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Rishabh Verma

Who doesn’t like to watch videos that beautifully capture our favourite food items and make us crave for them. But the real magic happens when these food videos are coupled with travel content and celebrities.

Recently, Biryani by Kilo, the biryani and kebab delivery chain, launched the 4-episode web series ‘Dum Laga ke India’, which has been created by Rusk Media, on Disney+ Hotstar. 

Show trailer:

Rishabh Verma, Executive VP, Sales and Marketing, Biryani by Kilo (BBK), believes that today’s consumers are not keen on watching ads but love consuming content that entertains, engages or enriches them. 

“The ultimate purpose any brand can serve is to engage, entertain or enrich consumers through content,” he said. 

Hosted by chef Ranveer Brar and featuring PV Sindhu, Vaani Kapoor, Arman Mallik and Pranitha Subhash, the series honours the food, heritage and culture of Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Bengaluru.

Verma said, “Being a more than 100 years old dish, one finds a variety of biryani being served across the country. It reflects the true diversity in food and culture of our country. The idea of celebrating India's diversity came into the picture through the series.”

He further said, “The word ‘dum’ in the name of the series represents the ‘dum of India’, implying the rich culture and diversity. BBK’s USP too lies in its ‘dum-cooked’ biryani. We onboarded celebrities who belong to those cities and can talk about their cities’ cultural heritage along with adding entertainment value to the content.”   

A lot of times, when marketers allot heavy marketing investments in a format like a web series, they tend to make the most of each penny spent. In the whole process, one major mistake the marketers make is to show the brand as much as they can. In turn, letting go of the whole purpose of opting for content over advertising. A harsh truth, but a reality: for a branded content piece to become successful, one has to keep the story first and the brand secondary. 

As per Verma, it is also the biggest challenge marketers face while taking the content marketing route. “In advertising, the whole narrative is set around selling the brand. In the case of content, marketers need a lot of courage, commitment and patience because you won't be able to show the brand as much as you can in an ad. As a brand custodian, one ends up spending a lot of money, without making the brand central to the content. 

He went on to say, “Despite having money, a lot of companies don’t invest in content as they lack the conviction to take the content route where the brand’s product or service won’t be the hero.” 

In the case of Biryani by Kilo, Verma was very clear that the show is not only about the brand.

He said, “We have ensured that we don’t force-fit BBK branding on the face, but maintain the core essence of the show, which is celebrating India’s ‘dum’. Because it is a food show, the celebrities are seen chatting about the city's culture and food over biryani.”

When Biryani by Kilo went out in the market to scout for an OTT platform, Disney+ Hotstar was most interested in streaming the web series content due to the high-quality content. 

Verma said, “2-3 OTT players were interested in hosting this web series on their platforms. We went ahead with Disney+ Hotstar because not only does it have a massive library of content for the urban audience, but also a lot of regional and topical content. The platform also has the largest active user base and serves branded content on the platform. They were genuinely interested in the content quality of the series and actively engaged in the marketing through PR, social media and app notifications.”

Verma told that the brand had to pay nothing to host the content on D+H. It only had to shell out money to Hotstar for the promotions. 

While a lot of brands across the globe aim at creating content in all formats for their own social media pages or websites to build their own first-party data, Biryani by Kilo opted for hosting the web series on an OTT platform. 

Explaining the reason for the same, Verma said, “Social media cannot match the reach numbers an OTT platform can provide for such long-form binge-worthy content. People use social media to consume short-form snackable content, connect with friends and family and remain updated about them. Long-form binge-worthy content is generally consumed on OTT platforms. Disney+ Hotstar has more than 125 million active users in India. We found it best to capitalise on the audience which is already present on OTT rather than putting the content on our social media.”

Although, he said that the brand will also be taking the web series on Rusk Media’s social media pages and that of its own in a phased manner. For the first month, the series will be exclusively available only on Disney+ Hotstar. Second month onwards, the series will also be made available on Rusk Media and Biryani by Kilo’s social media pages. 

Verma added, “We have not put the series simultaneously across OTT and social media because if we do that, we’ll divide our audience. Like this, we’ll reach out to a larger pool of audience across OTT and social media.”

Many-a-times it happens that brands tend to narrow the focus on creating good quality branded content and miss out on having an extensive distribution strategy. No matter how good the content is unless it won’t get discovered, there’s no point putting all efforts into the creation process. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance to have an equal focus on the creation and distribution strategy. 

