The creator economy is helping support small businesses: Sidharth Rawat, Exly

Creating content is easy these days, but to make a business out of it is not. However, tech start-ups are changing the game. Sidharth Rawat, Co-founder of Exly talks about the creator economy, how creators are turning into entrepreneurs and more.

Sidharth Rawat-Exly

A new market for creators has emerged as a result of the convergence of storytelling, creativity, and the internet. We call it the creator or the influencer economy.

Even though creativity is not a new concept for Indians, it was not previously organised. The influencer economy in India is rapidly growing now that everyone has a phone for creating content. According to the GroupM INCA report, it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 25 per cent until 2025, resulting in a Rs 2200 crore industry.

Exposure to global content and the ease of access of devices have given Indians the opportunity to create small and medium-sized businesses out of their creativity. Tech start-ups like Exly are making this opportunity a reality. In an interview with SME Futures, Sidharth Rawat, Co-founder and COO of Exly, stated that this vertical has enormous potential in India, as the creative economy is booming right now and is aiding other small businesses to grow as well.

Edited Excerpts:

How is the passion economy different from the creative economy?

Passion, influencer or creator economy, a lot of times are used interchangeably but are a bit different from each other. The passion economy pretty much is the generation prior to the creative economy. As long as you are sharing and following your passion, maybe even monetising from it, you are a part of the passion economy. But the moment you move it to a social media platform and create a working environment with an intent to monetise your knowledge or passion, irrespective of geography, you are a part of the creator economy.

Earlier, the focus was largely on how popular you are as a creator and are you influencing enough to advertise and partner with brands. But with the next generation of tools and platforms people are moving beyond the popularity index and can monetise their passion or knowledge with the sheer quality of the content or information that they provide. If the current trend sustains, the creator economy will strengthen in ways unimaginable.

But the creator economy is not new to India. What has changed?

Absolutely, it’s not new. India’s creative landscape has always been rich. And the creator digital economy was already on the uptrend, however, the onset of the pandemic added more fuel to it. Thus, many knowledge professionals and creators emerged who wanted to start or grow their businesses online.

They realised the importance of being online and building their own brand. It increases their reach by removing geographical boundaries, provides a higher RoI by reducing infrastructural constraints and cost arbitrage and helps them in connecting directly with their audience.

With the democratisation of content creation and the availability of business scaling software/ platforms, more and more people are working towards turning their passion into their profession.

What are your thoughts on how India is capitalising on the opportunities created by social media platforms?

With data packs getting cheaper and the internet becoming more accessible, India has done well to stay on track as far as digital growth is concerned.

With 180+ million Instagram users and 450+ million YouTube users, India accounts for the largest user base for these platforms. Smartphones today are the primary screen in most households in India. That makes it the primary source of news and entertainment too.

This exposure to global content is helping create aspirations. Social media has become the platform to showcase talent, learn, get motivated, network, and even do business. This age of e-commerce has given rise to the creator economy in India that has been driven by social media and short media platforms.

In addition, India has produced some of the biggest influencers and creators garnering an international audience. The creator economy in India has even given rise to a new generation of D2C (Direct to Consumers) influencers, who have established themselves as Influencers on social media and gone on to launch brands and labels. Creator influencers like Bhuvan Bam, Prajakta Koli, Madhura Bachal, Sejal Kumar and Sahil Khan are just a few names amongst a lot of others who are benefitting from the global demand for quality content and influencer campaigns.

I think these are exciting times for India and for the world. With publishing power in almost everyone’s hands, the world is their oyster.

So, what does Exly do for creators?

Exly is an all-in-one business scaling platform built for creators and knowledge professionals (coaches, consultants, artists, instructors, etc.) to launch, manage and grow their business online.

It provides a business-in-a-box solution optimised for capturing, converting, and managing leads professionally. With us, creators can start to sell, market and manage their classes, consultations, workshops, recorded content, and merchandise. Using the platform, you can create beautiful pages with easy scheduling, automated communication, payments, and analytics. With its comprehensive Growth Marketing Suite, it also helps creators generate leads and increases their conversions.

Since our inception in Dec 2020, in the last 14 months, we have grown ~36X with creators and knowledge professionals earning more than two million dollars ($2 million) using the platform, growing ~20X in select cases.

Could you elaborate on the types of creative businesses that are emerging? What are the new sectors that are growing amongst content creators?

Technology took a giant leap during the pandemic and that opened new vistas and opportunities for the creative sector.

India’s entrepreneurial nature and business acumen kicked in and spurred many talented individuals to take up the reins of their lives and start their own ventures. The various creative businesses that emerged during the pandemic are in the fields of mental wellness, personality development, arts & crafts, music/performance, and tarot & astrology.

The creator economy involves knowledge professionals, bloggers, influencers, videographers, and anyone who wishes to monetise their fanbases on social media. People nowadays have become a lot more aware and conscious about health & wellness and in upskilling and reskilling themselves. Hence in my opinion, healthcare & fitness, fashion & lifestyle, entertainment, NFTs and professional coaching are the sectors growing really fast amongst content creators.

How do India’s hinterlands and the Tier 2 and 3 cities contribute to the creative economy. Where is your traction coming from?

The digitisation era that was propelled by the pandemic has opened up a plethora of opportunities for one and all. With a phone in every hand and better internet infrastructure, content creation has become ubiquitous. Also, with regional languages now getting the desired limelight, English is no more a hindrance.

It would be justified to say that there is no demarcation about where the contributors to the creator economy are based. Our traction is coming from all over the country.

There are some very impactful influencers who are making their mark from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. There is more acceptance today and irrespective of language or cultural differences, social media creators and influencers are emerging everywhere.

To name some, Sarkar from Tripura who is a fashion influencer has caught the attention of Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla. Jhilam Gupta from Bengal is a well-known digital creator too. Then there is Kangna Talukdar who is a gaming influencer from Guwahati. These content creators are reflective of how much the creator economy has grown in India.

People in India and the world have understood that they are all publishers, they can all create content, and that everyone has their own audience.

So, its right to say that the creative economy is helping small businesses grow.

Of course, the creator economy is helping support small businesses. It was always the case, but it is much more organised now.

The creator economy was driven by two major revolutions. First came the traditional social media platforms – Instagram, YouTube, Twitter – which made it easy for creators to reach out to wider audiences and market their goods, but they are not suited for monetisation and creating sustainable livelihoods.

Then came the business platforms that can help these creators monetise their knowledge via subscriptions and via offerings like recorded courses, classes, workshops etc.

This has helped even the small businesses to streamline their operations by focussing on value creation rather than on the non-core tasks. The pandemic saw a lot of people jump onto the creator bandwagon and start afresh. And many even made a success of themselves. Home cooks, DIYers, interior designers, art teachers, dance and music teachers are just a few verticals that have really shone in this arena.

Down the line, what are your plans for Exly, and what’s the roadmap?

100 million people became creators and knowledge professionals in the last decade, owing to the proliferation of mobile phones and social media. With the right platform and services these creators will turn into businesses in the next 3-5 years.

Exly will build and own the right infrastructure to make that shift. We plan to grow to 15-20X from where we are currently, in the next one year. Primarily focussing on helping these creators effectively manage and sustainably grow their businesses to realize their full potential.