Kunal Kishore Sinha, co-founder of one of India’s largest public relation firms, Value 360 Communications, noticed a trend last year: brands were spending more money than ever on influencers to drive their digital campaigns.
“These are largely people who are passionate about specific subjects, such as fashion, cooking, beauty, and gaming. About four to five years ago, brands started to realize these guys have very meaningful content and started to invest in this aspect, which today we call influencer marketing,” Sinha told KrASIA.
But Sinha noticed a few problems in this nascent market. Many influencers, he said, had fake followers and it was difficult for brands to separate authentic influencers from ones who use illicit means to inflate their follower count. Also, he noticed brands were working with the same set of influencers for various campaigns, which suggested they weren’t able to locate new talent.
“Looking at the problems, I realized these could easily be solved with technology,” Sinha said. In March 2020, along with two other co-founders—Sagar Pushp and Anshai Lal—Sinha launched ClanConnect, a marketplace that links brands up with the right influencers for their marketing drives.
Sinha said the company gauges the success of influencers based on 30 parameters, such as their performance for previous campaigns, the number of posts they make, engagement on their posts, follower counts, and the demography of their followers. ClanConnect’s tool, Sinha claimed, can also figure out the difference between real and fake followers that are largely bots. This feature, the company said makes a huge difference to brands as they can be sure they are spending their money on the right person.
By paying a subscription fee, “brands can use our dashboard and choose from our current database of 20,000 talents or influencers to figure out which person fits better for their campaign,” Sinha said. Brands can perform searches by specifying their needs and limitations, such as the campaign’s budget, the number of influencers they want to work with, and the minimum engagement and impressions they expect from each influencer.
Once the company partners with influencers, ClanConnect provides brands with the real-time data about the performance of influencers’ posts on social media platforms.
Sinha said when brands work with micro-influencers, who usually have up to 5,000 followers, who aren’t associated with any agency, they typically have to wait for the influencer to provide a performance review. With ClanConnect, as soon as an influencer posts something for the campaign, she shares the link with her client, and data related to the post’s performance starts pouring in. “Our platform gives live performance of the posts to brands, which they can use to push a specific campaign that is doing good with further marketing money,” Sinha said.
The company has partnered with nine brands so far, including Cartoon Network, a personal hygiene brand, and a cryptocurrency startup that is looking for edutainment video content. “It’s just been a few months since we started, and we are still building our artificial intelligence tool that would give scores to the influencers based on how they fare in different categories,” Sinha said. ClanConnect’s AI tool is set to go online in November.
Last month, the company said it raised a seed round of INR 5 crore (USD 673,000) led by Venture Catalysts along with a clutch of angel investors.
At the moment, the startup only monetizes from brands. But in the next two years, it plans to build solutions for talents and open monetization channels from influencers too, the company said. It wants to build solutions that help influencers apply stickier hashtags, amplify their content by partnering with social media platforms, and develop new ways for content creators to earn revenue. But these ideas have not taken concrete shape yet. Sinha said ClanConnect will work on these concepts as the company learns more about influencers in the next couple of years.
Once it captures significant market share in India, Sinha said, ClanConnect will take its product to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia by the end of next year. That will set ClanConnect against existing players in Southeast Asia, like Partipost, Blogapalooza, and BuzzSumo. Singapore-based startup Partipost works with influencers in Singapore, Indonesia, and Taiwan, and has plans to expand to the Philippines and Malaysia after the startup raised USD 3.5 million in July 2020. And at home in India, ClanConnect competes with two-year-old Chtrbox.
“Our promise to brands is we are taking the guess work out of influencer marketing,” Sinha said. “For every dollar that they spend, we want to give them choices that are scientifically carved out.”
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.