YouTube, which has been in India for over a decade, saw an upsurge in content from the country only a couple of years back. Seen as the best video-sharing platform by creators to voice their thoughts and build a community, YouTube India hopes to help its partners expand their businesses. Satya Raghavan talks to Brandwagon’s Meghna Sharma on the recent developments in the Indian market and emerging trends. Edited excerpts:
Let’s start with YouTube India’s journey. What significant patterns have you seen emerge in the last decade?
In India, up to 2014, most of the content found on YouTube belonged largely to the traditional media — TV, movies or sports. But an interesting tipping point happened around the 2014 general elections when suddenly many people, who were on the platform, found a voice. At the tip of this was comedy. Creators like AIB, TVF and others, essentially out of Mumbai and Delhi, started voicing their thoughts, probably echoing what the country was thinking at that point of time. The other set of creators who were active at that time were food creators; housewives to chefs were sharing recipe-based videos. We were also seeing the early signs of musicians. So, throughout 2014 we saw the explosion of personal creators using Hinglish with values and thoughts which were very metro-centric. We saw the same phenomenon happening in 2015 in southern languages.
Today, we have a very interesting and robust ecosystem where we can see traditional media doing more unique things. For instance, earlier when a movie would release, the production house would put out five to six videos; now, they put out almost 50-100 videos during the promotion period, because there is an amazing correlation between this and ultimate box office results. I can say that today YouTube has become truly Indic in nature. This year can also be called as ‘return of Hindi’ but with very different sensibilities. It is not metro, but more rustic.
How do you foresee the growth potential for YouTube Go and YouTube Kids in India?
We have realised that since our user base has expanded, there is a great opportunity in tailor-made services for large segments. Kids’ creators, for instance, are a very large segment. We all know that children today are watching technology at an earlier age so we wanted to deliver a customised service. That’s how YouTube Kids began. It also offers a lot of controls to help parents monitor. It did very well for us when we launched it a couple of years ago abroad and got it to India last year; it has become a sizeable part of our portfolio. Elsewhere in the world, we also launched gaming and music apps at the same time but we haven’t yet launched them in India.
We went consumer-centric here. We have 100-200 million new consumers who are consuming videos differently. They are the data-conscious lot; so we wanted to give them an app which is fundamentally built for a great data management experience. The concept of offline was launched for the Indian market and then, we launched it in 85 other countries. We have a pilot for YouTube Go in a few Indian cities and will soon have a national launch.
In a highly competitive and digital world, how can one effectively monetise digital content?
YouTube is an ad-funded platform; therefore, advertising is at the very core of it. We have a revenue-sharing model and 55% of what we earn, we share it back with the creator. What we have also realised is that content today, whether it comes from India or any other part of the world, is consumed elsewhere too. So now our creators are conscious about what they are earning from India and what they are earning from abroad. In some countries, we also have a subscription product called YouTube Red. So when content is consumed by a consumer of YouTube Red, creators have access to subscription earnings too. So, how it works for a creator is that content is the base on which they can later put multiple layers. And as the creator grows, we have seen brands get interested in associating with them.
After the controversy wherein a number of brands (Marks & Spencer, HSBC) withdrew advertising from YouTube following revelations that their ads appeared next to extremist videos, what steps did the platform take to ensure that monetisation isn’t impacted?
Google had shared its views after this incident. All I can add is that today, advertisers have a lot more control over what kind of content their ads can be seen on.
How are creators in India different from their Western counterparts?
Right now the creator ecosystem is balanced; we have a good mix of traditional media content and YouTube-first content. Even within the latter, there are many verticals which have emerged. Some interesting verticals have deepened to give birth to sub-verticals. For example, we have a vertical called women’s lifestyle, which was, until a couple of years back, about beauty products and DIY creators, but today we have creators who are talking about style and fashion, nutrition, travel, etc. All of this is very appealing to the women consumer. Similarly, we had a vertical called technology which has now merged into men’s lifestyle. So apart from gadgets, we see sub-verticals like motoring and gaming emerging in markets like Japan, the US, etc. It is here one can see inter-country differences.
One can now watch a movie on YouTube for a certain price. How has the response been especially with so many OTT and VoD services now present in India?
We have two pay models — one where you subscribe to have an ad-free experience and second, where you can watch a single movie. So consumption happens on YouTube but Google Play is at the forefront. With the advent of other OTT players, we are seeing that it is helping in expanding the market. It is a wonderful time for consumers and creators. A lot of our creators are doing great work for other players as well.