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Image courtesy: Sayan Sapui, creator economy Consultant

So many times people make life-changing important decisions based on recommendations made by their favourite content creators – be it financial, personal or even buying big ticket items and more.

In fact, the genesis of influencer marketing is people’s trust in influencers/content creators. 

But the people’s trust in influencers crumbles when in the race of bagging brand deals and staying at the top of brands’ choices to earn money, influencers endorse products, services and events which are not authentic and genuine. 

Something like this happened recently when India’s top influential voices, namely Ankur Warikoo, Chetan Bhagat, Prafull Billore and Raj Shamani, promoted the World Startup Convention - which was to be held in Noida between March 24-26, 2023. But to the visitors' dismay, the event turned out to be a “scam”. 

Startup founders had paid up to Rs 10 lakh to book booths and spent thousands of rupees to pitch to over 10k investors as advertised. 

The attendees who bought stalls were told that the guest list included big names such as PM Narendra Modi, Elon Musk, and Sundar Pichai. However, on day 1 of the event itself, attendees figured out that not even 10% of the promised number of reputed investors were to be part of the event. Due to this, the crowd turned angry and even the police had to be called to protect the organisers from their wrath. 

Amid all this, the big question that has arrived is why influencers of such high stature and trust value promote sham and unverified claims. In fact, the organisers use these influencers' videos and run them as paid ads. One of the influencers also claimed this event will provide a ground for raising series A and B funding. 

Now the influencers might have to face the heat as so many people are calling them out on social media for associating with the event and naming it one of India’s biggest startup events. In fact, a few might take legal action against the influencers, who bought tickets for the event based on their promotions, as reported by Inc42. 

After being called out for promoting the event, Warikoo told Inc42 that he was not involved in the conceptualising or organising of the event.

“We had done an Instagram collab reel on 19th January where I spoke about the importance of funding for a startup and how this event could be a good opportunity to explore the same and meet other founders. The terms of the collab were clear my video will NOT be used for promoting the event. However, I realised that this was not respected. While they took down ads of the video when we asked them to, the video was still used on their website and in all of their communication.”

“In January itself we distanced ourselves from the event. They repeatedly asked me to be present for the event, which we declined. As late as February we had to keep sending them emails asking them to take down ads they were running to promote the event using my video,” he added. 

Shamani too shared a statement with Inc42 which was on similar lines. 

But even after the clarifications, people are calling out the influencers on social media and they are losing trust.  

Therefore, influencers should be more careful and do their proper due diligence before promoting anything. 

According to a survey conducted by ASCI, 43% of consumers stayed away from influencers when they sensed a lack of transparency, 42% did not trust influencers if they had repetitive content, and over-promotion led to a lack of trust for 41% of consumers.

As per Consumer Affairs Mininstry’s latest guidelines, social media  influencers should actually satisfy themselves that the brand they are collaborating with is in a position to substantiate the claims made in its ad. It is the moral responsibility of influencers to verify the authenticity of the product he/she is associating with for promotions. 

Any endorser who fails to comply with the guidelines can be fined Rs 10 lakhs and in case of a repeat violation, the penalty can go up to Rs 50 lakhs in addition to a stop on endorsements by them for a period of six months to two years.