EP #37: Growth Marketing Lessons from India’s Top Digital Media Entertainment Company, Pocket Aces

EP #37: Growth Marketing Lessons from India’s Top Digital Media Entertainment Company, Pocket Aces

About this Podcast

They say content is king, but distribution is the kingdom. Few digital media entertainment companies in India have cracked that code as successfully as Pocket Aces over the last few years alone. To understand how they continue to create viral video content that wins, we caught up with Sindhu Biswal, Senior Growth Marketer at Pocket Aces. Pocket Aces is India’s leading digital media entertainment company, whose mission is to solve boredom. The company operates 5 socially distributed content brands: FilterCopy (short videos), Dice Media (multi-episode web series), Gobble (lifestyle videos), Jambo (young-adult animation shorts), and Nutshell (infotainment videos),  as well as a direct-to-consumer platform: Loco (game streaming and e-sports app). Sindhu shares solid insights on the following:

  • His journey through B2C Growth Marketing across various digital roles
  • How content consumption trends vary across OTT platforms vs. digital media distribution players
  • How understanding unique customer social sharing behavior and personal emotions is key to creating viral video content
  • The impact of serving personalized video content through powerful segmentation strategies
  • The need for AI/ML and advanced video analytics to help digital marketers in the future

Tune in to learn how Pocket Aces is unlocking user engagement and higher mind-share through viral video content across social media.

Episode Transcripts

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Hi guys, welcome to another insightful episode of the Martechno Beat especially curated podcast series powered by Netcore smartech, where you gain cutting edges sight from leading marketers product champions, and marketing influencers on all things user growth engagement, retention, and personalization. And I’m your host Pradyut Hande and today I am joined by a very special guest and a close friend Sindhu Biswal senior growth marketer at Pocket Aces, welcomes Sindhu so happy to have you join me today.” 

Sindhu Biswal: “Hey Pradyut was glad to come here once again and talk to you, it’s always a pleasure.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “All right guys with the uninitiated, pocket aces is India’s leading digital media entertainment company whose mission is to solve boredom. And that’s something I’m sure a lot of us can relate to especially during this lockdown. So the company operates five social distributed content brands. I’m sure a lot of you have consumed their experience, their awesome short videos through filter copy all that multi- episodic web series through dice media. They also have lifestyle videos through Gobble and as well as a direct-to-consumer platform called Loco, which is a gaming app, correct me if I am wrong Sindhu.

Sindhu Biswal:  “Right, right. That’s right. That’s right.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ My first question to you is could you tell us more about your journey in B2C growth marketing because it’s an honest abuse or abuse in this case. So what Is your journey being like growth marketing leading up to currently driving growth at one of India’s most loved digital brands today.”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Sure, sure Pradyut, let me just take a look back to where I started in a very short timeframe. I never had heard about growth marketing when I was doing MBA. I never heard the word to then used to be marketing always and just after I passed out MBA. I had the opportunity to be a founding member of a social networking app, which was supposed to give very strong competition in the Indian market. That’s where I was leading the marketing function and since you are kind of a journalist when you are in the founding team that gave me a lot of understanding, confidence, leadership skills, and everything, which actually is needed if you are in a growth function technique, you need to have that entrepreneur mindset you need to have leadership, you cannot be just a performance marketer without those skills and you cannot just be in a group setting and for some reasons I just left that again flow of life. I joined Paytm Insider which used to be called an insider.in. I was doing hardcore performance marketing for six months for the sports category again never heard about growth at that time and I never had heard about Shaun Ellis never heard about and Andrewson. Like I’m being very honest with you.

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ya I can truly relate.”

Sindhu Biswal: “Ya I have no idea who Andrewson is and then I started after sports the company founding members thought that I am most suited in a role to build something so we were building a very different business unit called live interactive game shows. Basically, the business unit at Flipkart is building right now. 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay,

Sindhu Biswal:  “The video and gamification part of Flipkart. So I was leading that piece. I was building the whole team essentially responsible for marketing and the app growth of the Paytm insider and started getting involved in all these acquisition retention channeling and again still had no idea, what is Growth? Fortunately, when I was leaving the company I met the founder of Pocket Aces and he actually told me that hey, we want to build a group team and that’s the first instance I heard about both and I started researching and then I was exposed to these this world and then I was like, ohh shit I was doing this all of my life. But B2C I have always been in b2c which is even sure in India that B2C  growth is still bigger I would rather say. B2C growth is very Niche and it is not just performance marketing, it’s beyond that and I believe just because of my past whatever I have done and even before that, I was at music for three years. I was involved in a songwriting competition which gave me the mindset that I am creative and I can write copies because I used to write songs. I think that mix of very different types of skills made my journey towards Pocket Aces and I’m doing what I do.

