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“In India, very few creators have the wherewithal to do production etc” – Sameer Pitalwalla, Culture Machine

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In the first part of the two part interview series with Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO of Culture Machine, we learned about Culture Machine’s new brand intelligence machine, its approach to Facebook and Facebook video. In the second part, Pitalwalla speaks about Culture Machine’s approach to talent management in their network and handling competition among others.

Talent management

MediaNama: How do you choose the talent you work with? Do you take on all that sign up with you or is there a benchmark?

Pitalwalla: With the launch of the creator platform, anybody can join the network. But we need to curate because the talent needs to have clarity in terms of rights and the not-copyrighted content which causes problems in terms of rights management. The talent needs to be clear about the legitimacy of the content. We have an internal process in place.

We work with talent to mentor and grow them. We also create and fund programming based on metrics like content hygiene, their previous uploads, their watch time on that content, their viewership. This also includes their subscriber base in the last 30- 60 days, what kind of programming we think they can work on etc. Besides looking at rights, we work with creators to join the network, but depending on the metrics, we decide how deeply we should engage with them.

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MediaNama: What kind of engagement levels do you have with creators?

Pitalwalla: The levels of engagement are based on metrics like their previous created content, how often they create content, the watch time of the content, the genre of programming etc. This decides how deeply we engage with them. Creators need a whole bunch of things like audience development, marketing, PR, promotions, collaborations, productions, programming and post-production. Performance metrics decide how much we can give them. That will also decide the funding of their content. On the Creator Jam event, we announced a Rs 2 crore fund for programming and backing creators within our network.

MediaNama: Do you invest in programming for all the creators in your network?

Pitalwalla: Not everyone gets it, but quite a few get it. That’s the reason we announced the Rs 2 crore production fund to actually help fund more programming from our network. We have offered all our creators that bucket of money to work with in order to create the brand.

Competition

MediaNama: With the YouTube ecosystem now picking up in India, how are you dealing with poaching of talent and brands by competition?

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Pitalwalla: We have been lucky to be looked at as a media for talent in the creator space over the past year and half. Creators want to join us because in India, very few creators have the wherewithal to do production, marketing, PR, monetization or facilities in a variety of locations in the country. So we haven’t really had that much of a competition that way. In terms of market share, we still hold a dominant and majority stake.

We launched an intelligence machine in the brand space and it has been good. We have not been able to deliver that intelligence to a lot of our clients to use it as a way to understand what content to create, and then create that content in scale using our creators and studio facilities. Very few networks, if any, produce most of their own programming. We have a lot of brands like Put Chutney, Being Indian, Blush and Epified. This has built our confidence, because if we are doing it for ourselves then we can do it for others too.

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