Roshan Pamnani is a radio jockey by profession and a lyricist by passion. But it wasn’t until recently that the 32-year-old found a way to showcase his skills with the written word. The Ahmedabad resident was initially sceptical when he heard about a contest by a startup called Talent Dekho, one of a growing number of new-age talent-discovery platforms in the country. Roshan’s version of the hit number ‘Apna Time Aayega’ from the movie Gully Boy won him the Rs 50,000 cash prize sponsored by Zee Gujarati.
“I have seen local artistes doing very well and improve their standard of living by displaying their talent online. Whether on YouTube or other talent platforms,” says Roshan, who plans to invest the prize money to create another video. “Today, there is no barrier to display talent online and, in fact, with the advent of apps like Talent Dekho, there is much credibility associated with these platforms.”
Roshan is not the only one to go plural. Heena Soni, earlier a host with Singapore-based live-streaming app Bigo Live, is now a full-time recruiter with it. The 21-year-old’s job is to enlist hosts who would dance, perform, talk and entertain Bigo’s 200 million registered users worldwide, including 60 million from India. The audience pays the hosts in the form of digital gifts that can be monetised.
Soni says hosts on Bigo Live typically earn Rs 25,000-50,000 a month, sometimes going up to Rs 1 lakh, if virtual gratification is included.
Several talented millennials and Gen Z’ers such as Roshan and Soni are supplementing their income on user-generated content, or UGC, platforms. Bigo Live alone has about 13,000 hosts in India.
The rise of talent apps and UGC
Over the past year, Chinese apps such as TikTok, Vigo, LIKE and Helo have made snackable content popular in India, triggering a proliferation of talent opportunities driven by UGC for youngsters in India’s small cities and towns. Domestic talent-discovery apps include Touchtalent, Hungama Artist Aloud, TalentNext, Talent Dekho, Dazzlr by Quikr, and First Wall by Dainik Bhaskar. Globally, MobStar (a Times Group India portfolio company) was among the early movers in this space. Others include Vydia, Bkstg, and BandPage (acquired by YouTube). Renowned micro-influencers such as Lisa Mishra, Mehak Dhillion and actress Neetha Shetty have been discovered by talent-discovery apps.
Giving legs to this trend is the rapid rise of mobile-first consumption of entertainment. As per this report, about 2 billion devices in India are expected to be connected on the internet network by 2021.
“We are only seeing newer models of something that has already existed. Talent has always been prevalent but was not easily accessible because of lack of opportunities,” says Prateek Lal, cofounder, Talent Dekho. “Technology platforms have killed those barriers. For us, through the platform we are creating, it is all about embracing the uniqueness that India has to present. There are two parts to this. One is the artist who believes that his/her talent is unique, the other is the consumer who likes to consume something that is unique.”
Talent Dekho has registered more than 1,500 creators from 350 cities across India and added over 13,000 content pieces in just three months. The platform makes celebrities of its creators by featuring them on hoardings, making discovery an easier process.
Talent gigs – A future of work trend?
Shanaya Sachdeva and her twin sister Jahnvi Sachdeva, are both professional makeup artists in New Delhi and hosts on Bigo Live. In just two months on the platform, the 19-year-olds have made Rs 60,000- 70,000 each. They are both now freelancers who invest about two hours a day on Bigo Live, entertaining their audience by talking with them as well as dancing and lip-synching.
“It is a low-investment effort and the money is good. I recently bought AirPods with my earnings,” says Shanaya. “My parents know that my sister and I are on the platform. We could never have been able to make this kind of money with our day jobs. We will continue to be on the platform as long as it lasts.”
A YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey reveals that youngsters of ages 21 years and below, and not yet employed, expect a starting salary of at least Rs 30,000 per month. The truth, though, is that youngsters in the 22-28 age group typically earn less than Rs 30,000 per month, as per the survey. Are talent apps, then, an opportunity to make money and get famous?
Artistes and creators are definitely motivated by the supplementary income, fame and offline opportunities they get (if they become famous or nano-influencers on many of these platforms)
A good gig option
Industry experts and executives are divided on the earnings potential of content creators on talent-discovery platforms.
“Talent is still a ruthlessly pyramid-like industry where some will succeed, many will fail. I don't think that will change in UGC also,” says Sajith Pai, director at Blume Ventures. “More and more people will showcase their talent, to try their luck, only a few will succeed.”
That said, Pai adds that it is, “a good gig option... This is definitely a trend where people decide to go plural. There are many people who have made it big on YouTube and tech has flattened the geography. You don’t have to be from the metros to succeed.”
Blume has invested in Qyuki, an app that helps creators in film and music create and monetise content.
Globally, investments in online talent-discovery platforms have amounted to about $4.34 million so far in 2019, according to Tracxn data. In India, such investments were about $360,000 over the same period.
Vivek Bora, cofounder of Dazzlr, is of a different opinion. “The UGC market is humongous and is only at a nascent stage in India and across the globe. UCG adds to popularity and popularity to success,” he says. “We have 50,000 artistes registered on our platform, 2,500-plus production houses, and have cast about 150 artistes over the last six months (with brands like Dove, Amazon and movies as well as shows like Singham 3 and CID).”
Bora says venture capital firms need to back the sector firmly. “VCs, according to me, have not backed this sector or the technology built around it enough. Indian artistes, if they work hard, can have global opportunities and as long as there is a high demand for talent, this industry will only grow.”
For now, only time will tell.
Nisha Ramchandani is the principal author of 'The Future of Work' series.
Published Date: May 09, 2019 05:05 PM | Updated Date: May 09, 2019 06:05 PM IST