Mr. Hemant Jain has been associated with Lokmat since 2016 as Sr. EVP & Business Head, ClickStart. Hemant comes in with over 22 years of hands-on experience in building businesses with P&L responsibility in digital media, mobile entertainment, online publishing & consumer broadband space. He embarked on the digital journey at an early stage of his career (1996) with the launch of indianexpress.com. During the period 1997-2001, he set up digital media divisions for some of the leading advertising agencies in India – TBWA, Euro RSCG & DDB. In 2002 he joined Reliance Webstores as part of the founding team, responsible for brand & consumer marketing, launched 241 broadband cafes across 105 cities in India. Hemant spearheaded the India business for Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. for 6.5 years (2008-2014), responsible for leading Hungama’s growth as a dominant mobile entertainment player by providing strategic direction and leading business operations across content, product, technology, distribution and monetization.
Before joining Lokmat, in his role as an entrepreneur, Hemant launched ‘Happitoo’, India’s 1st nightlife planning app and managed his startup for 2 years between 2014 to 2016
ClickStart, is a digital media, publishing, entertainment, brand solutions, consulting and information services startup of the Lokmat Media Group. ClickStart was launched in Jul’2016, with an objective to build local communities around local languages and content, build the largest content distribution network across multiple digital touch points and invest in technology to deliver a world class product experience to our users.
In an exclusive chat with tvnews4u.com’s – Straight Talk team, Hemanth Jain has shared his journey with Lokamat Group’s digital and start-up initiative and his future plans for ClickStar.
Q: The idea of Click Start?
My start-up journey with Lokmat Media has been quite fascinating and enriching. What really impressed me is their extensive distribution network, a wide spread on ground team of over 3000 content reporters covering news from over 100+ towns and a strong connect with local readers through various on ground forums in the states of Maharashtra and Goa. I was quite excited to join them not for the fact that regional language content is going to drive the next growth in Internet adoption in India, but the fact that they are the largest read daily newspaper in Mah & Goa, No.1 in Marathi & Hindi for the last 45 years and the fact that they distribute newspaper daily till the last ST bus stop in the State of Maharashtra.
I saw this as a huge opportunity. At one end, lies the opportunity to enable a digital transformation in the value chain of content creation, with ‘digital first’ being the lead mantra and other end was the ability to leverage the groups strength in distribution to local content creation to build online media sites across multiple content formats.
Clickstart was born on 5th July 2016 with the mission is to build the largest community of ‘young-at-heart’ individuals (18-35years) around various local experiences, in local languages and available across multiple touch points. We firmly believe in the power of local backed by global scale and practices. Our endeavour is to deliver local experiences, empower our audiences and enrich their lives
We are living in exciting times. language internet user base grew at a CAGR of 41% between 2011 and 2016 to reach 234 million users at the end of 2016. This impressive growth has resulted in Indian language internet users surpassing the English internet users.
This growth momentum is likely to continue with the Indian language internet user base growing at a CAGR of 18% to reach 536 million by 2021 compared to English internet user base growing at 3% to reach 199 million. Indian language internet users are expected to account for nearly 75% of India’s internet user base by 2021.
Hindi internet user base is likely to outgrow English user base by 2021 and along with Marathi and Bengali users will drive the volume growth.
Q: How does Clickstart look ahead ?
Clickstart is on a journey to create the largest hyperlocal media hub for regional news, entertainment and information services. In phase-1 our focus is on building market leadership in the Marathi language space through Lokmat.com (News & Infotainment), cnxmasti.com (Entertainment) and 7 Race Course Films (Made for digital, video production house)
At our heart, we’re entrepreneurs. We are keen to investing in, acquiring and building companies with sustainable competitive advantages. We believe we are the best growth partner for startups with an ambition to scale in our market. Our operating model is different from many other companies. Our teams are currently hunting for companies in online publishing, regional news, sports, entertainment and ad-tech space.
Q: Where does Lokmat.com stand in Marathi digital News and Infotainment Space..?
Over the last 12 months, Lokmat.com has been the fastest growing Marathi news and infotainment network online, when compared with eSakal.com, Maharashtratimes.com & Loksatta.com. Today at Lokmat, Every reporter is trained by online editorial team to create and share local news including videos. Secondly, provide access to on ground reporters to ingest content including stories directly in a unified cloud based content & digital asset management system. While the content gets ingested digitally first, it’s ready for distribution across multi-media platform including print. All editions and sub-editions, including special features are also available as e-papers optimized for web and mobile view. We are today the largest destination for Hyperlocal news in Marathi, publishing local news from over 40+ cities and towns in Maharashtra. During this period we have made investments in building a capable team of digital professionals and also building a world class content management and delivery platform which we are planning to unveil mid-July.
Q: What are the recent initiatives?
We realised that there is a huge market for consumption of entertainment content in Marathi. We launched cnxmasti.com in Nov’16 to fill in this gap. Today, cnxmasti.com is India’s largest entertainment destination in Marathi. It brings you the latest news and happenings from the world of Marathi cinema, Bollywood, Hollywood, Television, Marathi theatre, live events and parties.
