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KWAN is India’s largest pop culture marketplace: Vijay Subramaniam

The pandemic has been brought in some challenging times for every sector. One of the most affected sectors has been the entertainment and talent management industries. With live shows coming to a halt and the Government ban on platforms like TikTok, artists are facing unprecedented times.

Amid such a scenario, KWAN, a platform for popular culture and talent, has upped its game. With the present pandemic scenario, the company’s two promising verticals – BGBNG Music and its Digital talent space – have shown great promise and also shown appreciable business growth.

Also read: Kwan Entertainment forays into China

Vijay Subramaniam, Co-founder and CEO of KWAN, has been one of the key drivers for the company to have grown double in size in the past year as well as the expansion into different business verticals. He strongly feels that KWAN is defined by the swiftness of their action and the level of transparency that they have with their company.

In conversation with Adgully, Vijay Subramaniam talks about the impact of the pandemic on the talent management ecosystem, the growing importance of the digital sector, to road ahead and remaining optimistic during tough times.

Could you give us some insights on the current talent management scenario and the impact of the pandemic on this ecosystem? How long do you see the current situation continuing?

We really don’t know for how long this will go on as these factors are not in our control. From a talent perspective, we’ve had to be more agile and find new avenues. Digital has become a massive economy. I’m a firm believer in crisis leading to opportunity. We’ve seen digital opening up several opportunities in this business. In these times, we’ve seen a lot of action in the OTT business and the influencer marketing business and the advantage that we have at KWAN is that we are not a one-trick pony in terms of our management business. If you look at our actors, comedians and musicians – while they haven’t been able to perform live or shoot under these conditions – they have continued to work by engaging with brands and online platforms. We are also engaging with a lot of our writers and directors to develop new ideas for OTT. We’ve been trying to secure available opportunities for our clients. It’s been tough, but like I said, in tough times you dig deeper and attempt to scrape out every opportunity that you can.

Musicians and comics today get most of their earnings through live shows. How are you getting around the challenges faced by artists in the current scenario? Are there any innovations happening to aid this?

Artists have been performing online now, but this will further evolve. We are going to get used to a different kind of lifestyle. The first step of the pandemic was to figure out the existential problem of our artists. The next step was how you will work on that problem. We’ve seen micro series being made, which are being sold to OTT platforms, and online concerts being created as well. The economy is shaky and we hope these new avenues will help in creating new post pandemic business avenues. An artist today can earn through these platforms in these challenging times. Even as a consumer, these platforms are the only choice to consume content. Nobody is in this alone. The reality for everyone in the business is the same. More innovations are going to come by and we’ve already seen an example of that in many sectors – Ed tech, gaming, hyperlocal, etc.

People will need to be patient enough for the new avenues to come about and then adapt to it and do so quickly.

With 106 Chinese apps banned in India, including platforms like TikTok, how has your talent been affected by it? Do you see alternative platforms coming up to help them retain their followers and their online presence?

I think alternative means will come up. We have already seen several homegrown apps increase their scale of operations and they will attract a lot of influencers.

From a creative perspective, it will be interesting. The creators will need to find a new home to migrate to and thereon start their journey of accumulating their audiences across newer platforms. There will be a gap in ad dollars as well, as Tik tok was drawing meaningful advertising dollars.

What are your projections for the entertainment and talent industry over the next 2-3 years?

A lot of doomsday predictions are doing the rounds, but I am still a strong believer that eventually we will go back to cinemas, we will go back to concerts. Hopefully, there is a cure we will find soon, which will restore normalcy. I do agree that the situation will get a lot worse before getting better, however once it does get better, we will come out stronger as we would have navigated and adapted through probably the biggest global crisis of our times. The learnings in this period will remain. Things like OTT content, tech and digital innovations, influencer marketing, etc. in the post-pandemic world will become a part of mainstream exhibition, consumption and advertising. I see influencer marketing becoming a big part of the marketing mix with brands, I see more creators taking to creating content online, therefore, increasing OTT output, I see talent catering to these streams benefitting immensely from this. The ideas and opportunities created in these difficult times will remain and will result in accretive value creation for talent post pandemic.

What was your strategy in the pre-COVID-19 period and how has it changed post the pandemic?

Pre-pandemic, we had been building our influencer marketing and digital content ecosystems for some time. We have now fast-tracked these across the board and the group of companies at the KWAN Group. We were gearing up to launch a couple of businesses by November-December, which have been pulled up. You will hear some exciting announcements soon. This period has also has given us time to create opportunities which will remain as mainstay for the business post-pandemic. We have pivoted a lot and that has given us some exciting new avenues across the group companies.

Could you tell us about the portfolio of talents that you are handling currently?

KWAN represents talent across all forms of pop culture, which includes actors, comedians, musicians, directors, writers, producers, social media influencers and athletes and more. Just like WPP's ubiquitous role in the world of advertising and communication, we try to model ourselves in the world of pop culture by spanning across all key pillars of it.

KWAN today has a music label with Sony Music, a music production company with Pritam and Prime Focus, a joint venture in the South with Suresh Productions, we are on the verge of launching our social media platform soon. We are using our network effect to build new opportunities. We are India’s largest pop culture marketplace.

What does the road ahead look like for KWAN?

Our philosophy has always been to build India’s largest pop culture marketplace. If you are a consumer/ buyer/ creator/ talent in pop culture, the KWAN marketplace will touch you in some way or the other. Like I said, our thought is to use our network effect to its fullest and build out our market place across all segments.

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