A 25-year-old media conglomerate is joining the race to become India’s TikTok

Will it work?
Will it work?
Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The fight to become India’s next TikTok has intensified.

After young startups like Chingari and Mitron, now 25-year-old media heavyweight Zee Entertainment is joining the race to be an alternative to the Chinese short-form video app that was banned in India on June 29.

Zee’s HiPi, which is will be launched later this month, is banking on its parent company’s expertise in video content, and the captive audience of its over-the-top platform, Zee5, to succeed. The HiPi feature will be hosted within Zee5.

“The kind of compelling content that we’re creating, acquiring the new users will be easier for us,” said Rajneel Kumar, business head of expansion and head of products at Zee5. Kumar also spoke to Quartz about his ambitions for the new feature. Edited excerpt:

How is HiPi different from the existing short-form video streaming apps?

We have been working on HiPi for over a year. It is built with a focus on the ease of use, which we found was important for consumers. We have also incorporated AI-led recommendations to create and discover the right kind of content. And then there are, of course, the kinds of things which users find delight in, whether it is different types of filters or effects.

Rajneel Kumar
Rajneel Kumar

Who is your target audience?

We already have a large user base on our platform, Zee5. They are already consuming content, and we understand the kind of content they like. HiPi becomes another avenue for them. That is one bracket of users that we are targeting.

Our focus will also be on those social media influencers who had other homes before. We will give them a platform to migrate. We are launching with over 300 influencers and steadily adding to that.

Do you think having the Zee5 platform gives you an edge?

Yes. We don’t have to really go out for user acquisition because we have a ready user base. We need to do a good job of being able to expose them to HiPi. Also, we have a very large advertiser base, so it becomes easier to create an environment for them to address ties in.

What’s your plan to attract users who have been left in the lurch after TikTok was banned?

We never accounted for not having competition. We have focused on two core areas that we think are our strengths. The first is content. Our parent company Zee has had content in its DNA for over 25 years, and that is a critical differentiator as we have the ability to curate the right kind of influences to engage with the audiences.

Secondly, we have worked on being able to create a very personalised environment for users. We have spent effort, time, and resources on building a very strong personalisation engine, and believe that we’re able to do a much better job than anyone else. You can have millions of videos on your app, but one must understand the user very well in order to be able to show them the right kind of content.

Do you think you are better prepared than your Indian rivals like Chingari and Mitron?

Unlike others, we are running a large scale app with over 80 million users a month already. So we have gone through this process of multiple users downloading the app, registering on it, and viewing content at the same time.

We have a mechanism that we have already put in place for all of this, and HiPi benefits from all the goodness that we have created on the technology side.

How are you planning to curb problematic content on HiPi? 

Our verified influencers will have direct access to put in content. But when it comes to user-generated content, every single video will go through both human moderation and an AI layer.