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High-profile startup execs back Indian influencers platform CreatorOS

Manish Singh
·3-min read
In this photo taken on November 10, 2019, youngsters watch videos on video-sharing app TikTok on their mobile phones in Mumbai. - He's no Bollywood superstar, but Israil Ansari can barely walk down a street in India without teenagers flocking to him for autographs -- thanks to TikTok, the addictive and controversial app on which he has two million followers. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)
In this photo taken on November 10, 2019, youngsters watch videos on video-sharing app TikTok on their mobile phones in Mumbai. - He's no Bollywood superstar, but Israil Ansari can barely walk down a street in India without teenagers flocking to him for autographs -- thanks to TikTok, the addictive and controversial app on which he has two million followers. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

The advent of low-cost Android smartphones and the world's cheapest mobile data has paved the way for millions of social media influencers in India to amass a following of tens of millions of users in recent years.

These influencers, also known as creators, share their daily vlogs, thoughts on a wide range of issues, and some engage with big brands to help sell their products to niche, loyal audiences. E-commerce giant Flipkart and scores of several other businesses today work with these influencers.

But India’s ban on TikTok, the Chinese short-video app that reached more than 200 million users in the country, in late June unearthed some of the biggest problems these creators face today: They are too reliant on a handful of platforms, and their work structure is not well organized.

A new startup believes it has built the platform to help creators assume more control over their work. And a number of high-profile entrepreneurs agree.

On Friday, Madhavan Malolan announced CreatorOS, a platform that enables creators to build, manage and grow their businesses. About 1,000 creators, including a number of short-film makers, teachers and consultants, have already joined the platform, said Madhavan, who co-founded the startup, formerly known as Socionity, in January this year. Prior to CreatorOS, he worked at a number of firms, including Microsoft.

“We believe that these creators will become an entrepreneur in the coming decade. So we are creating tools, connections and infrastructure that they will need to run their digital businesses. Currently, there is a lot of spray and pray happening on the creator's part. They are producing videos in hopes that they go viral so more people in the industry discover them,” said Madhavan in an interview with TechCrunch.

The marquee tool on CreatorOS today is an app-builder that allows creators to build their own apps, push and sell their content in it and build their own communities. Madhavan said CreatorOS has overly reduced the efforts that need to go into building an app to simply drag and drop.

The startup said today it has also raised $500,000 from a clutch of high-profile names. Some of the angel investors include Phanindra Sama (founder and former chief executive of online ticket booking platform RedBus.in), Gaurav Munjal (co-founder and chief executive of online learning platform Unacademy), Kalyan Krishnamurthy (chief executive of Flipkart Group), Sujeet Kumar (co-founder of business-to-business marketplace Udaan), Vidit Aatrey (co-founder and chief executive of social e-commerce Meesho), Vivekananda Hallekere (co-founder and chief executive of mobility firm Bounce) and Alvin Tse (GM of Xiaomi Indonesia).

Madhavan said that the trust that so many established entrepreneurs showed in CreatorOS convinced him that he did not need to engage with VC firms yet and instead put the entire focus on serving creators. He said the ban on TikTok and how so many startups are trying to scale their short-video apps has created an immense opportunity for CreatorOS.

The startup expects to have more than 5,000 creators on its platform by the end of the year. It is working with creators to understand and build more features that would benefit them, said Madhavan.