Gone Global is a Collabary series that aims to study the role of influencer marketing in regions outside of Europe and the West. By exploring influencers, campaigns, and trends in markets such as China, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and India, we can not only find inspiration from the exciting ideas coming out of some of the most lively and expanding economies in the world, but celebrate their cultures and the diversity of human creativity.
As the second-most populous country in the world, India is a vast nation that is admired for its incomparable culture and storied history. To many, it is seen to be a land of color and romance; a sensory smorgasbord whose ancient mysteries have influenced people and places in all corners of the world.
Despite the age of their surviving traditions, India has one of the most rapidly developing major economies in the world, with the rate at which it is diversifying and modernizing earning the attention of most major international companies over the last decade. On top of this, India’s e-commerce market has tripled to $33 billion since 2015, and exciting new developments in internet infrastructure look to open up the online world to India’s rural market by offering cheap data options over the coming years. It’s this reason that makes India the perfect place to study in an overview of local influencer marketing trends.
In this post, the fourth in our Gone Global explorations of influencer marketing after the Middle East, China, and Latin America, we have again chosen to cover four Indian influencers that we feel represent the most interesting and educational facets of marketing trends in the region and why they are worth paying close attention to.
Virat Kohli is an Indian cricket player and social media superstar that has built up a following of almost 39 million fans on his Instagram account. Through his photo documentation of his travels, fan interactions, and product testimonials, Virat has become a well-trusted brand ambassador and a household name to his followers both at home and abroad.
Photo credit: Virat Kohli
His influence recently went on to earn him a place on the Time Magazine Top 100 Influential People list of 2018, and if that’s not enough, his sponsored content has been reported to earn him around $196,000 USD per post. In the past, he has collaborated with international brands like Google, Puma, and Colgate, but it’s his most recent partnership with local energy drink OneX that has dominated his feed as of late.
His OneX posts have included everything from testimonials to fly-on-the-wall style footage of his purchasing the beverage. With social media penetration rates in India existing at around only 26% of the population, it is important for larger brands to be wary of the scope of their chosen influencers’ national popularity if trying to reach a wider market. With 400 million of India’s 1.3 billion population regularly watching cricket, the fact that Virat is a respected star in a nationally treasured sport could potentially yield a much wider reach than someone with less of a following.
Bollywood actress and influencer Disha Patani is one of the most successful local personalities to utilize social media to develop a following (23.6M) outside of their acting career. Her content ranges from workout videos, lifestyle advice, advertisements to her upcoming films and of course, brand endorsements. Her long list of collaborators has included international brands such as Calvin Klein, Pepsi Max, and MAC Cosmetics and more local brands like Portico India and Drools Dog Food.
Photo credit: Disha Patani
The potential to both Disha and her partners is invaluable: as the largest film industry in the world, Bollywood films account for 43% of film revenue in India, with the international Bollywood industry set to grow by 12% in 2020. By tapping into Disha’s onscreen popularity, brands stand to associate themselves with a widely loved local personality that can only play well with an authenticity-trusting consumer-base.
This need for major star association may have been more important in India than in Western countries. By the end of 2019, only 45% of India’s population will be internet users – a staggeringly low number when considering Germany’s internet population is around 90%. Adding to the fact that only 24% of India’s inhabitants own smartphones, it has so far been typical for companies to rely on collaborations with larger known figures to reach their desired wider audiences. But this is slowly changing…
Somya Gupta represents one of the growing numbers of influencers and lifestyle bloggers in India who have gradually built a following of 573k fans due to their online personality, beauty tips, and individual styling – similarly to the manner as many European influencers. While the value of these influencers, as well as micro-influencers, has been well understood in the West for some time, these content creators are gradually being prized in India for their ability to build more authentic relationships with their audiences across different platforms, with Somya using both her IG and YouTube channels to connect with her followers.
Photo credit: Somya Gupta
Despite her slow start and moderately-successful following by Western influencer marketing standards, Somya has already had collaborations with brands like Loreal, Maybelline, Garnier, Pepe Jeans, and LG Smartphones. In an online market that is still rapidly expanding, influencers such as Somya stand to benefit wildly from the wider exposure to influencer marketing, an industry bound to grow with the explosion of the rural internet population.
In a recent Influencer Marketing Outlook Report for 2019 by local marketing firm Buzzoka, over 500 people involved in IM in India were surveyed about their expectations for the future of the industry. While in 2018, most companies spent 5-7% of their marketing budgets on online influencers, 73% of firms now plan to increase their share on influencer marketing to around 35% of their budgets. On top of this, eight in ten of respondents stressed that internet personalities were either “important” or “extremely important” to their influencer marketing strategies, with Instagram-based campaigns being seen as the most important social media platform for IM by 69% of those surveyed.
Similarly to Somya Gupta, Prajakta Koli is an influencer and blogger who slowly built an audience through her blogs, with most of her success owing to her YouTube content. Prajakata started her channel in 2015 during a time of YouTube’s relative infancy of popularity in India. According to Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s Chief Business Officer, the popularity of YouTube channels in India has grown drastically since 2014, a time when only 16 channels had over one million subscribers, to now when over 300 local channels have over one million subscribers. With over four million subscribers, Prajakat’s popular Mostly Sane series is among these.
Photo credit: Prajakta Koli
In the last year, Prajakata has been listed on India’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She has recently acted as an ambassador for Xiaomi for their Redmi K20 smartphone launch, been the face of H&M India ’s online launch and appeared in television commercials for WhatsApp. Perhaps more importantly, she has also spearheaded an online campaign #iPledgeToBeMe dealing with battling body shaming and #GirlsCount for One.org.
The need for influencers to stand for social change in India cannot be stressed enough, especially when it comes to gender equality. Currently, only 27% of India’s Instagram’s users are female while 73% are men. This is reflective of the share of total internet users in the country, which sees only 30% of internet users as being female and 70% as male. As most successful Instagram influencer campaigns tend to be for traditionally female niches like fashion and beauty, this lack of representation online could affect the effectiveness of many campaigns.
Thankfully, this number looks set to grow in the coming years, marking a brighter future for gender equality in the country that will have far-reaching benefits both socially and economically.
By taking note of influencer marketing trends in India, brands can ensure that their methods of marketing in the region are culturally relevant and effective. To summarize:
1) India’s e-commerce market has tripled to $33 billion since 2015 and continues to expand as its online population does.
2) Only 26% of India’s population are social media users, having made it previously important for larger brands to be mindful of their influencer partners national popularity when trying to reach a wider market.
3) Only 45% of India’s population will be internet users by the end of 2019. This is due to the low user rate in rural areas. Additionally, only 24% of India’s inhabitants own smartphones.
4) Eight in ten of respondents stressed that “commoners” were either “important” or “extremely important” to their influencer marketing strategies. Instagram is the preferred platform for IM campaigns for 69% of those surveyed.
5) Only 27% of India’s Instagram’s users are female while 73% are men. This is reflective of the share of total internet users in the country, which sees only 70% of internet users as male and 30% as female. This is set to grow to a 60/40 split by 2020.