Pradyut Hande(Host):  “So that’s true actually, that is a very interesting point that you brought out because growth marketing you need so many complementary skills, you know, as you mentioned you can’t just be an expert on performance. You’ve got to have a knack for Content marketing and strategy. You’ve got to be able to strike that right balance between organic and paid with so many elements involved. You know as a growth Market or the sky’s the limit. We say data-driven experimentation is the name of the game but unless you’re exposed to different aspects of marketing no more do experimentation will actually get you those results that you desire. So, yeah, I can totally relate to what you’re saying.” 

Sindhu Biswal: “Yeah, absolutely absolutely. Also just I want to make a point that I really personally believe that this is not something that we mean we are not supposed to take the credit this was there before now. This wasn’t a leadership team. Any guy who is a marketing lead is by default Leading the branding team, content team, and performance team. Hence he is by default a Growth Marketer. It’s just that you are not designating him,  it is not something that we have started off with because it was already there we are just looking into the in a very different way and the structures are different that’s it.”

Pradyut Hande(Host):  Absolutely, it makes a lot of sense. That actually brings me to my next question. So we’ve been under lockdown for the last four and a half months now. Pocket aces say their mission is to solve boredom, now you have been watching data trend, consumption habits at your end, what are some of these evolving consumer behavior trends that you witnessed over these last four months, and what are these trends you think are temporary or short term in what are these trends that you foresee extending into the long run?”

Sindhu Biswal: “ I think some of the insights that I will ever talk less about trends more about insights. Some trends we started seeing when the lockdown started cutting into three-phase one is the first time it hit and everyone was forced to go online. Everyone was supposed to spend a lot of time online. Hence by default your consumption on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram expanding so that the attention span which was shorter it got shot right now. It’s not as short as it was earlier. It expanded a little bit. And when that happened a lot of creators also started putting up more content because there was high demand, hence, here should be high supply and hence  the competition also increases it’s not that you are the only one now people will have increased.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “True”

Sindhu Biswal: Timely what we saw was that they were existing content creators. If they were putting out one content per week people started putting out two content per week. And then the bandwagon effect started then everyone started feeling that hey, yaar I’m sitting at home, I’m doing nothing. 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct”

Sindhu Biswal: “Let me try to explore my hidden talent. So people who used to sketch in childhood days started sketching and putting out content on Facebook and you may argue that hey you are a brand, why are you facing competition from any personal account?

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Correct”

Sindhu Biswal: “The answer is the end consumer is using the same app where the brands are fighting for that surface area with the same personal accounts of fighting for the surface. 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ and attention span as you mentioned is finite so you are a complete line of mindshare and attention share at the same time.”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Correct, correct that’s why you will see some companies will tell you that hey, we have seen a lot of new user equation coming on our app specifically talking about OTTand some people will see Hey for us it was not a loss it was just a slight Improvement and the reason is this it’s not that you are the only one who’s providing and hence everyone will come and watch it because YouTube’s algorithm needs to feel you can solve rhythms job is not to support you but to support everyone so that is one thing that we that we see that some companies solve very very spike some OTTs and that was majorly driven by a particular show  for example when Asur released on Voot lot of app acquisition happened for Asur or and not for Voot.” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Correct”

Sindhu Biswal: “ There is a clear difference in that like people are not downloading the app because Voot is giving amazing content because people were downloading the app because Asur can be only found on Voot and hence, this asks a question on the growth team, on the performance team, on the marketing team at Voot on which how do you read and skip, hence, the whole industry sees that acquisition is easy because you don’t need  a lot of money because there is all because there is a lot of organic demand right but you need to focus on how do you retain and it’s a very tough job and the same pattern you have started seeing in this nationalism sentiment that is going on since last three weeks and the rise after the Tik Tok getting banned.” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Exactly”

Sindhu Biswal: “Now the interesting thing is the cache would be so low even I’m assuming Mitro and Raposo the cache must be next or five rupees, the cache would never be zero I don’t believe that some around five rupees or something. But the question is how do you retain that it is very very difficult.”

