Girls on a Mission – a viral video that got more than eight million views and won its host, the episodic platform People Like Us Create (Pluc), the silver in the Best Use of Online Video category in the South Asian Digital Media Awards 2021, is held up as a fantastic example of engagement through effective use of video. Tamseel Hussain, CEO, Pluc.TV and Letmebreathe.in spoke about the platform and its vision at the WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media South Asia Conference, in a conversation moderated by Corinne Podger, director, Digital Skills Agency. Susan Philip reports
Pluc is a platform that helps people tell their own stories by providing start-to-finish support to create, share and monetise content. “In a nutshell, what we do is create a fully-integrated storytelling and creator ecosystem,” said Tamseel Hussain, CEO, Pluc.TV. It facilitates robust content production, and the organic distribution targets both national and international consumers.
“Storytelling is an ancient art in India. We want to bring it on to the digital platform,” Tamseel said. The reasoning is that “If everyone can get the power to create, we can change the way stories actually happen.” Giving statistics, he said the platform has around 500000 direct users, 100000 trained creators, and 7000 videos. The content-creator base has exceeded 32000. The content is in over 10 languages, and the reach extends to more than five countries. “It’s growing at an amazing speed and changing the way people are creating stories on rural subjects,” he added.
Elaborating on the process, Tamseel said the platform offers training for 24 to 48 hours, and provides support for 45 days after that. Pointing out that smartphones and cameras are improving, and the reach of Internet is growing exponentially in India, he said aspiring creators without a journalistic background are taught how to use a phone for content creation, how to script a storyboard, how to anchor, fact-check, etc. and are also provided the latest tools. “Then we show them how to make a business out of something they’ve created by partnering with organisations.”
The community of around 22000 trainers collaborates with publications who gain authentic content. The ecosystem makes use of a range of regional social media apps in India, apart from local PR initiatives. Rather than the most popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram, the focus is on apps like Snapchat, Twitter and Tik-Tok which have a wider rural reach in India, as well as specifically rural-oriented apps like Manch and Public, he said.
The stories are uploaded on platforms that are considered most appropriate, as ‘everything can’t be put everywhere,” he explained. The videos can also be used to break social stigmas – such as on the topic of sexual health. As to ways of delivering content, it’s not how well a video is shot, but how well the story is told, how authentic it is, that matters, said Tamseel.
Impact is not measured along conventional brand marketing parameters. Instead, what is measured is how the stories impact communities with some familiarity on the subject, and also those who had no prior knowledge about it. For example, a story on ASHA workers is gauged in terms of how those in the healthcare sector are influenced by it, as well as those outside this sphere.
When creators realise the effect on these two groups, it inspires them to upskill, Tamseel told the audience. To a question, he said the advantage the initiative offers media publications is that the publications can find new perspectives and unheard stories and get access to authentic stories in first-person narratives that are strong on data and fact-checking.
On the subject of monetisation, Tamseel explained that relying on the credibility factor, partnerships have been established with other platforms. Communities have been created, like health and finance. There’s some income from training programmes aimed at transfer of skills. Also, third party ads bring in some revenue.
Asked how the pandemic affected the initiative, Tamseel said in fact, during the pandemic, Pluc worked really well because of the decentralised model. Information-sharing was crucial at that time. “We trained lots of doctors to share information and stories on a variety of subjects, like how to use oxygen cylinders, to enhance community knowledge. Many of them are now ‘cool’ on social media,” he said.
Discussing the type of content that works best, he said videos which stay longer on the Internet are the more powerful ones. The ideal length is between two and twelve minutes, though the longest video they had made was 45 minutes long, and had been bought by National Geographic.
(The writer is assistant editor, RIND Survey.)