The Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns proved to be a big boost for India’s OTT and video streaming market. Almost overnight, OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+Hotstar, Zee5, ALTBalaji, SonyLIV and many others shed their shell of urban elitism and became the go-to sources for mass entertainment.
The Indian OTT market is expected to emerge the world’s 6th largest, with a market size of $2.9 Bn by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 28.6% during 2020-2024, according to a report by PwC. And this is not even counting the casual video market catered to by YouTube and other content and media platforms. A huge chunk of the new subscribers and users came on board from Tier 2 and Tier 3 locations, which are somewhat new to the internet and their engagement with OTT platforms can be insightful for a whole variety of businesses.
Naturally, technology solutions that cater to these video-first platforms have also seen a big spurt in adoption. There’s one area in particular that has emerged as the hottest, which is video analytics. In India, Delhi NCR-based Vidooly is something of a pioneer in this space among the startups. The company primarily offers video analytics solutions but also diversified into other video-centric AI solutions during the pandemic last year.
As Brands Turn Creators, Video Analytics Takes Centre Stage
Founded in 2014 by Subrat Kar, Nishant Radia and Ajay Mishra, Vidooly was born as a result of the founders identifying the acceleration in consumption of videos on the internet and foreseeing the escalation of this trend in the coming years. Working with advertising agencies, market research companies, OTT platforms and even individual content creators, Vidooly enables businesses to understand the consumption trend on videos through relevant metrics for engagement, audience stickiness, sentiment analysis and other insights.
Cofounder and CEO Kar believes that brands worldwide have become content creators. They have to build an audience and often the way to do this is through videos.
“Indian brands have started following suit. With the help of planning and research inputs for content and our insight, we are enabling them to understand what content to create for their particular business category or customer.”
In 2014, YouTube was the only major platform where video content was uploaded. The team at Vidooly identified the opportunity to create an analytics platform that would serve the stakeholders in the YouTube ecosystem. With the launch of Reliance Jio in 2016, the internet accessibility increased rapidly and other online platforms such as OTT players began gaining popularity. With these developments, Vidooly expanded from YouTube to all the other platforms where video content was published.
Kar adds, “Vidooly has evolved into an online video analytics and intelligence tool that tracks and analyses video consumption and provides insights to its clients which range from media companies, advertising agencies and research agencies to content creators and OTT platforms.”
Since inception, Vidooly has raised $3.5 mn from Bessemer, Venture Partners, GVFL and, in the last round, tech giant Alibaba. And so far, it has been very lean in its operations, Kar said, with offices in Noida and Mumbai and a team of over 100 employees.
The Technology Behind Vidooly’s Analytics Engine
Vidooly uses the public APIs published by content platforms like YouTube, to obtain data and then runs its own codes to analyse it. It actively works in partnership with social media platforms. For example, it has worked with the India teams of Facebook, YouTube and TikTok in the recent past.
Besides this data which is available for most other video analytics platforms, Vidooly also tracks private-level data through authorization access. It allows content platforms to integrate a software development kit (SDK) to track data on a device level. So if an OTT platform does not provide an open API to measure performance of campaigns, advertisers can partner with Vidooly to track user engagement, measure ROI and gain other insights for their campaigns.
Naturally, analytics involves plenty of user data and these days, data privacy is a major concern for all stakeholders. Kar claims that Vidooly does not collect any personally identifiable information and works in compliance with laws such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Its algorithms do not furnish any personal data to clients, but instead the data is anonymised and aggregated to provide an estimation of the trends, plotted in the form of charts and graphs for easy consumption on the client side. It’s like a dashboard for Google Analytics but for video engagement and visitor metrics.
It claims to cater to over 150 customers around the world, including Amazon Prime, Facebook, India Today Group, ABP News, Myntra, GroupM, Wakefit, Exide Life Insurance, B4U Broadband, Mahindra & Mahindra, Viacom 18, Arre, Network18, among others. About 40% of its customers come from India, while the rest come from the US, Canada, the UK, Indonesia and South Korea.
Vidooly has been able to achieve this scale on the back of infrastructure provided by AWS for around six years. Kar recalls that several other cloud service providers came and went, and despite their highly discounted offers, what prompted Vidooly to continue with AWS was the consistency offered and the flexibility.
The CEO also said that startups often need to train their tech teams internally, which is a big resource drain, but the AWS team is highly supportive and offers technical help as well as on-site training, which is particularly useful as technology keeps progressing. Kar claims that the customisability of AWS is critical for startups as it helps them scale up affordably and only stretch themselves as much as needed to be very efficient.
“I can tell you the engagement and the views per month for a particular category, say like beauty. We can also give the estimated data for distribution of gender. But it will not be the exact data. It’s an aggregated number, and we don’t share the exact numbers as it will lead to trouble.”
Pandemic Pivots And Slowdown
Vidooly already had a remote working option even before the pandemic hit the world and changed things for most companies. The cloud advantage that Vidooly takes to its clients became particularly useful during Covid-19. However, Kar says that managing computer systems and machines in its office premises was a challenge initially, since there is tons of data coming through in real time. But his team was able to manage it as things eased up after the first few days of the lockdown.
Despite the expected gains from the OTT boom, Vidooly’s revenue generation and business suffered. The viewership of video content witnessed a sharp rise in this period, but the revenue for Vidooly did not keep pace because companies had frozen their advertising budget till things settled down. They were less keen to explore partnerships with Vidooly at this time, Kar recalled.
The company also launched a smart surveillance product COVIDSHIELD, which leverages its expertise in AI-based video analytics to allow enterprises and institutions to detect any violations in the Covid-19 preventive measures. While the product was envisioned as a way to optimise in-office measures but the use-cases extend beyond Covid-19, according to Gagan Bhatla, Vidooly’s AVP for revenue, who spoke to us last year.
Competing With Analytics Giants
Despite the OTT and video consumption boom witnessed in the past year, Vidooly certainly operates in a niche in India. Although video content consumption is at an all-time high, there is not much competition in the analytics space. Most advertisers still bank on insights provided by social media platforms, which are not always the best way to judge engagement.
The story is different at the global level, where organisations are moving towards banking on third-party video analytics to decide their outreach goals. However, it seems that in India the advantage that Vidooly has obtained due to moving in early will hold for a long time to come. Kar says digital analytics giants are now entering into video and that could be the competition in the future, but in India, companies like BARC and Nielsen are still heavily focussed on measurement for traditional media.
In India the cognizance of insights to develop content has been slow compared to the rest of the markets. But, the perspective is increasingly shifting, advertising agencies and content platforms have started appreciating data analytics solutions. Given the size of the Indian market, the rate of launch of new content-centric platforms and the position Vidooly holds in the analytics domain, it is certainly poised to take a lead in this space.
“Being a small company, we don’t want to compete with global giants. We would rather partner with them,” says Kar about the potential for competition from the likes of Google, Facebook and others in this space. And even if they do enter the market, he thinks Vidooly does have an edge in one regard.
“It’s going to take them a long time for them to be able to compete with us because of the data advantage. The kind of data we have been tracking over the last six years will be hard , particularly in the social video universe.”