Expert Speak: Do ‘Originals’ hold RoI for eCommerce brands?

Sneha Yadav
New Update

With Zomato and Flipkart joining the bandwagon to creating 'Originals', Social Samosa attempts to understand the role of original content in business objectives.

As I write this piece, there are hundreds of Originals in the making while one or two might have even been launched, such is the momentum of Original content as a trend. Just to give you a perspective, the video streaming industry is all set to grow at a CAGR of 21.82% to reach Rs. 11,977 crore by 2023. OTT video industry too, is slated to rise by 11.28% to reach Rs. 4,51,405 crore, according to a report.  

Original Content at the Front

Zomato, in September last year, forayed into the web streaming space announcing the launch of 18 original shows in a span of three months. The shows are available under a new “Videos” tab in the Zomato app. An announcement on their blog shares that food and streaming videos go hand in hand.

The following month, in October, with a vision to transform entertainment for India Flipkart rolled out ‘Flipkart Video Originals’ integrated within the Flipkart Video platform, which was launched in August, 2019 . Flipkart Video Originals claimed to make available bespoke snackable content that is both mobile-first and interactive in nature.

The announcement further stated that, unlike other video offerings available today, Flipkart is integrating compelling technology in entertainment, for the widest consumer base which penetrates into the deepest parts of the country, where the possibilities are endless.

Myntra to joined the bandwagon sporting a show ft Sonakshi Sinha within their app's UI and YouTube.

In other news, Netflix’s Reed Hastings announced that the platform will be investing 420 billion US dollars (30 billion rupees) in the New Year to produce local content.

A number of brands too entered the original content game, with shows of their own or in association with production houses.

Social Samosa speaks to a cross-section of industry experts as we understand the role Originals play in helping brands achieve business objectives.

Originals - The Disruptor

With almost every sector – from e-commerce to the food delivery services to FMCG- joining the bandwagon of creating 'Original content', what kind of disruption does it bring? Shrenik Gandhi, Co-Founder, White Rivers Media doesn’t believe that it brings any disruption. In fact, according to him, it makes original content from different publishers more acceptable amongst the audience.


Just a few years ago, the average time spent on OTT and video content was less than 5 minutes a day. Today, it is above 100 minutes a day on average. Gandhi stated, “With this level of audience's involvement on OTT platforms, it is imperative and important to have more than enough content to satisfy the viewers. When it comes to creating original content - the more, the merrier!”

The KPMG study prophesizes that more than 500 Million Indians will gorge on Online content by 2023.  More than disruption, today it is a matter of staying in the audience’s preference settings.

Rahool Talukdar

“Imagine the brand rub off an audience has with the brands like Amazon, when he/she is watching hours and hours of content. Could Flipkart have possibly ignored it? You shop from e-commerce twice or thrice every month, vis-à-vis the number of hours you spend every day watching stuff. Imagine the subconscious affinity one builds towards a brand,” said Rahool Talukdar, Sr Creative Director, iProspect India.

The current wave of digital content creation, Internet-based, category-specific streaming content disruption mirrors the introduction of multiple television channels back in the 70s. Madhura Ranade, Head- Branded Content & Partnerships, Isobar thinks that it’s the same pattern we see now with a change in medium.

Madhura Ranade

She added, “This mirrored disruption changes the way we consume content and also the way we learn to ignore some of it. What is interesting is that, as opposed to distributing content through third party content aggregators, which are already much cluttered, these brands are able to serve content to their already engaged loyal customers and if they like it, keep coming back and spend the maximum time possible on their app”.

Kumar Deb Singh

Touching onto the creators’ perspective,  Kumar Deb Sinha, Country Head, The StoryLab feels that this is the best time to be a creator and the next two years will witness a big investment in content. “Honestly I don’t think everyone will be making returns on their investment. This is the time when everyone is trying to experiment and see what they can get out of it; however, every player has a different thought process”.

For instance, a Hotstar or Zee5 are traditional content creators, and then you have tech disruptors like Netflix – while traditionally they are not a content company but today they have become one of the biggest producers of original content.  Amazon’s primary business is never going to be content. It is always going to be an e-commerce giant and creating content is a tool for them to drive their prime membership.

