Aishwarya Ramesh
Media

“It was a big bet we took with this show”: Prakash Sikaria, Flipkart

A conversation with Prakash Sikaria, VP (growth and monetisation) at Flipkart, and Guneet Monga, CEO, Sikhya Entertainment – the team behind the interactive crime show ‘Kaun? Who Did it?’.

Flipkart Video, in collaboration with Guneet Monga’s production house Sikhya Entertainment, has given viewers the opportunity to play detective from the comfort of their phones, with the launch of the interactive crime fiction series ‘Kaun? Who did it?’. The show has been written by veteran TV writer Sunjoy Shekhar and can be viewed on the Flipkart Video section of the Flipkart app.

Those who correctly guess who the culprit is stand a chance to win Flipkart Coins as well as vouchers and other gifts. Monga, CEO, Sikhya Entertainment, reveals that Prakash Sikaria, VP (growth and monetisation) at Flipkart, gave her a simple brief – to create an interactive crime-based show starring a detective solving crimes. The show was shot in the middle of the COVID pandemic and Monga says that the format took its own shape eventually.

“The detective is homebound, he’s given a lot of clues that the audience also has access to, at the same time. After weighing all the clues, the audience can guess who the culprit is. The narrative came together, one case at a time, one story at a time,” says Monga.

Guneet Monga
Guneet Monga

“We were really excited about being able to merge content and technology. We were constantly writing, sharing thoughts and ideas on how to take this story forward. We discussed aspects, like how many suspects to include, how to build on this format, where does it stop, and so on. Our biggest challenge was the length of the episodes (15 minutes) because you have to build that velocity – to tell the entire story and also give a solution,” she says.

Sikaria tells us that earlier during the COVID-induced lockdown, the experiments with the interactive format of the content started. “What we did in the past was that we focused on non-fiction formats and quiz-led shows. But when we started to think of fiction, and discussed with Guneet on how to make it interactive, we had to figure out how to build the technology accordingly.”

Prakash Sikaria
Prakash Sikaria

He explains that the team worked remotely over a six-month time frame to bring this show together. "Interestingly, we were progressing on both fronts simultaneously. Guneet and her team were working on the content front, whereas my team was working on the tech backend to make it happen."

Monga explains that there were two more teams working to execute the shoots. One team would shoot the story from the detective’s perspective and the other would shoot the remaining outdoor crime scenes, the interrogation of the suspects, and so on. The team was also regularly tested for COVID on a random basis.

Monga admits that one of the most challenging aspects of the execution was tied to the fact that it was a mobile-only show. “When you frame for a big screen, you use different lenses. On this show, you’re essentially giving the audience a window to enter the crime scene and suspects to solve the case. We had to keep this in mind while taking creative decisions.”

When quizzed on the primary viewing platform that he’d prefer for interactive programmes, Sikaria points out that smart TVs (a common platform people use to consume content) are not conducive for interactive content/programming.

“Today, 80 per cent of content consumption in India happens on mobile. That’s why the length of the content, as Guneet mentioned, was a limiting factor for production. We’ve noticed that the average session time for viewing content doesn’t cross eight minutes. So, we had to create the engagement accordingly,” says Sikaria.

He reveals that after the show was launched, the time spent on the platform increased by 50 per cent. Most of the shows on the Flipkart Video platform have a rough duration of 4-5 minutes. ‘Kaun? Who did it?’ was the first show with episodes spanning 15 minutes.

“It was a big bet we took with this show – will we be able to change the behaviour of 3-4 minutes that we’ve trained people to look out for, on our platform? We track two metrics very closely. We track how many viewers, who’ve started watching the show, complete the episode, and how many of them return the next day to watch the next episode. These retention metrics are important to the platform,” he says.

The team saw disproportionate growth from shows that featured interactive video content. That’s why the pivot to interactive fiction and non-fiction narratives has occurred. Sikaria also reveals that viewership on the Flipkart Video platform has increased 4x since the lockdown began.

“We’d like to dive deeper into interactive fiction shows. Today, the story doesn’t change with the choices the user makes. They’re just selecting a choice; right or wrong. The technology we’re developing will allow the users to change the narrative of the story itself with the choices they make,” says Sikaria.

Talking about the rewards aspect of the content, Sikaria calls it a two-step journey. The system, on a real time basis, knows if a user has answered the question correctly or not. Then you get a scratch card, behind which there is a mobile phone, a TV screen, etc… The rewards vary, but the person has to get the answer right to get the scratch card in the first place.

He explains that there are two kinds of shows. Factual shows, in which the interactive element helps determine who killed the person (the criminal), and interactive shows that are based on real time events (such as cricket matches).

“The system has to be able to handle both kinds of use cases. The first one is instant – instant gratification in terms of the user getting mobiles, points, and so on. The second one has a 24-hour lag (to it), since the event has to play out before a user can win,” explains Sikaria.

He tells us that to begin with, the interactive element was experimented upon with smaller budget shows (non-fiction, quiz-based shows). Going forward, the team was going to focus on large budget non-fiction shows, with episodes spanning roughly 10 minutes.

An advantage that works for the platform is there may be passive customers who visit the app everyday – who can be communicated to with the help of push notifications, Sikaria adds.

Talking about the rewards aspect of the interactive shows, Sikaria points out that it’s an advantage that the Flipkart Video app has. It is a section on the main Flipkart e-commerce/shopping app.

“It means brands want to have a slice of the pie in the initiatives taken. They don’t only fund the rewards and the coins, but also have increased brand visibility when associated with the episodes,” he concludes.