Startups in India need more policies that help independent entrepreneurs
Startups are expecting that the government will launch more programmes for them on the lines of Digital Bharat to encourage the country's entrepreneurial streak. "We look forward to new policies for startups that are more relaxed and are in favour of independent entrepreneurs," says Vipul Agrawal, co-founder, Unlu, a fan engagement startup, in an exclusive interview with Bizz Buzz
Unlu, a fan-to-star connect platform, mediates personalized fan moments in the form of celebrity recorded wishes on special occasions. The platform is accessible as an application and a website where celebrities can connect with their fans by sending across birthday and anniversary wishes, inspirational messages and greetings, on request
The company's plan is to continue expanding the celebrity ecosystem, while making the product solve more and more problems and use-cases. At the same time, make it the de facto platform for any user or brand to come and engage with any celebrity of their choice in India
How is the industry growing in terms of CAGR and what is the current size?
The industry is growing at 18 per cent CAGR. The entertainment sector is currently a $10 billion industry.
How many players are there in the space?
This industry is comparatively a new segment with only few players. To be precise, there are about four to five active companies operating in the tech-product led celebrity engagement space. The only way one can create a differentiator for ourselves and attract more users on the platform is through timely onboarding most influential celebrities.
What are the challenges?
It's a niche industry with disproportionate upside. So, it has its own challenges on initial adoption from the supply side. But we are relentlessly pursuing to solve every problem and make the experience for celebrities and our users better through innovations in product and technology.
What are your expectations from the government?
The government's initiative towards Digital Bharat has inspired us to see our future and growth in this industry. We expect the government to focus more on this initiative. We also look forward to new policies for startups that are more relaxed and are in favor of independent entrepreneurs.
What is your company's plan?
The company's plan is to continue expanding the celebrity ecosystem, while making the product solve more and more problems and use-cases. At the same time, we want to make it the de facto platform for any user or brand to come and engage with any celebrity of their choice in India. Along with an aggressive regional penetration, we are also planning to explore the international markets by onboarding international celebrities and make our services available around the globe. In terms of Unlu class we are trying to create a larger bucket of learning which will not include coding, but will be more about interactive learning, creative stuff and will also teach some life lessons which will make people think with a much larger perspective beyond technology and the internet. Also, in the next few years we are planning to launch more engaging content which will be both inspiring and aspiring.
How is the company's financial at present?
Within a short span of time, we have gained great interest from our user base in India and the company has been witnessing 80-100 per cent growth rate in revenue month on month from both tier 1 as well as tier 2 markets. We are expecting these numbers to accelerate further in the near future.
How many celebrities are on board?
We have over 2000 plus celebrities onboarded already, across all our platforms like shoutout, Unlu class and brand endorsement. We don't limit ourselves to specific genres and have been expanding our network beyond just Bollywood and reaching out to champions and most popular names across Tollywood and Mollywood also. We have an expansive celebrity base and boasts of a rich line-up of television artists, sports personalities, reality TV stars, professional dancers and singers, motivational speakers, social media influencers, YouTubers, poets, writers among many other and have started gaining greater regional interest from the respective markets after onboarding Punjab's sensationals- The Great Khali and Guru Randhawa; Tamil superstars- Madhan Pandian, Sakshi Agarwal, Anjali and Nivetha Pethuraj, and Malyalam favourites such as Sherin, Sai Kumar, Bindu Panicker and Janani Iyer, to name a few amongst many.
What kind of activities are being undertaken?
We are a well-diversified platform catering to the needs of the fan base. Unlu, a fan-to-star connect platform, mediates personalized fan moments in the form of celebrity recorded wishes on special occasions. The platform is accessible as an application and a website where celebrities can connect with their fans by sending across birthday and anniversary wishes, inspirational messages and greetings, on request. For example, you can ask an athlete of choice to extend an inspirational message or spill the beans on a certain victory match. Utilize the service of Unlu and book customized birthday message for your friends and family, request a TV actress to wish your parents on their anniversary, seek a pep talk from a thought leader to guide your child about the upcoming career plans or ask a celebrity to give shout out to your friend on his or her latest achievement. Through Unlu class, fans can also virtually meet and learn from the successes, failures and heartfelt stories shared by our celebrity mentors such as Manoj Bajpayee, Johny Lever and Ruskin Bond, who have been imparting acting, comedy and writing skills, respectively on the platform. At the same time, brands and organizations can come and book our partner celebrities through us for brand endorsements, live music shows, comedy shows etc.
With the segment projected to grow at 20 per cent plus year-on-year, please tell something on future projections.?
We are committed at contributing greatly towards this projection through our ongoing and upcoming collaborations. We also raised nine crore in a seed funding round led by marquee venture capital firm, Nexus Venture Partners with participation from Mumbai Angels, VGangels, TiE and Expert Dojo. We plan to utilize this funding to build technological bases, support product development and fuel market expansion.
Please elaborate on some of the events the company has undertaken with celebrities
The company has got thousands of celebrities to deliver personalized video messages to users. At the same time, Unlu has conducted live music shows by the well-known singer, Shaan and an Indian score composer duo Salim–Sulaiman, for Flipkart customers. Organised a comedy show with the Indian stand-up comedian Jeeveshu Ahluwalia known for his spontaneous one liner and quirky jokes. We have also executed brand endorsement videos for MPL and Dr Vaidya from Harbhajan Singh and Gauri Khan, respectively. One of the recent brand collaborations was with BookMyShow. With a purpose of bridging the celeb-fan gap, we partnered exclusively with them for delivering personalized video messages from our onboarded celebrities to their extensive user base.