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‘We’re building culturally and locally relevant experience for India’: Q&A with Snapchat’s Durgesh Kaushik

Written by Avanish Tiwary Published on 

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In its attempt to increase user base in the country, Snapchat has made several localized partnerships including the Hindi-version of its popular Snap Original, Phone Swap.

Last month, Evan Thomas Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of American multimedia messaging app Snapchat hosted a virtual event focused on the company’s plans and progress in the Indian market. Although Spiegel didn’t spill any beans about its actual user number in the country, he did say Snapchat has seen its daily active user base grow 150% year-on-year in the September quarter.

Snapchat’s rise in daily active user in India has been on the back of netizens using social media apps as an escape from the gloom during the novel coronavirus. With multiple lockdowns in the country and closure of educational institutes allowed users to spend more time watching short videos and playing mobile games. According to a report by eMarketer, “Among digital video users who watch at least one digital video per month, time spent is skyrocketing.” The report estimated that by the end of this year Indians would spend two hours and 25 minutes per day on social media apps, an increase of 14% compared to last year.

This year, the California-headquartered company is deploying a three-pronged approach of localized content, games, and augmented reality experiences to expand its Indian user base.

We got in touch with Durgesh Kaushik, Head of Market Development, India at Snap to understand the company’s plan for India.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

KrAsia (Kr): Snap opened its office in India in 2019. How does the local team collaborate with the U.S. headquarters, especially when it comes to making decisions? 

Durgesh Kaushik (DK): We opened our office in Mumbai in April 2019, and I joined around the same time to lead the market development. Since then, we have hired team members across my team, sales, content, and creative strategy. Snap is a global business and as such we collaborate not just with team members in the US but also across Europe, the Middle East, and of course the APAC region. In the current climate with everyone working from home, we work together and are connected perhaps now more than ever before. There is a lot of cross-functional work that goes on to support India as a market for Snap and we partner with the wider business on strategy, decision making, and execution.

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Read this: Snapchat’s India user base more than doubled in the second quarter

Kr: What has been the learning since then?

DK: From the importance of localizing our product experience, to developing culturally relevant experiences, and finding the right content and platform partners, there have been so many learnings.

Our overarching mission is to serve Snapchatters here in India. We continue to learn from our Indian community: whether it’s what they love watching on Discover [Snap launched its globally available content discovery feature in India in 2018], how they use our platform, what they want to create or the moments they like to celebrate.

This year has been challenging for everyone, but has enabled us to learn about what our community values most on our platform. We saw people using Snapchat in creative ways to communicate with their friends and family, and stay emotionally connected, even when they are physically apart. To support our community’s mental and emotional well-being, we launched a feature called ‘Here for You’—in partnership with the Mariwala Health Initiative and Manas Foundation—to provide expert resources for Snapchatters who may be struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, or users who want to help a friend who is. We also recently launched our second annual Friendship Report, exploring the impact of COVID-19 on friendships, and the importance visual communications play in keeping people together.

DK: Did Snap make any local changes to suit the taste of Indians? Please give some details.

Kr: We have always been focused on creating culturally relevant experiences for our community here: whether it’s providing support in Indian languages, celebrating regional festivals with creative tools, national moments such as Independence Day, collaborating with partners such as numerous IPL teams, or the Bollywood Arts Project in Mumbai.

We continue to expand our local partnerships. Just last month, we shared that since launching Discover here in 2018, we have aired over 60 local channels from 32 different Indian publishing partners, covering news, Bollywood culture, beauty, comedy, cooking, and sports. We also recently welcomed our first Indian Snap Games partner, MoonFrog Labs, and announced a slate of new content, including a Hindi adaptation of one of our most popular and long-running Snap Original series – Phone Swap.

DK: How is India’s market different from other regions?

Kr: Every market is different for us. One thing I’ve noticed is that people here have embraced our core product value of visual communications with close friends and family. Our community is using Snapchat to stay connected and learn about the world—that’s a really positive sign for us.

DK: What are the internal milestones that Snap has set for the India market?

Kr: For us it’s all about building the most culturally and locally relevant experience on our platform. From languages to content to creative—we want Snapchatters in India to open the app and feel like it was made for them. To do this, we’re committed to expanding the number of experiences available for them to enjoy and collaborate with partners. In terms of growth, we’re only at the beginning of our journey, but we of course want to continue the momentum we’ve seen so far.

DK: How does Snap see the fast-changing competitive landscape with a dozen of homegrown short video and social media startups eyeing the same customer base?

Kr: Snapchat has always been quite different from other more traditional social media platforms. It is all about authentic visual communication with close friends and family at the moment. As such, we see a real opportunity here because of the way our community engages with Snapchat. We have a proven track record of innovation and will continue to work hard to create experiences that empower our community to express themselves, learn about the world, and have fun together.

DK: What is Snap’s India strategy? What are the plans for the coming years?

Kr: We remain focused on continuing to localize our service, forge and grow healthy and mutually beneficial partnerships in the region, and really engage the Snapchat community. We also see huge potential when it comes to Augmented Reality and will work closely with our growing community of Official Lens Creators in the region to bring new and powerful experiences to Snapchat. We recently announced a number of new initiatives and partnerships at our ‘Snap in India’ event including an expansion of our content offering as we’ve seen time spent in Discover increase by over 200%. New game partners such as Ludo Club and an Indian kitchen challenge added to one of our hit games Ready Chef Go!

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