Our mission is to solve boredom. There are now 500 million Indians who have an internet connection, and are spending nearly five hours a day on social media and entertainment.
By Venkata Susmita Biswas
Pocket Aces is flush with funds after securing Rs 100 crore from Sequoia Capital, DSP Group and 3one4 Capital in its latest round of funding. Aditi Shrivastava tells Venkata Susmita Biswas that the digital entertainment company plans to build on its gaming offering and strengthen its niche in the young adult genre. Edited excerpts:
Where will Pocket Aces channelise this fresh round of funding?
We will first focus on increasing and strengthening our content pipeline. Dice Media, our long-form video channel, creates five to six shows a year. We are hoping to commission more shows for this vertical and obtain licences for books to be turned into web series IP. We are also going to use the funding in scaling up operations across our existing channels — Filter Copy, Gobble, and Dice Media — and in creating new channels that will be launched later this year. We are also expanding our sales and marketing teams in Bengaluru and Delhi.
Additionally, we will strengthen our gaming offering, Loco, which already has 45 games. We want to introduce live content, hyper-casual gaming and e-sports.
From fiction to non-fiction and even gaming — haven’t you spread yourself too thin?
Our mission is to solve boredom. There are now 500 million Indians who have an internet connection, and are spending nearly five hours a day on social media and entertainment. Therefore, we have divided the audience into different interest groups, and are creating content for them accordingly.
We want to be India’s largest new-age media and entertainment business; we cannot restrict ourselves to one type of content. That is why we ventured into gaming with Loco. The other reason is that we wanted to have an app of our own that could have the potential to become one of the largest gaming platforms in India. This would not be possible with content, as there are many large established players in the market already.
We want to create all kinds of video content, not just long or short-format fiction. The food and lifestyle category has done very well on TV and digital. That’s where Gobble, our food channel, comes in. In the next phase, we will enter the home, travel and lifestyle space with Gobble.
Have these initiatives helped you differentiate from platforms like TVF, Culture Machine and ScoopWhoop?
Yes, but we take an audience-first approach, as opposed to a revenue-first approach. This lets us venture into things that may be a little ahead of their time, and not necessarily proven to earn revenue, while keeping us at the forefront of developments in the industry. The revenue-first approach would force us to do what has been tried and tested.
How data-driven is your content strategy?
We have set up our teams in such a way that even our content writers know how to read data. This lets us iterate our content in real time. We keep our personal biases out, and instead use audience feedback in terms of viewership data to inform our choices.
For instance, to create content about a married couple discussing having children, we first test out the storyline through memes and polls on social media. In fact, the web series Adulting came to be because people responded very well to our short-format videos about sisters and friends navigating tough situations. We also cast Mithila Palkar in Little Things because data showed that videos she appeared in did very well online.
Has the association with Netflix made you rethink your distribution strategy?
We want people to find our content easily; we don’t want to make it hard for them to watch what we create. Therefore, we will continue to build and launch more content for YouTube and other social media. To make sure our content reaches a wide audience, we are now publishing our content on platforms like ShareChat, TikTok and Snapchat. We want to be on SVOD, too, but we don’t want to put all our content behind a paywall.
Do you feel there is a need to regulate digital content?
Self-censorship is the best option for this space. There are some platforms and creators who take advantage of the lack of digital censorship to create edgy content. But we want to create relatable everyday stories that are family-friendly, platform-friendly and brand-friendly. This is also why we steer clear of controversial content — political and religious content in particular.