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"India is a massive priority market and core to the future of VICE," Chanpreet Arora, VICE India CEO

By Anirban Roy Choudhury, afaqs!, Mumbai | April 24, 2018
We spoke to CEO, Chanpreet Arora, and content head, Samira Kanwar to find out VICE India's way ahead.
Chanpreet Arora (Left) & Samira Kanwar

Chanpreet Arora (Left) & Samira Kanwar

VICE India

It's been a week since Shane Smith's VICE Media officially announced its India launch and since then everybody is keen to know what VICE is going to offer and how it intends to differentiate itself from the rest. VICE in India will take on the likes of Arre, 101India.com, LogicalIndian and many other such publications which cater to the youth through edgy multimedia content.

A Brooklyn-based, $5.7 billion worth multi-platform global media behemoth, VICE started as a counterculture magazine from Montreal, Canada in 1994. The magazine was started by Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi and Gavin McInnes who left the organisation in 2008. VICE has raised funds from Rupert Murdoch's Fox, Disney and A&E Networks and has used the investment to enhance its content offering to create award-winning documentaries. In 2016 VICE Media's global news roundup programme - 'Vice news tonight' - premiered on cable and HBO. Over the years VICE has inked many such collaborative partnerships in order to distribute its content deals with Snapchat and Verizon being recent examples. In India too, the network started with a partnership with the Times of India group, (Times Internet for online) and will launch a TV Channel in association with the Times Network, Bennett and Coleman's broadcast arm.

While Shane Smith's resignation and Nancy Dubuc's takeover as VICE CEO in March 2018 made headlines in the global tech space, the Indian ecosystem took note of Chanpreet Arora's appointment as CEO and Samira Kanwar's appointment as head of content for VICE India. Before joining VICE India, Arora was working with Times Internet as head - revenue strategy and sales operations. She also worked with accounting firm EY in the past. Samira Kanwar, on the other hand, was associated with Only Much Louder (OML) as Content Director, she has also worked with Channel V in the past.

afaqs! spoke to both Arora and Kanwar to understand VICE India's way ahead; Kanwar took all the content related questions while Arora tackled those related to business and revenue.

Edited Excerpts


How long did it take VICE to create the bank that you have launched with?

Samira Kanwar: We've spent a lot of time and effort ideating and curating the kind of stories we would like to do at VICE India. It is a constant process - ideating, shooting and edits. The idea is to be as connected to conversations happening around India and to be a part of them.

The India census video has already connected to many and is word-of-mouth in certain parts of the country; why did you decide to launch with that video as a lead?

Samira Kanwar: The census reel represents VICE India's intent in the country - to be a platform for young people to speak up, be heard and feel at home with and about their own identities and ideas. Our team learned a lot as we travelled across the country to talk to young Indians about what they want, what they need and what it's like living in India right now.

Over a billion people. Millions of opinions.
We don't always agree. But, do we have to? #RaiseYourVICE

Posted by VICE India on Sunday, April 15, 2018

For the Delhi Belly episode of 'How a City works', VICE tied up with comedian Gaurav Kapoor, will he do the entire show or will you associate with different people in different parts?

Samira Kanwar: We will be working with different people for various episodes of that particular series. In general, VICE India is working with a large number of personalities across industries and walks of life to create content and a community that truly resonates with our audiences.

What is VICE's content strategy in India? Will it be more videos and less text or will it be an equal mix of both?

Samira Kanwar: VICE India has a strong focus on culturally-relevant topics and experiences of what it is like to be young in India today. Our local programming will span conversations across topics like identity, sex, food, music, politics, sports, science and tech, and nightlife. There will be a healthy mix of both video and editorial.

The website features a series called 'Mountain Dew presents: Kanchenjunga Calling' which looks like branded content; can you tell us more about it and is that going to be the revenue model in India?

Chanpreet Arora: VICE India will offer a full suite of creative offerings for brands through Virtue Worldwide, the creative agency born out of VICE. On the heels of this work, with our partner Mountain Dew (PepsiCo), VICE India will seek out additional clients to bring its unique, authentic storytelling to the region.

VICE India's branded content in association with Mountain Dew VICE India's branded content in association with Mountain Dew

Around the globe, VICE and Virtue Worldwide have provided creative content for several of the world's leading brands including ABInBev, Samsung, Uber, Airbnb, and Google among others.

In addition to that, the company also has a full-service content production studio in Mumbai - VICE Studio - producing local news, culture, documentaries, films and scripted content for television, SVOD (subscription based video on demand), OTT (over the top) and digital platforms.

How do you plan to market the launch? Which are the parts in India that you would like to first tap into?

Chanpreet Arora: We are going beyond urban India, into the regional emerging, aspirational and highly curious youth population which we believe will own the future of the country very soon. We will have 70 per cent local and 30 per cent global content.

The local content will be a mix of video, editorial, podcasts, multimedia, et al. We intend to have a strong play of Hindi and a mix of other regional languages in the coming times.

How do you plan to distribute your content to the end consumer in a period when algorithms are changing every day and is it safe to rely on social media?

Chanpreet Arora: With a content-first strategy, VICE India is committed to creating content for TV, S-VOD, A-VOD (advertising based video on demand), OTT Platforms and Open platforms like Facebook and YouTube with more details on multiple platform partnerships to be announced in the coming months.

We will also be premiering a significant late-night prime-time television block across the Times of India portfolio bringing the best of VICELAND's award-winning content to a mass market.

How many offices do you have in India at this stage and about how many employees are working for the India edition?

Chanpreet Arora: VICE India is functioning out of two offices - New Delhi and Mumbai. We are currently a 50-member strong team. We will soon be establishing a small presence in Bangalore as well.

What is VICE headquarters' perception about India? What is it that they are targeting in this country?

Chanpreet Arora: India is a massive priority market and core to the future of VICE. There are a lot of players India; the status-quo is being appended, there is innovation and new things are happening every day - it forms the perfect ground to do what VICE does best - be agile, humble and hopefully smarter, faster, better, and more interesting.