Pradyut Hande(Host):  “True”

Sindhu Biswal: “So every Market is fighting in the business case right now because once the lockdown is unlocked, we will see a very spike in the alternate stuff and that is not just entertainment that is in gaining that is in tech also, I believe that is in any virtual word conferencing apps that you see so many added these are the things. To add some very interesting points about retention. I’ll just tell you it’s a beautiful perspective. I know that B2CB guys have a different perspective, in B2B  the retention I would say is a little different because your customers are rational, your customer has already done the research, hence. You don’t need to; that’s a very different call. But in B2C What do you need to see is that your customers are irrational. They have no idea what they’re looking for. You are so like to motivate them and get them on your app your retention what happens in entertainment category is one of the retentions is your video retention just per video retention you watch for three seconds and the retention of the full video or you watching till the end.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Okay”

Sindhu Biswal: “ That is one kind of retention in B2C  that you can another kind of retention is you watched one episode how many of the people are completing that episode and how many time, so maybe you watched one episode and you felt it was bad and you’re not watching that is episodic retention.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Okay”

Sindhu Biswal: “ So this is the second type of retention. The third type of retention is the season to season retention, which is when you watched season 1 . Are you the same user watching season 2 or my company is acquiring the new user, but generally in B2C there are three kinds of retention that people take care of like for example. If I have to put out a series of season 2, I have to take a call. How much is my marketing spending? What is the percentage marketing expense of new user acquisition as a marketing expense, what is a remarketing campaign, and the moment and what has happened? Let me just tell you Asur is a certain kind of show, a certain kind of content when you acquire Asur. Less than a thousand people who are completely invested in Asur have a certain kind of taste which could be a serious drama, dark drama, or something.”

Pradyut Hande(Host):  “Right”

 Sindhu Biswal: “But if your product is not having any other alternative for that offering in that jungle, that’s where your product will fail. So for you here are getting great retention for that show but that is nothing to cross-cell.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Absolutely. “

Sindhu Biswal: “ So that’s what the complication in B2C comes around]  when you talk about retention that it is three-sided retention going around and the fact that this retention is across three different time scales. You mentioned per video per episode and then season-wise so yeah, that means a lot of sense, that’s a very interesting way to look at it and it really highlights, how important solid content likely is to anyone in the entertainment or OTT space today because it’s not just about that one show it’s about how do you keep these users of yours engaged in retaining by as you said those cross recommendations and cross-content that comes into play. How strong is your understanding of the audience but accordingly you will set your recommendation and push notification and communication of emails and other things.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct and that actually leads me to my next question where we reached an error where you know, a lot of marketers have realized that one key way to keep your users engaged on your website or app or across other platforms is through personalization. Now for digital media companies, like Pocket Aces, how do you guys look at the power of personalization when you are recommending content or across your marketing campaigns your social media retargeting ads. How do you guys do it?”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Sure, so what? One of the things that we completely invest in so we are not some we are not content production company distribution plus marketing plus disc production plus content strategizing and everything. You see hence hitting one viral content is not gonna make you sustainable. You have to make a model where every content is hitting 1 million and not only one content is flying around and you have no idea what happened with the content hence understanding emotions, understanding why people share something on YouTube versus why people share something on Facebook the internet company versus why some someone shares on Instagram. This is very very very very important. Hence your marketing team won and your content team should be extremely empathetic and should spend a lot of time understanding. What is that emotion that evokes someone to share something on  YouTube or something? Now we have understood there are there of since you we are talking about viral content and everything. We see that there are basically three emotions, three to four emotions that generally people share if you are able to crack those solutions and that’s how we personalize also. One is humor or laughter if you can evoke that particular emotion. It is just hilarious and is not a very die skill comedy someone will share. The reason someone is sharing is not because he is laughing, the reason someone shares Content is because hey, I laugh hence, I feel the moment. I upload this content this projects or this highlights two things one is am an interesting character, hence, you should talk to me on Facebook that is one and second it worked for me, hence it can work for you.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Sindhu Biswal:  I found it  interesting. Hence. You should watch the suggestion library.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): Exactly “

Sindhu Biswal: “How your referral works for any stuff that hey. I paid 500 rupees for this premium subscription model. I think that is valuable so  I suggest my friend bro. I think you are looking for something that is trying the same word of mouth, which is coming here. This is where you have to ensure personalization. We use subtle cues in fertilization. I’ll tell you how? Okay, for an example let’s think video is running now at the end of the video there are some people who use GPA as a standard image where it is written that share this with your friends that is not personalization that is genetic “

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct”

