This Indore-based OTT platform calls itself the Netflix of regional content

  • | Tuesday | 12th January, 2021

One Indore-based Over The Top (OTT) platform is going a step further by providing a platform for promising video content generators. The platform, called Stage, aggregates exclusive videos by local artists in regional dialects.

One Indore-based Over The Top (OTT) platform is going a step further by providing a platform for promising video content generators. The platform, called Stage, aggregates exclusive videos by local artists in regional dialects.

Founded by siblings Vinay and Praveen Singhal and Shashank Vaishnav, Stage features art forms such as poetry recitals, comedy, and motivational content. To begin with, it aggregated content across dialects such as Haryanvi and Rajasthani and plans to expand this to at least 15 other dialects over the next few months.

However, this is not the original idea the trio had started off with. The company was founded as a content curation website by the name Wittyfeed, attracting funding from marquee investors such as Ritesh Malik, founder of Innov8, and Anand Chandrasekaran, former director of Facebook, among many others.

With over 420 million page views, the company had a promising future. However, it had to shut shop overnight after a conflict with Facebook in 2019. The company then pivoted to the existing model, rechristening the start-up Stage.

Stage accepts professionally generated content after sanctioning it to content creators. Currently it works with around 150 creators and the numbers are rising by the day.

It recently also launched a few web series and also plans to get into the movie space — not with dubbed content but original material.

“Over 35 million people speak in Haryanvi. That’s more than the population of Canada. But still while growing up we never had access to good quality content,” said Vinay Singhal.

Seeing a clear gap and a huge market opportunity, it was an easy decision for the trio to decide on their first pivot.

Started in 2019, Stage, like any other start-up, had a humble beginning. It was launched with just 100 original videos. A year down, the founders claim to be having 550 videos across multiple genres with over 1 million downloads of the application and 3 lakh monthly active users.

While the app is currently free, the idea is to launch a subscription model with a Rs 50 monthly fee. Talking about leaving the National Capital Region and setting up the company in Indore, Singhal said Tier 2 cities have their own comfort.

“The cost of living in a small town is at least 30-40 percent lower than in a metro. So, we as founders can afford lower salaries. Besides this, even the cost of infrastructure and operations is relatively way lower,” said Singhal, adding that they also try to hire more local talent. According to Singhal, the local talent understands the context of their venture way more given their exposure to vernacular content.

Job loyalty is a big thing for the startup, keeping the company in a very secure position. Stage currently has over 30 employees with about 14 engineers and 10-12 people working on the content side.

Some of the popular shows on the platform include names such as Naye Zamare ki Choriyaan — the first women’s stand-up comedy show in Haryanvi — and the recently launched web series Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi.

The stage has raised Rs 8.5 crore in a round led by Venture Catalysts and is already in advance-stage talks to raise a Pre-Series A round of funding from a bunch of investors.

With big-ticket investors such as Google entering the segment, 2021 can definitely be seen as the year of content creators in India. The internet giant recently funded regional language news and content aggregator Dailyhunt and inMobi’s Glance, a lock screen content firm.

The Indian market is also ripe with a billion mobile phone users and 750 million internet users. By 2025, the number of internet users is expected to grow to more than 974 million, says data platform Statista.

However, the big question is whether people will be willing to pay a premium to watch regional content.

Currently, the OTT space is predominantly occupied by large streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon, which provide original content or professionally generated content. The rest of the market has been occupied by user-generated content start-ups.

It will be interesting to see if this home-grown firm is able to create a niche for itself on the content stage.

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