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Manan Shah

Influencer marketing has caught every marketer’s attention and the industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25% till 2025, to reach a size of Rs 2,200 crore, as per reports. Not only has the medium witnessed increased investments from many brands, but today there are brands who communicate purely via influencers.

However, Manan Shah, Director of Marketing at Truecaller India, believes that there will be a lot of dissonance and influencer marketing will just become another checklist item, rather than actually having an impact on the market, if maturity doesn’t come in the space.

“I'm honestly not a major fan of influencer marketing per se in the literal sense, because I don't think in India we've cracked influencer marketing that well. If you look at any paid influencer activity today and the content that they create- they do not know how nicely or intuitively they can integrate brands into their content. There is a lot more maturity that needs to come into influencer marketing for it to be a serious business,” Shah said.

He said that currently it's just acting as a recall medium for the brands and is not really an elite medium. Although some brands in foreign countries have created themselves purely through influencers, he said that level of maturity hasn't yet come into the influencer marketing in India, as majority of the content is still very obvious, in the face kind of integration.
There are a lot of influencer marketing agencies present in India, so have they failed in helping influencers as far as better brand integration is concerned?

“Most of the influencer marketing agencies, that we've come across, mostly act as scouts and look out for new influencers to sort of strike deals with them. These influencers are not marketing people, they are people who have influence over a certain set of audience, but they don't understand necessarily how better they could market themselves. And that’s the risk they face in the long term because there will be other influencers, who will sort of do a better job at exactly what they're doing,” Shah said, answering the question.

He believes that it is the responsibility of these influencer marketing agencies to actually guide these influencers by teaching them, and helping them grow in a sustainable manner, rather than making it a feeding frenzy.

“They need to act more as creative agencies, rather than just being scouts, who are just on the lookout for the next talent that's coming in,” he added.

Influencer marketing has caught the attention of a lot of marketers, and it will continue to grow, as per many reports. However, somewhere over a period of time, Shah said that it's at the risk of becoming a checklist item rather than it actually being a lead medium.

“That's where the fear is- if that maturity doesn't come in very quickly, there will be a lot of dissonance towards influencer marketing and it will just become another checklist item, rather than it actually having influence in a market,” he said.
As for the Truecaller app, it associates with content creators on certain occasions but looks at the sweet spot in terms of the reach and the creators’ ability to provide great quality content.

Explaining the strategy, Shah said, “Our strategy varies from creator to creator. There are few people who do not like brands commanding everything in terms of creativity, and we respect that. So, we've always given them a free hand. At the same time, we are very careful about which content creators we select to work with. We would not want to work with content creators involved in any sort of controversy or those who have any sort of political inclinations or who have made any religious innuendos.”
He shared that for the brand the quality of the content by the creators matters the most, especially when it comes to branded content. They also keep a check on how well they integrate brands, and the kind of engagement or comments the content garners.

Collaborations with Nakkalites (Tamil content creator):

The app has also been associated with TVF and MX Player for branded content initiatives. “We do a lot of integrations with web series and Bollywood films, and we've done a lot for the regional language conversations. Other than collaborations, we've done subtle integrations,” he said.

Even to promote its recently launched Version 12, it is creating a lot of awareness and education via content.

“There are a lot of players who we are working with for the education of this app and its features. It may or may not result in downloads, which is not really a focus area for us. But it will definitely help us in creating more awareness and more conversations around this feature,” he said.

In the past, it has rolled out the #JamTheScam content initiative to raise awareness on phone scams.


In terms of advertising spends, branded content takes the lion's share of its digital spends. Most of its content initiatives are produced in-house, although it has digital partners, including Wirality, who help to create content for social media posts, and a lot of other campaigns.

“As a share out of the entire digital spends, distribution and media buying everything aside, this content creation alone takes around 35-40% of our budget,” he said.

When asked if the brand plans to enter into the audio or podcast space, he said, “Podcasts are too small right now for us. It is great for a brand that has a certain niche audience reach. We are massive and looking at 200 million users at a time. Podcasts don't necessarily make any ROI sense for us.”