Sinha sees the same process

with Flipkart and Zomato. While content is another engagement platform for

their consumers but ideally, he thinks, there are going to be out and about

content players in the near future- this is just another mode of engagement for

them which is driving massive advantage to their core businesses.

While creating original content was primarily a forte of traditional OTT platforms and individual creators, it has caught the eye of social media platforms like Snapchat too. Snap Inc. last year announced the launch of Snap Originals, the company’s premium, mobile shows created exclusively for Snapchat’s audience. The shows are available globally on Snapchat’s Discover page, one of the industry’s leading made-for-mobile video platforms.

Is it the right way?

The question here with a bunch of already existing traditional content creators, are the newcomers making a mark?

“Similar to television, everyone has to find their own niche; they can’t be doing everything together at the same time,” elucidated Sinha. The exit barrier of television was very high – over here for someone to unsubscribe out of something is just a button away. Nothing is stopping viewers from watching Sacred Games wand disconnecting from Netflix later – subscribing Amazon Prime for a particular series or Hotstar for a short period of time and again connect back to Netflix.

According to Sinha, by trying to be everything for everybody and just following blindly the craze for originals, if these creators don’t create their own unique space, they are definitely going to lose out. “For instance: Zee5 is very clear and headed towards building its niche in the regional content. They are investing very heavily across languages”.  

The digital ecosystem is evolving at break-neck speed. Gandhi observed that there is no right or wrong way - the techniques that are faster and more efficient will generally win. He added, “Digital believes in the fail-fast model - which means that if you put out something and it doesn't work, you should be agile enough to drop it, and not release subsequent versions of the same.”

Meanwhile, Ranade likes the way Zomato is shaping its original content. She exemplified, “The content is specific to food, and the touchpoints to come across that content are also very interesting, – you’ll see some food videos once you’ve ordered your food and are waiting on your order – this makes the experience non-intrusive”.

Jumping into an OTT space is just the beginning and most definitely the easy thing to do. “The challenge is to create content that really makes one emote. Somewhere brands will have to choose the kind of content that works for ‘their audience,” Talukdar stated.

Look at Snap Originals (Snapchat’s Video Plat) – you will find a very stark connection with the kind of users Snapchat has and therefore the content. Tells us that Snapchat really understands its users well.

Are we too cluttered?

“Definitely”, comes the response from Ranade;

What’s different here is that you would view the content on a food app for example while you are already visiting the app, which is very functional as a primary action – so she doesn’t see this being a substitute to OTT, also by virtue of the kind of content it is. “Eventually, after some experimentation with formats and the kind of engagement they receive, this content may be distributed to third parties like we’ve been seeing as a trend with more mainstream digital content, which would possibly help expand the reach,” she added.

The day isn't far when one would be able to pause the video and shop what one’s favourite character is wearing, shares Talukdar.

We started with Doordarshan and overtime TV set imbibed 800 plus channels across languages and genres. Today we have around 34 OTT platforms and maybe they will find their own separate genres.

For instance, Geetha Arts, one of the largest Telugu content creators have invested in launching an OTT service which might go on floors in a month’s time. They are going to focus very clearly on Telugu language content. Similarly, Hoichoi has built its base in Bengali content. 

Sinha thinks these niches need not be only on the genre of content but also languages and over a period everyone will build onto their strengths and create their expertise will dominate.


for Food or Originals?

Is today’s consumer-ready to go on Zomato only to watch originals? Sinha doesn’t think it will be an either-or. As per his understanding, the logic behind Zomato Originals is that once you have ordered the food, you have a 30-40 minutes wait time depending on the particular city.

What does the consumer currently do, they move out of the app and get into something else. The whole objective is why miss out on 40 minutes of entertainment and wait for the food to come to your doorstep. This is exactly the period when Zomato finds its fit to engage with the consumers.

“The way television viewership is going down, maybe this is the way future food channels will survive in India. This is a great brand extension and not purely content play,” Sinha briefed.

To sum up the ‘Original’ wave and the kind of edge they entail, Gandhi asserted that originals are effective because they can enable seamless and fluid brand integration. “If it is not brand-owned content, there quite a few restrictions in creating branded content. With their own channel, it becomes a lot easier and the macro narrative can be taken care of.” 

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