Google is capitalizing on all the promising video bets in the country, hoping at least some of them will be successful
As of last year, a market of around 240 million monthly active users is at stake, according to 2021 estimates by Indian consulting firm RedSeer. In early 2021, the Indian government said that Instagram has 210 million Indian users. Moj claims to have a combined monthly active user base of 300 million, after buying out rival TakaTak.
Google-owned YouTube has long remained the dominant player among video platforms, but the company still needs a success story in the bite-sized space. RedSeer believes that short-video viewership could reach 670 million by 2025, making it the second largest Indian media audience after television viewership. The consulting firm expects to add 300 million new Indian Internet users by that year.
Google doubled down on India with a $10 billion India Digitization Fund in 2020, the year the pandemic accelerated the spread of the Internet to many new areas of the country. It was also the year that India banned the popular Chinese short-video app TikTok after a bloody border conflict with China opened up a wave of imitators. Overnight, there were over a dozen options, most of which are now folded or folded.
Google is now taking a carpet-bombing, or perhaps carpet-fertilizing, approach to its husband of the rest of the Indian short-video startup. Its other investments in the space include InMobi’s lock-screen product Nazar and Verse Innovations, the parent of another short-video app, Josh. Last year, YouTube also bought a small video-commerce platform called Simsim. All of this comes despite YouTube’s own short-video feature, Shorts, having some success in India.
Compared with China, India’s short and live-video segment is still in its infancy, with plenty of room for experiments and mistakes. According to Bain & Company, investing in a portfolio of local companies that understand the cultural and linguistic characteristics of the estimated 640 million Indian Internet users may be a prudent move. And in India, where ad revenue is small, these startups are testing live shopping, streaming, and tipping—all features Instagram reels has to offer in the US if any of these companies successfully monetize their large user base, So a worthy competitor to Google would be Instagram Reels.
According to Rajeev Suri, managing partner at Orios Venture Partners, Google is waiting for these short-video bets to gain scale and then it can scoop them up for a premium. When Google bought YouTube in 2006, the company was already a hugely popular platform.
The gap left by the departure of Chinese tech giants like TikTok parent ByteDance has left a lot of real estate for deep-pocketed American tech firms — and also created a huge amount of uncertainty.
It is said that when nothing is certain, everything is possible. For Google, in India’s short-video space, that may be true.
Megha Mandavia at [email protected]
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