Sindhu Biswal: “ Someone else comes as a guy who is I mean, the real person comes and tells hey if you watch those things and share it with your friends, that is the second level. That is still not personalization. Let’s take the example of personalization.  Let’s say the video is about depression and a moment at last someone comes with some very subtle emotion, which is suited for that particular video and tells hey, I hope you are able to bring a change in your life if you feel that anyone is there nearby in your circle and is depressed or is feeling lonely please share.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Sindhu Biswal: “ Because you were talking one to one with that particular Community the same way. You are putting out engineering content. Let there be an engineer at the end of the video who is talking in an engineering lingo and everything, so and that’s the person I should be using marketing also, you use your text, your text color writing is in a very different way and it changes according to your target audience is the same format that we keep on following and the idea is the more personal your brand is the more trustworthy of the brand.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Right, it makes a lot of sense.  It’s a  different business model altogether also for you guys because you guys are playing in the intersection of, you know, social media sharing and digital media content is not pure OTT per say. So this is a hybrid OTT.”

Sindhu Biswal:  “We are not OTT, we don’t have any website or an app or something,”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Exactly, and you know, you briefly touched upon the virality of content and how often and frequently you need to hit that viral payload to speak almost on a monthly basis. So if I could ask you what is the secret recipe, if you could give me three-pointers on what you guys look at and what makes your content viral, how would you describe it?”

Sindhu Biswal: ‘So, let me tell you that secret recipe which anyone can adapt and not our secret recipe which we are only adapt. So as I already told you that the more you understand the emotion of your customer for example if my analytics shows that 18 to 24 audience is the highest then I know that 18 to 24 people understand relationships in a certain way right then I cannot show my relationship videos. Okay. Okay. I will simplify for you. So the moment you put out a relationship, which is a very adult complicated understanding relationship story, like for example, let’s say a long-distance relationship in a Metro.” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Sindhu Biswal: “ The moment your video is going to anyone who is staying in Bihar 18 years old has no understanding of Metro has no understanding what is long distance has only heard on him or her it is an aspirational video and not a relatable video hence the chances of getting shares is very very less. Then I watch it correct hearing will not happen because I’m not able to evoke any kind of emotion through it. So it is not relatable at all. Generally, people share something if they are motivated one and looking at the emotions one of your videos is motivating people to share because people are like, hey, I’m motivated then my friend should be motivated. Second is people like to boost their content site. People who are content sexually share content in a very different way. The other wanted us to know that hey, I’m a psychosexual.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “If they’re digital personality, they want to stick yourself”

Sindhu Biswal: “Yeah, because you can give five galies when you’re offline.If you don’t want others to know that you are that person hence to share something on your platform because you want people to understand it.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ That’s true, It sounds like you’re playing a character yourself on a digital platform.”

Sindhu Biswal: “ Exactly, absolutely we all have that I also have that. It’s very difficult to be exact at both the things the older you grow up maybe we’ll be. So, one is your motivation, the second is an education if you’re educating about anything. It could be about China India border problems, or it could be about your general use or it could be about or Ted kind of a talk which is interesting will get shares. The third is your humor. That’s why the humor category is baked into comedy categories because on YouTube after music and comedy are very very big on YouTube. So basically these are 3. Fourth is the largest bucket, which is related by relatable is a very tricky game like for you. Let’s see. In a B2B space, if I create a meme about a client versus agency relationship that happens on B2B, I will share it with you, you will share with your friends because I created Content that is relatable to you.  And that’s how you guys also crack your emails and everything formulation. We are just creating the email massive ocean in a very multimedia format. And once you understand your audience, you keep on choosing a bucket and emotionally keep on doing it keep on doing consistency is the key will get a natural fit, which is working.” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Interesting that actually brings me to a counter-question. Now we have experienced a situation where your users get accustomed with certain kinds of content and that brings in an element of predictability. One thing is consistency, another thing is becoming too predictable with your content. So maybe your users are not engaging with it enough or they’re like, oh, okay this is one more of those you know a humorous video is so how do you guys deal with that?”

