MemeChat: Masters of viral engineering
From the Facebook page ‘Shit Indian say’ to the bootstrapped start-up MemeChat, two young entrepreneurs have taken memes to the next level in the marketing arena and are now the pioneers of the meme marketing sector in India.
Anushruti Singh August 21, 2021
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Nowadays everyone enjoys them. Whether they know about them or not. And they are everywhere, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, other social media apps, and on the news too. People enjoy sharing them and commenting on them.
We are talking about memes (pronounced as meems not mae-maes)…
The idea behind them is simple…a picture speaks a thousand words, and in the case of a meme, I guess it’s more than just the words.
It’s the representation of an entire subject or topic in just one illustration or in a video or as a gif, talking about or commenting on anything from politics to daily life. Nothing is taboo. And the language of a meme is usually very inclusive and accessible to all strata of society. Just take the example of the Tokyo Olympics, which netizens turned into a meme fest by trending the hashtag #MemeOlympics.
Another example, social media has turned into a felicitation platform for Olympian Neeraj Chopra, who won the gold medal in the Javelin throw event.
Or honestly, can you ignore this?
It takes about 3 seconds to interpret a meme and have a good laugh, which is evidence of the fact that its message has reached you effectively and succinctly.
So, that sounds like a good business model. That’s why memes, so soon after their advent, have become an important part of the economy, or rather social media economy. And this is getting more lucrative by the day as the number of social media users keeps expanding exponentially.
According to Hubspot, memes are big amongst the younger generations, with 55 per cent of 13-35-year-olds sending numerous memes every week. Over the last year, their number has only grown. Mentions of memes have increased over the last 13 months, from 19.8M mentions in August 2019, to 24.9M in July 2020 (+26 per cent), with a peak of 28M during April 2020.
While YPulse’s stats say that 74 per cent of the people send memes with the sole objective of making people smile or laugh—and 53 per cent of them send them as a reaction to something.
Starting from the mid 90’s when short clips were widely shared, to the picture of ‘success boy’ in a green shirt and a clenched fist, to sanskari boy Alok Nath, the meme has become a marketing tool to promote brands and mint money out of.
And how this came to pass, nobody knows better than Kyle Fernandes and Taaran Chanana—friends, business partners and the meme maker duo who popularised the meme page ‘Shit Indian say’ and who are now the founders of MemeChat, a homegrown meme creating platform.
Launched in the summer of 2019, MemeChat has emerged as a popular homegrown social media networking app for Generation Z and millennials. Their start-up has gathered a dedicated following in just a year with more than 750k+ monthly active users with a current user base of 2 million downloads and over 6 million memes.
Not only this, but they have also been awarded the second position in the AatmaNirbhar Bharat Innovation Challenge, under the entertainment category from among 6,940 entries.
As a start-up, MemeChat has already partnered with some of the top-notch OTT brands in the industry such as ALT Balaji, Hotstar and Amazon Prime, for creating their user-generated memes, which makes them the dark horses of the meme making factory in India.
Humour is work for them
What a great feeling it is when it’s all play, humour and laughter at work. That is exactly how both felt when they started their journey.
“My business partner and I have been friends since school (DPS, Gurugram). Right from our formative years, we wanted to do something in the field of social media, as it is the future. In college (SRM University), we started our meme page called ‘Shit Indian say’, which had a vast follower base, around 2-3 million,”says Kyle Fernandes, CEO & Co-founder at MemeChat while speaking to SME Futures.
“The success of our page attracted several brands who wanted to collaborate for various campaigns and such offers gave us the impetus to develop an app that helps in creating viral humour content,” he continues.
And hence, as they gradually realised the scope of meme making, their fascination turned into a business project and become the MemeChat app, which is enabling creative people like Fernandes and Chanana to turn into memers—people who create memes and is giving them employment as well.
“Our primary source of revenue is generated by curating meme-based marketing campaigns for clients hailing from the FMCG, entertainment and technology spheres. We have worked on multiple projects with brands like Amazon, HotStar and OnePlus. Today, MemeChat has a large number of users and some of its loved features include – meme social network, meme keyboard, meme maker, free meme templates and reward meme coins, which can be later redeemed as real money,” informs Fernandes.
However, starting their own company out of a Facebook page was not an easy task for them, especially during their student days. There were many challenges that they had to face.
But Fernandes says that’s what keeps their business interesting—the challenges that come along the way.
“They are great learning experiences and moments of realisation,” he says.
One of the biggest hurdles that they encountered was—investment. “Being a bootstrap start-up, we had to attract funding our way. Funds form the backbone of any business idea,” he avers.
Fortunately, 500 Startups, a global venture capital firm invested in MemeChat with $150k, according to Fernandes.
“We came across the 27th accelerator program of 500 Startups, who chose to believe in our ideas and support our business. As fairly young entrepreneurs, we bring to the table fresh ideas and innovative solutions to tackle the hurdles. Our unique business model is flexible and dynamic, which makes adapting as per the changing environment smooth. The growing clientele coupled with a wide consumer base and faith from our investors have made our journey fruitful,” he comments.
Fernandes also informs us that the capital they have received is being used in expanding and innovating solutions around meme making and enhancing the firm’s operation capabilities around digital media.