As devices are getting smarter and access is getting broadbanded and affordable, video is the fastest growing form factor in India. Today YouTube in India has more than 150Mn. monthly active users. We looked at this a huge growth opportunity for future and launched 7 Race Course Films, another new initiative from team Clickstart.
At 7 Race Course Films, in the initial phase our focus is on building the largest video network of ‘Made in Marathi, Made for Digital’ content. Once we have gone through the process of building the Marathi content play, we believe it’s going to be relatively easier for us to venture into other local languages. Content production, Distribution, Audience Building and Monetization are the core pillars of this business.
As an organization we have always believed in the power of nurturing young and creative minds. We all felt that the best way to kickstart the 7 Race Course Films journey is create that connect with this young talent and we launched India’s first Marathi short film contest. We reached to a large number of colleges, photographers and creative talent through our online and offline network across Maharashtra. The buzz surrounding this contest is overwhelming. Within the first 15 days itself we have received 690 entries and have also attracted the attention of some very prominent Marathi film actors and producers. The winner of this contest gets his next project funded by Lokmat.
Q: What is the Urban – rural breakup of populace in Click Start?
Currently at Clickstart, our focus is on driving growth in Marathi news and infotainment space through Lokmat.com. During this period we have seen a huge jump in our online readership from Pune and Mumbai. Today close to 50% of our online traffic on Lokmat.com comes from Pune and 70% of these users are below 35years. In short term I would say Mumbai and Pune. Purely for its overall population base, penetration of internet and thereby larger Marathi speaking audience..
We are witnessing huge growth of users from tier 2 cities in Maharashtra, which include Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, Kolhapur, Sholapur, Akola and Nanded. We believe that we will always have a position of advantage to drive growth in Tier-2 & 3 cities and towns, thanks to our well established on ground machinery across the state and reach to over 23million print readers. We are committed to work at the grass root level with first time internet users by organising various ‘digital literacy’ camps.
Q: Eventually will you convert to an OTT Platform?
OTT or no OTT, the core guiding philosophy at 7 Race Course Films is be to produce great quality local language content on a regular basis. In my view, unlike the more matured digital markets (North America, Japan, Europe etc.), India is still at a very nascent stage for the OTT players to experience any windfall in short run. The OTT players in India will need to work extensively in getting their content, technology and distribution mix right. Multiple OTT brands & also ‘wall guarding’ of content by various players has only made it more difficult for consumers. In such a scenario, the current OTT players will need to continue to make investments to 1. Build awareness 2.Relevant & Engaging content offerings 3.Building strong enough value proposition for the consumer to pay (S-VOD or T-VOD) 4.’Realistic’ Pricing models to initiate paid subscriptions. The unit economics of this business will not happen on the back of ad funded model, BUT will only set in once the consumers starts paying for subscriptions.
At 7 Race Course Films, we do not aspire to be an OTT player, we only aspire to self produce or invest in commissioned content which we believe is world class with our ability to Distribute & monetize it globally through a multi-channel distribution strategy
Q: Once the competition is over, and you have a data bank of creators will you start monetizing??
Before we come to Monetizing, you will see a channel mix coming us and we will also announce a line-up of web series which will be our IP. Most importantly we want to focus on producing local language content based on great consumer insights, that is credible and finds a huge connect with our ‘young at heart’ millennial audience. This would also help us build large community of engaged users without burning large sums on acquiring viewers. The interesting fact about content marketing in the online and social media age is the multiplier effect it offers via sharing. Infact, user becomes the influencer and marketers of your content.
As a team, we have a very good understanding with years of experience in content distribution and monetization. So by the time we have our lines ups ready, we would have our monetization and distribution strategy in place. The first ever Marathi Short Film contest launched by us is also going to be the first showcase event for 7 Race Course Films and the first ever platform for our viewers and creative talent in the Marathi language space to get together .
As we embark on the ‘Made in Video & Made for digital journey’ in local language space, we already have reach to over 23Mn. ‘Lokmat Family’ members in Maharashtra & Goa via print, online and on-ground forums – a multimedia platform to showcase and distribute our content.
When we did Lokmat Maharashtrian of the year we partnered with Facebook, as they found our network extremely valued to reach out to users in Maharashtra.
Today, we have a database of close to half a million people in Mah & Goa who have interacted with & experienced the Lokmat brand at an event or are members to our state wide initiatives for women readers called Sakhi Manch and youth called Yuva Next. Our next big project, is what I term as N = 1, a one-2-one engagement program with our audience where we plan to digitise & enrich the half a million offline customer database, build an intelligent data warehouse, enrich it over a period of time using the best in class technology and clickstart a N=1 relationship with our audience. As data flows in multimedia touch points, the potential to empower our customers in this digital age is immense. N=1 has the power of getting smarter every day, compliment all our other media properties, since it will have a huge potential and offer more precise targeting capabilities for brands to communicate effectively.
Apart building a stack around multi-dimensional content and local language media properties, we also plan to integrate machine learning and big data to create new age advertising opportunities for brands and marketers.