Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“We will be in the top three choices of a media planner”: Ajit Varghese, Moj

With a successful pilot campaign for Fanta, the short video platform is now racking up its user base before fully opening its ad inventory for advertisers.

While the industry still laments the demise of TikTok (in India), several companies have tried to ease the longing for both consumer-creators and advertisers. Among them is Moj, a vertical short video app from Mohalla Tech, a startup that also owns Indic language social media platform ShareChat. Mohalla Tech recently entered the ‘Unicorn club’ (crossed $1 billion in value).

Moj premiered on the Google Play Store the very day TikTok was banned in India (on June 29, 2020). The pace has helped the platform reach where it is today. Moj currently boasts a 120 million-strong user base, with a creator base of around 18 million. The majority of its users are in the 18-25 age group, and are based in top tier cities and metros.

The average time spent (on Moj) is around 34 minutes, with 75 million pieces of content created every month. The company claims that over 2.5 billion videos are played on Moj daily. Sibling social platform ShareChat has a user community of 160 million with 28 million creators.

Moj just launched an ad campaign positioning itself as an entertainment destination.

In a conversation with afaqs!, Ajit Varghese, chief commercial officer, Moj, says that the platform’s opportunity is as big as India’s Internet user population (600-700 million users).

Prior to joining Moj (in December last year), Varghese had spent over two decades in various roles across media agencies. He was global president at Wavemaker in his last stint, and is currently tasked with readying Moj for monetisation.

Ajit Varghese
Ajit Varghese

But there’s something else he must figure out before Moj opens up its ad inventory to brand marketers. A media planner at heart, Varghese was, till now, worried about ‘clients’ and optimising the outcomes of their media investments. At Moj, he is in direct contact with end users of the media platform. Nurturing the users is a top priority at the moment.

“Since we are in the first year of formation, most of the focus of building the Moj brand has been on the users, their experience on the interface and developing the ecosystem. We are aiming for around 50 per cent of the Internet population (of India) by end of this year.”

"We are aiming for around 50 per cent of the Internet population (of India) by end of this year.”

Apart from scaling the user base, the focus is also on improving the quality of content on the platform. Varghese adds that there has been “immense interest” from various brands from across categories, like FMCG, consumer services, entertainment, among others.

The platform ran its pilot campaign for beverage brand Fanta during Holi (in March 2021). The campaign included various facets, like branded hashtag (#YehHoliFantaWali), banners, etc.

Varghese says that the Fanta campaign overachieved its set targets by a significant margin. While the target number of views was 150 million, the outcome was upwards of 600 million, he mentions.

"I am confident that we will be in the top three choices of a media planner."

“It out-shot all our expectations across parameters – user interaction, usage of filters and brand fit. The number of views also gives us the hope of talking about the ‘billion views’ number in future. I am confident that we will be in the top three choices of a media planner.”

“We will be in the top three choices of a media planner”: Ajit Varghese, Moj

As the platform experiments with monetisation, it has launched a user-focused ad campaign. The ad films, led by stars Ananya Pandey and Vijay Deverakonda, position Moj as an entertainment destination, while also highlighting the ‘swipe up’ motion, a key aspect of content discovery and consumption on vertical video apps. Each swipe brings up a new video.

"We are competing with boredom."

“We are competing with boredom. Whenever people are bored, stuck in a monotony, or looking for a change of mood, they’d go to the app. A campaign like this is also passing on the experience of the existing user base to the next 500 million.”

Speaking on his experience of moving over from an agency network to a media product, Varghese says that while the concept on building brands is consistent on both the sides, the focus on the users is a new dimension.

“The whole focus on the user-consumer – retention, user interactions, experience, etc., has added a new dimension. When I talk to an advertiser now, I always keep the users in my mind. That has enriched my own thinking and interactions with the clients. I had an understanding of client needs and now I have an experience of a large digital audience on the short video medium.”

However, Moj isn’t the only one trying to rake in the short video consumers. Platforms like TakaTak, Roposo, HotShots, Chingari, Josh, Trell, Instagram Reels and even YouTube are vying for their cut. Over that, owner companies are investing their strengths to their short video extensions.

“We will be in the top three choices of a media planner”: Ajit Varghese, Moj

TakaTak is backed by MX Player, HotShots is backed by Gaana, Roposo is backed by InMobi, etc. Moreover, the platforms function in the same way, and address a similar set of creators and consumers.

Again, there is an overlap of users and creators across platforms, with the latter looking to get famous on multiple platforms. This is further followed by platforms forging partnerships with popular content creators.

In such a scenario, Varghese says that the main differentiation boils down to how the tech infrastructure works behind the scenes. “The AI works internally and makes the experience very personalised. The experience should suggest that it is designed for a particular user. One of the biggest factors of retention and staying on the app is that.”

This is followed by nurturing the creator ecosystem, content recommendation, enabling discoverability, etc.

“We will be in the top three choices of a media planner”: Ajit Varghese, Moj

“We all want the users to be ours, but at the end of the day, it is a marketplace and there will be competition. We’d like them (the users/creators) to prefer us over others. We have close to 500 Tier-I influencers on the platform. Our attempt is to make it enriching for the users. Even if they have interactions (with other platforms), they’d love to come back to us.”

Apart from enhancing the platform and its features, Moj also runs the Moj Creators program. It helps the creators build their content strategy, groom them, etc. The program includes physical destinations, where the creators can visit and shoot videos. This, in turn, affects the quality of the content on the platform.

Varghese hints that the platform may include an influencer marketing proposition in the near future. “While influencers engage with their audience, we will help them associate more closely with brands and marketers,” he signs off.

If you have news to share with us, write to newsteam@afaqs.com.

Have news to share? Write to us atnewsteam@afaqs.com