Aishwarya Ramesh

“80% OTT content consumption happens on mobile”: Prakash Sikaria, VP, Flipkart

Flipkart’s vice president of growth and monetisation - Prakash Sikaria discusses advertising, OTT audiences and snackable video consumption.

Flipkart Video is Flipkart’s in-app streaming service, offering over 5000 shows, movies and short film titles in a variety of languages including Hindi, English and several regional languages. The technology behind the service ensures that buffering time is kept to a minimum. The latest addition to the Flipkart Video library is Zindagi inShort. Zindagi inShort, is a collection of seven bitter-sweet, ‘slice of life’ short films. These films touch upon themes such as standing up for yourself when it’s the hardest, online romance, the innocence of childhood, the confusion of old age, the construct of being loved in a marriage, infidelity and a woman’s role in the family. Zindagi inShort is now streaming live and can be viewed only on the Flipkart app. under the video section, for free. On the side-lines of the press conference, we caught up with Prakash Sikaria, vice-president (growth and monetisation) at Flipkart. Edited excerpts of the conversation below...

Q: What's the difference between an Indian consuming a piece of content on an OTT platform as opposed to watching a televised show or a film in the theatre?

A: OTT is a bracketed term, so let's extend the conversation to digital video – since that’s more meaningful. Today, 80 per cent of consumption happens on mobile devices. Out of that, if you look at the average session for OTT content on mobile – is about ten minutes. It’s clear that we’re seeing snackable behaviour when it comes to content consumption, and this is on a mobile only basis. They’re not starting the show on mobile and then shifting to the larger screen – the behaviour is to watch as and when they have a few free minutes.

Another lens through which we view OTT viewership is that there is that there are maybe 2-3 million people who are okay paying for content. But, there is a large audience in India that has grown up believing that digital content needs to be free and that’s why they’re pivoting more on platforms that are free. That’s why you see a lot of freemium models on platforms like Hotstar. They have phenomenal numbers when it comes to free content but the paid portion is still a very small part of their site. These are some of the key differences in content consumption patterns.

Prakash Sikaria
Prakash Sikaria

2. Can you paint us a picture of the typical ‘on-the-go’ OTT user?

A: There isn’t one uniform picture that I can paint of them. In metros, people are consuming content heavily, binging with the help of 2-3 subscriptions, often shared among friends. In tier 2 or 3 cities, there is a large section that is consuming at least an hour of content daily. Think of a typical 25 year old male from a Tier II or Tier III city, who has a 9 to 5 job or owns a business – these guys are spending about half an hour daily, watching content. The two choicest platforms for them are YouTube and TikTok because no other platform is free. The content choices are moving away from television and soap operas to snackable content in genres such as news and comedy. TikTok has become a genre in itself, but that’s a conversation for another day…

It’s not like these guys don’t have content choices, but other OTT players are releasing episodic content which is nearly 40-45 minutes long and it’s not optimised for mobile. So it’s not like they don’t have options – it’s just that YouTube and TikTok offer them quality snackable content for free. That’s the opportunity to double down on. There’s a universe between OTT and free platforms like YouTube and TikTok and it’s a very interesting space that so far, no one is going after…

3. What are some of things you’re going to offer, at Flipkart Video, to fill that gap?

A: One is that we want to offer short form, snackable, free content of high quality. If you look at Zindagi in Shorts – the challenge was, how do we get the best out of the actors and the storyline in 10-15 minutes, so that we’re creating good quality snackable content. We’re also working on bringing interactive content to the platform. If you look at TikTok, you don’t just see storytelling on the platform, you see people experimenting with interactive content and the mobile screen lends itself beautifully to that.

4. Voice is coming up within Tier II and III audiences as a major media trend. How will you incorporate elements of that into your marketing strategy?

A: Voice and vernacular go hand in hand. When you tell stories in native languages, you talk directly to the consumer. In India, the growth of video is driven by the fact that people want stories in their own languages and there are multiple platforms that are giving them that. Voice is still an early trend that is increasingly finding its way to search based platforms.

But if you look at OTT consumption, 90% of it is merchandising and advertising based, not search based. If a consumer sees a banner ad for content, he’s more likely to click and watch.

5. What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to populating the platform’s content library?

A: The biggest challenge as we try to innovate is that we need to condition the entire ecosystem to innovate with us. For example, if we want to make interactive content, we may not be able to find the right production house, content creators with the right skills and so on. We have to educate the ecosystem to come up with those concepts and help them evolve. It’s a challenge but it’s an opportunity as well.

6. What are some of the overall trends you’re seeing in advertising in the OTT space?

A: Since all top GEC channels in India have an OTT play, these OTT platforms are struggling to find ad dollars. Digital advertising is very data led. That’s why YouTube has a phenomenal advantage there. I believe that while the YouTubes and Facebooks of the world will continue to get advertising dollars, standalone media platforms driven by content, will cap out after a point when it comes to advertising dollars, because they struggle to show the efficacy of the ad and its targeting etc. Because they don’t have any audience insights.

7. Can you tell me about some of the challenges that you face with relation to technology adoption?

A: When it comes to Tier II or Tier III audiences, their digital induction is happening through WhatsApp. A lot of us have worked on desktop computers and we know what a website is, what products are available, etc. But a lot of new consumers that are coming in are not fundamentally aware of what they can do on the platform and how the product flow happens. In that sense, we’re seeing videos turn into a great enabler. Our video player is very assisted. The first step is to onboard the consumer before they get into deeper flows like transactions or e-commerce on the app.