Verma commented, “We have spent a significant amount of money in promoting the show on the OTT platform. A platform like D+H gave a chance to reach out to the maximum audience. We ensured maximised promotion on the OTT platform. On the main interface of the app, one will prominently get to see our show at the top in travel shows and binge food lists. The show is also upfront available on the main home page of the app when one opens it. It is also being promoted in the form of in-content ads on Disney+ Hotstar.”

Verma then said that Biryani by Kilo is leveraging data intelligence to maximise the show’s reach among its own more than one million user base, which it has built in the last seven years of existence. 

The celebrities on board for the series are also actively promoting the web series through their own social media pages. The brand has roped in lifestyle influencers to review the series along with generating a lot of user-generated content.

The brand opted to create four episodes based on four cities – Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, keeping in mind its target audience and the unique stories of these cities with regard to food and cultural heritage. The show was created in the span of 6-9 months. In the times to come, BBK aims to treat the audience with a part two of the series as well. 

Almost every brand creates content for social media, be it in the form of snackable content, influencers-led, UGC or any other way. But it takes a lot of courage for a brand to invest in a long-form web series format as it involves a huge investment. To do so, the company leadership should together believe in the power of content and be clear about the brand objectives. The good news is that nowadays, one can see a lot of brands investing in long-format web series. 

In the case of Biryani by Kilo, Verma said, “The advantage with Vishal Jindal (Co-Founder and CEO) is that he himself comes from a strong marketing background. He appreciates the power of building the brand. Thankfully, I had a lesser challenge in terms of aligning the stakeholders as he himself believes in building the brand in the long-term.”

Many food brands have opted for such formats of amalgamating travel and food, but what differentiates ‘Dum Laga ke India’ from the rest?

Verma answered, “On one side, pure-play food travel shows are very niche and most relatable to hardcore food lovers. On the other side, there are shows which are high on entertainment but lose the essence of food or travel in order to make the show entertaining. Therefore, we came up with a show which celebrates food and travel but also has a lot of entertainment value.”

While ‘Dum Laga ke India’ is BBK’s first major content initiative, the brand does collaborations on a regular basis with content creators. BBK also boasts of fetching a lot of organic content from content creators. Going forward, BBK will also be upping its game on the regional content front.  

Verma emphasised on the importance of giving creative freedom to content creators while creating content around the brand, keeping in mind certain guardrails. “A lot of brands are in the rut of creating so much content that the audience has started getting fed-up with influencer-led content and understand that it’s paid for. In such a scenario, we must give enough creative freedom to content creators so that the content looks far more organic rather than paid,” said Verma. 

Even in the case of ‘Dum Laga ke India’, Verma told that the entire show was not scripted. “While there were guardrails to the entire structure of the show, it was very open-ended to get the best output.”  

According to Verma a lot of brands will start investing in long-form content like web series in 2023 in comparison to the present, where they are mostly creating short-form snackable content. 

He also believes that many Indian marketers are not very bold and risk-taking in nature to invest in expensive content IPs. “While BBK is only a 7 years old brand, we have the courage to invest heavily in a web series, several brands with huge marketing muscle are not able to shell out money for large-scale content IPs,” he said.  

Commenting on the content marketing space shaping up in India, Verma said that India has a long way to go before it matches the content marketing game happening worldwide. He continued, “Covid-19 in India has been the biggest disruptor in terms of media consumption. It has given a big push to digital content consumption including OTT. As content consumption increases on the digital medium, a lot of brands will embrace this trend. But as of now, we are far behind many countries in terms of content marketing.”  

He also said that marketers expecting branded content to fetch immediate sales results are wrong. He added that there are enough tools in marketing to fetch immediate sales results. But these tools don’t build the brand. 

The objective of branded content is to drive the right imagery of the brand, he commented. “By creating the right imagery of the brand in the consumers’ minds, the marketer is already helping the brand climb up the preference ladder among the consumers. Sales then become the natural outcome of that.” 

Biryani by Kilo is open to all kinds of content collaborations till the time it solves the brand purpose. When content creators and platforms reach out to Verma for collaborations, Verma expects them to know what BBK’s key positioning is. He added, “Off-late, we get carried away by expecting content to drive sales. I would always want the content creator and platform to come with pitches that help make my brand purposeful in the consumers' lives rather than just selling the brand.”

The brand has allocated Rs 30-35 crore on marketing in FY23. BBK aims to close FY23 with a 122% rise in net revenue to Rs 300 crore and expects to incur a net loss worth Rs 40 crore. The brand currently owns over 100 outlets across the country and aims to venture into the international markets in 2023.