Anirban Roy Choudhury
Interviews

"There is no reason why TakaTak can't be as big as TikTok in India": Karan Bedi, MX Player

The CEO of MX Player talks about the expansion into the short video format and his expectations from TakaTak.

TikTok is banned in India, and the search for its replacement is still on. From raditional media networks to news aggregators and Social Media giants, a wave of new TikToks have hit the likes of 'Faisu Miya', 'Hindustani Bhau' and other TikTok stars. Many of them claim that they were planning to launch anyway and their decision has nothing to do with TikTok being banned in the country. However, their products, in-app experiences and profiles tell a different story. 

However, new launches have slowed down, and now various platforms are boasting of numbers. Gradually, the dust is settling and the trend so far is that if the app is from the stable of a video-on-demand (VOD) platform, it will get a lot of engagement. 

One of them is MX TakaTak from Times Internet Ltd (TIL). With investment from Tencent, the local media player-turned-OTT MX Player, which according to Comscore is number 2 in terms of active users below YouTube and above Hotstar, claims to have more than 10 million active users on TakaTak. The ad-based VOD platform wants the short video or user-generated content format to be a large contributor to its revenue. 

Karan Bedi, CEO of MX Player, talks about the expansion into the short video format and his expectations from TakaTak. 

Edited excerpts:

How would you analyse TakaTak's performance so far?

It is very early days for TakaTak. It has been live for just over two months, and if you look at third-party statistics, we are clearly number one in the short video space. It is a smaller app than MX Player today, but in the next six months, we expect it to be quite big.

While TakaTak has a separate app, it is also a part of MX Player. How would you like it to grow? Do you want it to be a separate brand with a separate identity?

We will follow what we call a dual strategy. There is a standalone app for TakaTak and it is a part of the MX Player app too. We will continue with both. When we talk to the advertisers, we are the only player in the market who can offer short video, premium video, display and inventory on gaming property. Also, it is not that we have put five businesses in one app. They are very well integrated with each other.

When you say it will be big in six months, what do you mean? Can you put a number to it?

It is very difficult to put a number at this stage. Instead, let me put it this way. The short video industry, before it was disrupted, had TikTok as the largest player. What I know is there used to be at 50 million daily active users, and there is no reason why TakaTak can't be as big as TikTok.

How do advertisers look at the short video format? What purpose does it solve?

It is a very unique and engaging format and, therefore, the advertisers have a high interest (in it). There are different ad monetisation options that one can build in the short video space, and that is why clients are very excited about it.

When you bundle it with the other offerings we have, it becomes a comprehensive package. We have an offering for the advertisers today, which is called the 'Everytainment' pack. It includes inventory and reaches across all our formats. FMCG is very much in this pie. In fact, even automobile is a part of it.

When you say all formats, it includes gaming. What's been the progress on that front?

We launched our gaming product in beta form last December, and the proper launch was around February-March this year. We have a specific focus on tournament-style casual gaming, and have made good progress in that.

When it comes to tournament-style casual gaming, our platform is the largest in India. We have more than 100 games live on the MX gaming platform, and the engagement is massive. The average time spent per user per day is around 60 minutes on the gaming platform alone.

Why did you decide to get into gaming? How does it resonate with your offering?

MX Player's user base has a very high affinity towards gaming products, and that is why we decided to foray into it. The target audience for all our products is '3M', which stands for mobile, mass, millennial. Our premium content, short video and gaming are all targeted to this core audience.

Coming back to TakaTak, is it a low investment, high return business, as the content is user-generated?

I would not call it a low investment business as the investment is certainly very high. Yes, the return on investment is higher.

"There is no reason why TakaTak can't be as big as TikTok in India": Karan Bedi, MX Player

Which are the aspects that need investment?

Technology, marketing and then there is a reasonable investment that goes into content, as we work closely with the influencers. You need to provide good tools to the creators to enable them to create good content. A sizeable investment goes there.

What will TakaTak mean for MX Player's overall offering? Will it be the second largest contributor, or will it just be an add-on?

I won't be able to rate it, but it is going to be large. I would not call it an add-on offering. It will very much be a part of the core business. The potential for revenue is also huge. Look at the short video space in other markets, why is TikTok valued so much?

TikTok had a strong hold in Tier-II and deeper markets. Where will TakaTak users come from?

The short video market is not always (confined to) Tier-II market. It has a good representation from Tier-I market too. I fully believe that people across all tiers will join in.

There are so many of them already. Is there room for all?

I think there will be consolidation.... Our technology is one of the best in the market because of all the investments we have done in MX Player. For the creators, the short video is their claim to fame. What we can offer on that front is tough to replicate. They want to start with a short video and then get an opportunity on web series. We make a lot of the premium shows, and (so) we can cast them.