(Jag Chima and Neel Gogia are both entrepreneurs and health and fitness enthusiasts who saw a need gap in the Indian market for a strategic approach towards influencer marketing)
As we enter the creator economy era, there has been much ado about influencers, be it on your phone or the new show you watch on Netflix. But ever wondered how are digital influencers making money and collaborating with brands? A key player here are Influencer marketing agencies. Wondering what exactly they do?
An Influencer marketing agency, which works in the same way as a talent management agency, helps in bridging the gaps between influencers and brands. The creator economy era has seen exponential growth of influencers and other professionals looking to market themselves online. This is the niche that influencer marketing agencies work with. While it is comparatively a new industry, with more and more young entrepreneurs exploring online platforms, it seems to have picked up pace in the Indian business sector.
In an exclusive interview with Edugraph, Jag Chima and Neel Gogia of IPLIX Media share their experience of setting up an influencer marketing agency and how this helps influencers to grow, along with some tips on how to be a successful entrepreneur in 2022.
How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
NG: My entrepreneurial journey started at 20 when I was in college. I was curious about fitness and used to follow content creators on Youtube. That's when I realised that these creators lacked a team and I could add substantial value to their business by being a moderator and getting them brand associations. I started reaching out to such creators so that I could help them bag deals. That's how I got my first creator on board.
I used to work with 5 content creators, all from different categories. After that, I met Jag, and we decide to create IPLIX media and expand this to a lot of services under the creator economy. That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
JC: I have been involved in the influencer marketing space since 2011. In India, at that time, influencer marketing was a very new thing. There was no real kind of parameters within which the influencers used to work. I was also working in the health and fitness space with influencers, helping them add value and build themselves up as credible people. As the journey progressed, Neel was also working with some mutual contacts. We came together as we had experience of working with different creators. We collaborated and we wanted to combine our skills and make this a new venture, that's how our company started.
What was the driving force that led you to become an entrepreneur?
NG: I always wanted to do something that excites me and makes me happy. When I started this, it gave me a sense of satisfaction. I had never gotten this feeling before, not even while pursuing engineering, and I realised I loved my work and wanted to take this to the next level.
JC: If I were to apply my expertise on people who are good at what they do, then we can amplify their reach and help them to grow this into a much bigger business. The idea of applying different skill sets to people, is where the idea came from.
My parents wanted me to take a traditional route, like a doctor or an engineer. My driving force came from the zeal of proving myself by creating my own vertical. I used to derive inspiration from people who had built empires and had not necessarily come from a highly educated background.
What best motivates you? How have your entrepreneurial motivations changed since you first started?
NG: My motivation is still the same as when I started. I could say it might have increased now.
JC: I often look back to the time I started and how far I have come - this motivates me. Also, getting inspired by people throughout the world who are making an impact with their entrepreneurial journeys. So that is always inspiring me and motivating me to do better. I have always thought of thinking big but now my entrepreneurial motivation has changed to thinking bigger. In an ever-evolving world, we need to always be one step ahead. The amplification of learning is what I feel is the biggest motivator. Also, to be curious.
Share some of your failures and the best lessons you have learned from them.
NG: I wouldn't call it a failure but learning. I feel like I have learned a lot in terms of team building, team management, hiring the right people, and creating the right sort of culture. We have made our mistakes but have also quickly learned how to take better decisions in these areas and we are still improving.
JC: Failure is only final when you accept it and decide not to go further. I've had lots of great lessons in my journey so far and that is what helps any entrepreneur to grow. But my biggest takeaway would be that when you are doing business with friends, always make sure there is clear communication of what’s agreed upon. This is something which I feel is important when it comes to business partnerships.
How can influencers benefit from an influencer marketing agency?
NG: They can give access to an experienced team who can source and provide the right brand for them and position them right in the market in terms of getting the right brand associations at the right price.
JC: Influencers and influencer marketing [concerns] should be construed as partners and not an agency. Since, Influencers are good at what they do, i.e, creating content, we as influencer marketing partners help them to grow, keeping them ahead of industry trends, negotiating good contracts with brands and actually helping them to collaborate with people.
Could you briefly explain why you think influencer culture is important and the role of influencers and influencer marketing agencies?
NG: Influencers are important because the content they put out is free for the consumer. Just like travel and fitness creators might add value in their own way, everyone is sharing their own experiences via these videos. So, for a consumer to consume such diverse content with a lot of experiences for free, is valuable. Hence, these people add a lot of value to the end users.
Similarly, if an influencer needs to grow, they need backend support to help them get the right sort of guidance and that is where an influencer marketing agency comes in.
JC: This is the future of marketing, period. You will notice that over the years, print media has been stagnant and much of what you see on television is awareness. But, influencers means that you are influencing people who trust you. Nowadays any person looking to purchase anything, be it small or large, usually would look for a review or feedback before making a decision. Also, because of the lack of time that people have nowadays, influencers are like storytellers. Influencers now have a huge responsibility of being transparent, to be honest, because the people that follow them trust their decisions and trust what they say. In the future, more and more decisions will be based on influencers' reviews and their storytelling. So, I feel that will be the future.
What advice would you give to someone trying to become an entrepreneur?
NG: Find a problem - there are lots of problems that exist in our country. Be curious to solve them and just start. Taking that first step is important.
JC: Don't allow someone who has not walked that path to talk you out of what you want to do. Many look for verification from others who haven't even stepped on that path and think you are too slow. Believe in your vision. If you can envision it, you can make it possible.
What are the top 3 things you’d want to pass on as advice to a young entrepreneur?
NG: Be curious, never stop learning, learn from mistakes and do not get demotivated by failures.
JC: Talk to as many people in the position where you want to be as possible. Those who have already walked that path can leave you with so many golden nuggets that will help you to accelerate your journey into the entrepreneurial world. Have confidence, failures are great lessons and that's how they should be looked upon. Do not fear to experiment. Until you try something you will never learn. Try as many things as you can.