator goes through a journey: they start, they find their niche, and from there, they become big. During this journey, they use and rely on different platforms. So, I think all platforms will coexist. 

Saikat: What do you think is the future of monetisation for micro-influencers in India’s creator economy?

We are living in a stage where the number of followers is becoming insignificant. What matters at that stage is what kind of content you’re creating and whether it’s making a difference to your followers.

Ankit: If a micro-influencer’s content makes a difference, then they have a very loyal fan base. So, they will be able to monetise via a variety of means and not just brand deals.

  • They can have a paid WhatsApp or Telegram channel.
  • They can earn from subscriptions on Instagram.
  • They can earn by selling exclusive content to their superfans.
  • They can earn by hosting workshops.

These would be enough for smaller creators to earn enough monthly income to make ends meet!

Saikat: When is a good time for a creator to start monetising their content?

Ankit: For creators, this is crucial learning, so pay attention. There is no hard benchmark of 100 or 10,000 followers.

When you begin your creator journey, you must focus on building a community. Monetisation is just an add-on. Money comes in after you have built a community.  

If you start with the objective of monetisation, the authenticity of your feed starts going down quickly, even on your non-branded content. Thus, my suggestion to all the creators would be to not monetise until you feel that you are not disregarding the community.

You can start monetising your content once you’re confident that your community will listen to you and be loyal to you.Then screen your community’s reaction to paid content and keep a very, very close eye on it.

Saikat: When is the right time for a creator to start building a team around themselves?

Ankit: There’s no hard answer to this. Off the bat, only 10 to 15% of creators will ever get big enough to have their own studios. There are pros and cons to having a team.

As a solo creator, you can collaborate with other creators a lot, which gets restricted when you have a team. With a small team, you can be agile and experiment a lot. 

But as soon as you start building a huge team, limitations crop up. However, with a team, you can create much better content.

Saikat: How important is it for growing brands to have a budget for influencer marketing?

Ankit: I think every brand should be looking at influencer marketing, or “people marketing,” as I put it. You should have it in the back of your mind, despite the stage the brand is at.

Influencer marketing is a small portion of a bigger pie – which is people marketing and it is not new. Word-of-mouth marketing has been happening for ages.

The advice is to slowly graduate into influencer marketing (as the average person understands it – campaigning with creators with 1M followers). 

     1. The first step is influencer seeding – giving products to people without the expectation of any returns.

     2. Then you move on to barter collaborations – resharing user-generated content, i.e. customers who’ve already bought your                 product and offering discounts for future purchases.

     3. Finally, move into content creation – exclusive, professionally shot content made by influencers for the brand. 

Saikat: As a marketer, how do you judge if a creator suits the brand or vet authenticity?

Ankit: A lot of marketers get confused with this, but there is a checklist. I divide it into two parameters – hard and soft. 

  1. The first includes #thngs like the number of followers, engagement, and reach – basically the numbers. 
  2. The soft parameters don’t consider the number of followers:
    1. Who are you as a person?
    2. What kind of content are you creating?
    3.  What is your person?
    4.  What do you believe in?

The most important parameter is whether the creator can authentically deliver the brand’s message.