Sindhu Biswal: “So that’s where your content comes into place when your business is. So what are you you are nothing you are a TV channel so the name on TV there used to be Kyoki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and every episode is different because it should not be treatable like Ekta Kapoor cut during the climax and she makes sure that the next episode is not treatable and the moment it treatable your show will die and then your content team is incredible. Okay, and that’s and that’s the culture that you have to build it. This is its everyday fight. I do all three. It’s very very difficult but that’s the fun of it also.”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “ Right “

Sindhu Biswal: “ I think so, but the thing is there is beauty in digital. On a digital platform just because the area is too large like A video will have a thousand users and B video will be hundred percent of those thousand users. So even if your B video is an exact copy of A or similar to A there will be sudden overlap, but B will also find new audiences. The point is even if you are doing, but this doesn’t happen Conte which generally if someone is watching a particular show you make sure that he watches daily. Yes, but that doesn’t happen on YouTube. I don’t know anyone who watches a particular Channel every day. So there is some concern that you will miss even if you are a super cat so it’s not something that everyone feels a challenge but everyone takes.”

Pradyut Hande(Host):  “Interesting, interesting and that actually brings me to my final question of this episode. It’s been really insightful so far, Sindhu your thoughts on the future of Digital marketing the application of an AI/ML. How do you see this entire space Shape Up and how do you see this? You know, helping brands like Pocket Aces in the future.” 

Sindhu Biswal:: Right, right, I’ll tell you one pinpoint which is personal, I will tell you one aspirational which I feel, let me talk about aspirational futuristic point, I feel “Digital Marketing” which used to be a solo driven activity before which means that performance Marketeers  used to think that content is not my role, I will not understand content, Social media is not my role, I will not understand social media” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

 Sindhu Biswal:” And the social media team used to think that I have nothing to do with Performance Marketing. Hence the I don’t care about metrics and everything”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Yeah, you can’t aside us, True”

 Sindhu Biswal:” everyone used to exist in silos, I think it’s changing Day by day the reason been everyone who is even if you are a social media guy or even if you are a Performance Marketing person, you have to become a marketing leader at some point of the time of your life, which means that you need to know the basics of both. So I think skills-wise people have a knack of understanding hence the concept of cliche marketing is coming to the case”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “True”

 Sindhu Biswal: I think that is slowly and slowly coming up with a “Digital Marketer” perspective” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Sindhu: “I feel the future of digital marketing in domain form I feel video is going to be even big”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Sindhu Biswal:   “It’s just a tip of it. We simply tip of it like half of the companies in India are still text-based or image-based ads”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Sindhu Biswal:  “We still rely on whenever we have to create a video ad we still think that hey let’s hire up production agency”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct”

Sindhu Biswal:  “And You can see cheap videos cannot be made”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Sindhu Biswal:  “And we have seen that people like the companies like “Ixigo” have been tracking it every time, by the way, cheap videos which are viral” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “True”

Sindhu Biswal:   “And people are there who are tracking it, So I think video is gonna be next,I really don’t think audio is going to be big in marketing”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Sindhu Biswal:   “Coming to predictive and coming to the analytics section”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Right”

Sindhu Biswal:  “I don’t No, I have a feeling that things are gonna be more automated

 Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Which means that running a “Facebook” Ad is not a job, Optimizing a “Facebook” Ad is your job to one deciding the campaign strategy is your job is going to be even stronger because a lot of your work will be automated, I still feel that video analytics is not still in place” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Yeah, very nascent there is a  huge playground here for a lot of”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Yes there are huge playground rules that you would play, Even on “YouTube” It’s just one player “YouTube” analytics. There is no third party integration that happens right now”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct, It’s a black box in one of the largest black box”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Yes a complete black box, And  so I think we still have Basics to fix before we come even into the bigger picture, but I think that The prediction of video games, video analytics, and recommendation sections giving feedback to the “Digital Marketers” itself that, Hey,  these are my five campaigns and these are the insights” 

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Correct”

Sindhu Biswal:  “Is a conversational kind of a bot or something slowly and slowly gonna be mainstream I see”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Okay-Okay interesting, This is been a hugely insightful session because I have spoken to a lot of “OTT” marketers they come with their you know, own lessons to share just to gain your thoughts on how brands like “Pocket-aces” does it so well and they’ve done it over such a short span of time and the beauty is that you have “Screenshare”,  “Mindshare”, and you’re competing for “Wallet share” some point down the line, It’s fantastic what you guys have been able to do. “Thank you” so much for being on this particular episode “Sindhu”, It’s been a real pleasure hosting you today”

Sindhu Biswal: “Same same absolutely. I think it can’t be a great end to the day after a job doing a session before I think I had fun. I hope all the listeners, gamers, Feel free to tell me if you have any doubt”

Pradyut Hande(Host): “Absolutely I am sure they will, and I am sure I will at least on “Linkedin ” posts. “Thank you so much”

Sindhu Biswal: “Thank you so much for having me”


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