DIY your own meme
Talking about innovations, MemeChat has recently launched AMY—Automated Memes for You. Which the start-up claims is the world’s first ever artificial intelligence meme generator that will enable anyone to make memes with just a click.
Within hours of its launch, the feature was trending on Twitter, especially among meme creators and those who keenly follow the latest memes. AMY is now live on the MemeChat app as an invite-only feature and supports all the messaging applications.
Revealing some more details about AMY, Fernandes tells us that it’s the brainchild of Ujjawal K Panchal, CTO at MemeChat.
Continuing further he says, “It is a disruptive blend of technological advancements and human creativity. Based on state-of-the-art NLP (Natural Language Processing) and Deep Learning mechanisms, AMY analyses information and produces humour.”
In simpler terms, it is an AI-based catalyst that helps people in creating memes.
“Being supported by the latest tech solutions, it can resolve issues and break down data, which are not comprehensible by the human brain. At MemeChat, it allows users to create humorous content within seconds. It has made the creation of content easier and smarter,” asserts Fernandes.
According to him, they foresee AMY becoming one of their most popular features in the days to come.
Meme making = making money
According to Google trends, at one time word memes replaced Jesus as the most searched term on the internet.
Memes are like stress busters and that’s one of the reasons behind their popularity. The other reasons being that they are direct, realistic about life and society and global happenings and are funny as well. People, mostly millennials, identify with them and use them while messaging and on social media.
However, lately it has become a money-making opportunity with meme marketing growing rapidly in India. But due to its nicheness, there is no specific data on how much this market is actually worth.
But one fact is undeniable, the meme market in India is growing and it’s definitely eye-catching.
On this Fernandes comments, “Memes have the potential to go viral within seconds. Due to their light-hearted and crisp nature, they are appreciated by a mammoth consumer base. Brands are using memes to communicate and connect with their audience. The Indian users have a liking for humorous content, and memes give them exactly what they want. We see a bright future for meme marketing in India as well as globally.”
According to Fernandes, the opportunities are versatile and wide-ranging. “With most consumers moving away from the legacy techniques of advertising, we believe more and more brands will shift their focus towards meme marketing,” he says.
Considering the fact that memes are attention grabbers, most new age marketers have latched on to the idea and converted them into excellent marketing tools to reach their potential customers, who are already highly engaged. For example— Big Bazaar used meme marketing to promote its sales.
Fernandes says that it’s important to grab the attention of consumers in today’s scenario and memes are just the thing that the brands need. They are indeed a powerful marketing tool.
“Every business runs to satisfy its consumers. The buyer preferences and tastes change very frequently. The customers of today are not thrilled by the conventional advertising techniques. They often find them to be superficial, content-heavy and typical. However, memes, on the other hand, are all about fun and engagement. Brands are making full use of this aspect to connect with their audience,” he asserts.
Fernandes further says that by participating in some famous meme trends, brands can reach out to a much larger audience base. “Brands use memes to tell their story crisply and entertainingly. I feel memes do not trend alone; they make your brand in vogue too,” he says.
At the same time, meme making in India is witnessing a rapid growth spurt. People are now seriously opting for it as a career option. And MemeChat is providing them with the option to earn money through meme making.
Fernandes elaborates on how MemeChat allows users to get paid for using their platform and creating memes. “MemeChat allows users to create memes using various paid templates and get paid upon their approval. They can also earn by making memes in the requested category and on completion of the task, they get paid by the brands. Users can also get paid by rewarding meme coins to each other if they enjoyed the meme,” he explains.
Currently the products that MemeChat offers are—the MemeChat app, through which one can create and distribute memes, which if approved are published on its feed. Then there is MemeChat Studio, which is a curated solution for brands or corporates, from where they can commission memers for paid promotions. Another solution is the MemeChat Keyboard. As the name suggests, it’s a keyboard for the easy sharing of memes over social media platforms.
Besides that, the start-up offers an influencer program, through which content creators can monetise their pages on Instagram or Facebook, as a source of income.
Meme marketing is the future
The Indian population has taken to social media like a duck to water.
According to the social media statistics curated by The Global Statistics, Indians on average, spend about 2.25 hours on social media daily. Whereas social media users are growing at a steady rate of 448 million in 2021 due to better internet connectivity.
The number of internet users in India has grown to a whopping 624 million, which is roughly 45 per cent of the total populace. It won’t be wrong to say that social media is an integral part of the internet economy.
And moving forward, it’s going to give ample opportunities to people and brands to capitalise through marketing on these platforms. Fernandes totally agrees with this and says, “With the virus outbreak, the number of internet users also increased dramatically. Even brands showed a heightened inclination towards meme marketing techniques. Such trends have helped us capitalise on the demand and expand our clientele.”
Further, MemeChat has used data analytics to develop and introduce features which have kept their users engaged, simultaneously improving their overall user retention. For instance, since the launch of AMY, the excitement among their users has increased, and they are making extensive use of it, he says.
When asked about their future plans, Fernandes says that he is confident that with smartphones becoming increasingly popular among Indian consumers, internet usage is going to become more common and widespread, which is going to be profitable for them. “We see every internet user becoming a part of MemeChat in the times to come. In the future, we would love to expand our platform internationally,” Fernandes signs off by saying that as far as meme marketing is concerned, the sky is the limit.