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Exclusive Interview: Salman Hussain of Vuclip on the Company's future & Mobile space In India
Exclusive Interview: Salman Hussain of Vuclip on the Company's future & Mobile space In India
By: Namita Ved

Salman Hussain, Vice President, Business Development - APAC & MEA - Vuclip in an exclusive chat with iMedia Connection India.  

Vuclip seems to be adding more and more users in India and across the world. Tell us about the growth you have been seeing in recent times.

Vuclip has seen a very strong growth in India so far- the response to mobile videos has been overwhelming. Just to give some metrics, we are currently serving more than 100 million videos per month in India. This brings our total to more than 2.5 billion videos served in India to date. Other APAC regions such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore; and Middle East have also reported massive growth. Video “snacking,” or viewing short clips, on mobile devices has seen a huge upswing of late, since it is an on-the-go activity-- available anytime, anywhere -- a great way to fill the gaps. The team has been working diligently with the telcos & content providers to offer the best of the videos to our viewers- right on their mobile screens. 

After Starlight Cinema, you have also added more niche verticals on the mobile video portal. What prompted you to expand in these areas and what has been the response from the public?

Through the surveys we have been conducting, we receive much feedback from Vuclip’s users on what they like about Vuclip and the content they would like to see. Based on the customer feedback, we realised that there is a growing need among mobile users to watch specific content customised for them. Hence, to cater to the needs of different sets of consumers, Vuclip has launched innovative and customised mobile video channels such as Vuclip TV Shows, offering more than 4000 video clips from various popular TV shows in Hindi, Telugu, English and other languages; Vuclip News, offering latest news content from the leading news channels and publications; and Vuclip Sports, providing the latest sports updates covering topics such as Cricket, Football. Most recently, we launched India’s first mobile video channel for women, Mira!.  

We conducted a global survey on women’s content preferences in which almost 40,000 women users participated from 176 countries, including nearly 13,000 women from India. The survey found that besides voice and text, 60% of Indian women respondents use their handsets as a primary source of entertainment and they loved watching TV soaps, cute/funny videos, sports, home and lifestyle, news, celeb gossip and amazing/whacky videos besides movies and music, on their mobile. These findings demonstrated a large untapped market of female audiences accessing content on mobile and to meet their content needs we launched Mira!. The response Mira! has received so far from the users and advertisers is overwhelming. 

What is the reason behind Vuclip’s focused strategy for mobile only?

Mobile penetration is very massive especially in emerging markets such as India and Middle East. With the rollout of 3G and 4G, we are seeing much demand for video content on mobile. The Vuclip concept started because we wanted to address a number of problems with watching videos on mobile. For example other mobile video services may not work on all of the thousands of different handset models currently in use; and for the consumer, there are heavy costs if the videos are not transcoded and optimized for their phone and network. Vuclip addresses this issue by enabling video optimization on more than 5500 mobile handsets ranging from basic feature phones to advanced smart mobile devices.

Any successful business should have a robust revenue model. Are you seeing an equal excitement among advertisers for your mobile platform?

Vuclip offers a tremendous opportunity for marketers in India to harness the combined impact of the wide reach of mobile video and the power of mobile advertising to hyper target consumers with rich, engaging campaigns. We also offer them comprehensive information of exactly what users are viewing and searching on mobile through our monthly Global Video Insights reports and periodic surveys. Additionally, our innovative ad unit, Click2Vid, provides optimized embedded video ad for the device and consistent user experience across 5,500 devices. It has also enabled the brands to take television commercials and run them on mobile and allow consumers to interact with them. Today, many advertisers trust our brand and are excited about the kind of performance and partnerships we offer. We are also passionate about evangelising the mobile video as a new medium to all kinds of brand advertisers. We have completed a number of successful brand campaigns including global brands such as BlackBerry, Pizza Hut, Axe, Pepsi, Chevy, Nokia and Fiat and Indian brands such as Maruti, Zatak, FastTrack and Sonata.

And how are content providers faring? Is it all Bollywood-driven or you also see an uptake for other content?

The kind of content popular on mobile depends on the market. In India we see a difference in the kind of content being consumed depending on what is the most current topic in that month. Our monthly Global Video Insights reports keep a track of the most viewed videos for a particular month. What we see trending is a good amalgamation of content including Bollywood, B-town gossips, sports, devotional, music and news. There is no one specific genre that overrides everything else; we serve all sorts of content.  Because we are search driven, each country has its own leading set of interest. We watch content crossing borders every day. In India, we see a lot of traffic being driven by Bollywood and cricket-related videos, though, news and regional content is also picking up fast and garnering a lot of user interest. Indians also enjoy devotional song and lifestyle clips and there is universal interest in humor.

How do you see the overall mobile landscape shaping up in India in 2013? 

There are three broad factors shaping the mobile landscape in India. First, revocation of 2G licenses and the relaxation in M&A rules have led to the consolidation of mobile operators. Second, Smartphones’ popularity is rapidly rising in India and the line between feature phone and Smartphone is blurring. However, the market still remains dominated by entry level handsets and intermediately priced feature phones. We expect to see more and more smartphones coming into the market, mainly driven by Android. But at the same time, feature phones are still going to be a sizeable chunk of the market and will access videos in large numbers. The third factor is that the content ecosystem is improving as more and more content owners become savvy and try to create digital content. We are truly in for some exciting times ahead with all these happening at such a fast paced manner and Vuclip is being the catalyst for this change.

Besides India, which other geographies are you focusing on currently and what has been the response there?

Our focus is to grow out and launch new services and also evangelise business in new regions. Besides India, we are focusing on Middle East, Asia Pacific regions such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore; and Latin America.

Over and above the monthly Global Video Insights reports, Vuclip has recently started conducting other surveys as well. What is the rationale? Is it just an add-on service or do you see it as integral to Vuclip’s business strategy in near future?

We are very consumer friendly. We always interact with our consumers and try and figure out what they want. Conducting a survey is the best way to see and measure specifically how consumer sentiments and preferences are shifting. Surveys are integral to all aspects of Vuclip. We have found that we can very quickly, often within days, retrieve information about tens of thousands of consumers. We have a unique opportunity to tap into our vibrant, active user base to track device usage and consumer opinions. These surveys empower brand marketers with almost instant access to such mass-scale insights from real users. Our surveys on women content preferences; and automobile purchasing forecast and brand sentiments, have helped advertisers, marketers and content aggregators to generate tailored content as per the need of their target audience.