Cricketers, film stars, singers, animated characters…adult or child, Indians love celebrities.
While attending the birthday party of a friend’s child, two friends, Vinamra Pandiya (39) and Mayank Gupta (38), wondered what if a popular animated character like Doraemon would have come to extend his wishes.
Not long after, they met media and entertainment veteran Joji George (53) and returned to the idea. In January 2020, the trio launched Mumbai-based video shoutout startup GoNuts.
GoNuts was created with the aim of creating a reliable pipeline to connect fans with their favourite celebrities and “ensure authentic, personalised, and memorable experiences”.
The startup allows fans from across the world to book personalised greetings and shoutouts from celebrities, through its website and app.
Most social platforms allow only one-way interactions with celebrities. GoNuts aims to make a difference by creating a “more personal and meaningful connection that fans can share with their family, friends, and social circle”.
Popular celebrities on the platform include singers Shankar Mahadevan, Shaan, Usha Uthup, and Meet Brothers; sports stars like Geeta and Babita Phogat, Jonty Rhodes, and Lance Klusener; TV stars like Annu Kapoor and Cyrus Broacha, and many others. It has a portfolio of over 200 celebrities.
“We believe we have a responsibility to all our stakeholders - a) celebrities: to give them a trusted platform where they can connect with fans and interact with them like never before; b) fans: to create the most authentic fan experiences on earth; c) investors: help them exceed expectations of a solid return on investment; and d) employees: by giving them the best place to work, learn, and have fun,” Vinamra says.
How does it work?
The process to get a shoutout is quite easy. Fans across the world can visit the GoNuts website, browse, and book a request from the chosen celebrity by providing basic details of the person for whom the video is to be created.
Each celebrity has a set price for the shoutout, and GoNuts takes 25-30 percent when fans pay up.
“We provide script improvements that get their message out in the way they want, and also brief our talent to deliver beyond the expectations of the person buying the video. The videos are delivered in an average time of one to two days. However, the response time from celebrities has reduced in the current lockdown situation. The talent has been really co-operative, delivering in record time and dealing with last-minute requests,” Vinamra says.
These requests can then be posted on the social media handles of the recipient.
The GoNuts team
An IIT-BHU alumnus, Vinamra is a serial entrepreneur who has been managing businesses for the past 14 years. He has started ventures across various other sectors, and GoNuts is his fourth startup.
Prior to GoNuts, Mayank launched Triplived, a marketplace for travel experiences. An MNNIT alum, he has been a business mentor at ISB through Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Entrepreneurship Programme.
Joji has been in the media and entertainment space for over 25 years across music, television, sports, branding, and live media. He has served as managing director for multiple international organisations like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and UBM Plc ( now Informa Markets) and as CEO of Percept Sports and Entertainment. The Wharton fellow is an alum of the prestigious University of Chicago- Booth School of Business.
A chance meeting - Joji was helping connect Vinamra and Mayank to some fellow Chicago Booth alumni – led to coffee, conversation, and the birth of a new startup.
Since then, over three months, the 12-member GoNuts team claims to have successfully delivered 200+ shoutouts, encompassing birthday and anniversary wishes, festive greetings, inspirational messages, friends reunion specials, and more.
The experience economy
Apart from cricket and Bollywood stars, the rise of OTT platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube has led to an emergence of modern-day stars with their own large and growing fan following that cuts across age groups and geographies.
The founders say there has been a boom in the experience economy, with Indians on an average spending $150 per year on experiences.
“The celebrity B2B market is opaque, fragmented, inaccessible, and largely untapped. The rise of video commerce and digital payments makes the timing perfect to launch such a service,” Vinamra says.
The global influencer marketing has grown as an industry over the last few years, going from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $4.6 billion in 2018.
The celebrity shoutout sector may be relatively new in India, but a few other startups such as Tring, TagMango, and Wysh are operating in this space.
The GoNuts team says its differentiator includes its ability to connect the Indian and global diaspora to talent across genres and the multi-segmented price points.
“We have celebrities from diverse fields like music, food/lifestyle, TV, movies, sports etc. We deliver videos to clients in record time; in many instances, we have turned around videos in less than 30 minutes,” Vinamra says.
The way ahead
GoNuts claims to have grown 3x month on month from March to May. The founders believe this will increase exponentially as “we see higher traffic and engagement”.
Speaking about the COVID -19 impact on business, Vinamra says, “The coronavirus pandemic has changed the normal, but the show must go on. We have identified numerous opportunities in adversity and are going with the flow.”
GoNuts plans to get over 5,000 influential and inspirational celebrities and reach 100 crore ARR by the end of this financial year.
“We are focused on creating a solid top line and bottom line for the company. Looking at the results achieved in the last quarter, the future looks extremely bright for us and our stakeholders,” Vinamra says.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
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