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Sharmin Ali

Indian companies are unwilling when it comes to paying for the acquisition of premium content tools, as per Sharmin Ali, Founder and CEO, Instoried.

Instoried is a deep-tech and AI-based content intelligence platform that analyses and optimises the tonality and emotional quotient of written content across various formats, including blogs and articles. 

As per Ali, 70% of the company's business comes from the US - while 30% comes from outside, including India. It is important to note that initially, the company began providing its offerings in India alone.

Upon being asked why the company didn't increase its client base in India, Ali replied, "Initially we were also selling the tool in India but then we realised that hyper-growth can only be achieved in the US, and not in India. As a result, we also had to move to the US." 

Ali also went on to say that Instoried will soon be shifting its base to the US. 

Throwing light on possible reasons for Indian brands are not willing to pay much to acquire premium content tools, Ali said, "Firstly, people want to save money due to the whole recession issue. They don't want to burn too much money on marketing right now. A lot of people have told us that they'll reconnect with us in April because the next quarter is unpredictable." 

Furthermore, Ali said that Indian clients do not want to pay much for such tools because by and large they tend to be quite risk-averse. 

"We have been struggling with how we even convince someone to pay a minimum of Rs 2 lakh per month for all the end-to-end marketing work that this marketing company can actually do for you. So, this is a challenge. We can't change this legacy system that prevails in India," Ali added.

The company wants to focus on Indian brands as well if they are willing to afford the premium tool, Ali said.

Ali also went on to state that Instoried has been creating content for a lot of D2C brands in India across various formats like blogs, emails, newsletters and white papers. 

"White papers are something that a lot of people are really interested in because it requires a lot of technical content," Ali said. 

Speaking about Instoried's growth, Ali said that 2022 has been an amazing year for the company. "We are by far the best in this particular space. Our biggest competitor, who is now a unicorn, also does not have as many offerings as we do."

Furthermore, Ali said that most of the company's competitors are American companies, but and are the market leaders in the US, she added. 

Upon being asked what sets Instoried apart from the competition, Ali replied, "Both of these companies are just doing 1/3rd of what our product does."

"We have content generation and content analysis. We also help you measure the emotional engagement quotient of your content and we help you engage better with your audience by giving you smart recommendations on the kind of words you need to use," Ali added. 

Ali claimed that Instoried offers four features to enhance the content, whereas its competitors are just providing the customers with one or two of these features. 

Commenting on the focus areas for the next year, Ali said that the company's main focus would be profitability by attaining 100% growth in sales. 

"Now we want to go into that whole self-sustaining mode. Considering the current market situation, we have understood that it is very important to clearly define the path to profitability," she added. 

After this goal is achieved, Instoried would also look at hiring more people. Moreover, the company is also looking forward to setting up an office in the US on a hybrid model. 

Since the major chunk of the company's business comes from the US, Ali said that Instoried has also been impacted due to it somewhere. 

"The ROI slowed down in the last three months but we are hopeful that in the new calendar year, which starts from January in the US, the markets should open up a little bit as it is one of the few countries which have a positive GDP," Ali said.

Instoried had invested a lot in technology in 2022, so in the year ahead they are aiming to reap the benefits of all that the team has built in the past. 

Upon being asked if the company is also strengthening its vernacular content offering in India, Ali replied, "That was one of our focus areas two years ago, but then now we are trying to become the leaders in the English language category. Once this area gets sorted then we will focus on the other plans."

Ali also spoke about the performance of its two services - namely Content360, which is a full-fledged services/consulting arm offering end-to-end content services to companies, and Instoried Art, an AI-based image generation tool.

"Instoried Art has been launched recently but a lot of people have signed up to play around with the tool. Content360 has essentially blown up as it is an extended Chief Content Officer," Ali said. 

She went on to add that Instoried has all the capabilities in-house to completely take over a brand's marketing. Ali said that Content360 is going to help the company gain its profitability goal. She also revealed that in the US, the company has over 70 B2B customers and 3 million B2C users. 

Initially, the company was only handling retail, e-commerce and FMCG sectors but now it has moved to insurance, healthcare, manufacturing and pharma. 

"The revenue always comes from B2B while engagement comes from B2C," Ali added. 

Mostly D2C brands like fashion retail use Instoried as they need to churn out a lot of content on a daily basis. Instoried is helping brands with only text and image content currently. however, it will look into the video space as well in the near future. 

Speaking about the major content marketing trends in 2023, Ali said that the first thing that everybody is now seeing is that AI is replacing human writers. 

"Even though people might not like it, the truth is that technology is here to stay. I still don't feel that AI can completely replace humans but productivity and efficiency of work will definitely increase because of AI-based writing," Ali added. 

People are also moving to outsource the content as opposed to doing things in-house, Ali said.

"People will move to a very hybrid sort of a solution as opposed to doing something completely in-house," she added.