In 2016 when Vinay Anand was looking to launch a startup again, after successfully exiting his previous media company Pipes, he realised his strengths were in the media and marketing segment.
During this time he also noticed that consumer mindset and behaviours were changing. “The consumer had started looking for brands that they could relate with. And it was important for brands to be authentic and reach out to customers with the idea of building trust,” Vinay says in a conversation with YourStory.
Thus through his contacts, Vinay connected with Atin Sharma, who had worked with the likes of RoundGlass Partners, HSBC, and Standard Chartered Private Equity. Atin joined in as Founder and CEO while Pooja Doshi Sharma, who has previously worked with L’Oreal India and L’Oreal USA, came aboard as co-founder.
The trio started Aer Media in 2016 out of Mumbai. The bootstrapped influencer marketing startup has worked with and continues to work with clients such as L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline, Johnson & Johnson, and Marico.
What does the company do?
“Our vision is to create the largest creator economy ecosystem in India. Our unique blend of marketing and technology expertise position us for market leadership as we witness this unprecedented boom in influencer marketing and the creator economy,” says Atin.
Vinay adds when the team started its journey, influencer marketing was in its nascent stages. Brands were working with a few with influencers without a data driven approach.
“With the growing relatability of influencers, we knew it was a matter of time before influencer marketing became central to a brand’s media mix. Over the last six years, influencer marketing has grown exponentially and is currently the fastest growing segment within digital marketing in India,” adds Vinay.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, influencer marketing was impacted like every other business. However, once the uncertainty receded, the segment bounced back.
The driver for this was unprecedented growth in the consumer purchase funnel moving from offline (pre-pandemic) to predominantly online (post and during pandemic). Brands started to focus on ecommerce and influencers started to play a pivotal role in the purchase decision of a consumers.
“We are built around the creators and influencers. We aim to work with and empower not just the top of the funnel creators but have a lot of focus on the macro and nano influencers. We believe that’s how we can drive the growth of this ecosystem from the grassroots,” explains Vinay.
Aer Media’s model works with brands instead of working with the influencers.
Vinay explains that the team activates the influencer marketing strategy for their brands. For example, when a brand launches a particular product, it gives Aer Media an outline of its target audience and what it likes to achieve.
“Based on this, our platform Unbox Social creates a list of best influencers that would work with the brand and the product. We work with the influencers and give them the access to these brands,” Vinay says. The team charges the brands a retainer fee after factoring in its own expenditure.
While the team did not disclose the numbers, the margins are between 10% and 15%. Since its launch, Aer Media has executed more than 2,500 influencer campaigns and created well over 100,000 pieces of content.
The team size is close to 120 people and is profitable.
Market and future
Over the past few years, influencer marketing has seen a significant upswing. A report by Social Beat adds India’s influencer marketing industry will touch a whopping Rs 2,200 crore by 2025. Brands like Roposo, Trell, and Meesho also operate in this space. But it also is a hard business to crack, as seen in the case of Trell, which faced significant financial issues.
“We don’t have a separate app that influencers have to go to, we work and partner with Instagram and WhatsApp. And the influencers directly get the campaigns they can choose on the platforms they already are on,” explains Vinay. He says this helps reduce spend and focus needed to maintain a separate app.
Understanding that there are several nano and micro influencers in the market who can help brands, the team decided to launch Fluttr platform. The technology is currently in its pilot stages. While it is a free service now, the team intends to charge brands per post in the future.
The team explains it will solve for the two key constraints of influencer marketing—budgets and ROI. Fluttr will connect branded content to commerce, making it an end of the funnel activity in addition to the consideration and awareness role it currently plays.
“For brands they can do influencer marketing at scale and also get deeper ROI measurability, for content creators they can benefit from a variety of monetisation avenues that Fluttr will bring to life for them. By leveraging our existing ecosystem, Fluttr is already in line to work with over 100 brands this financial year and aims to scale this to 300 within the next 12 months,” adds Vinay.
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings