These startups make stars reach out on your special day, at a price
Do you want a celebrity to wish you or your loved ones on important occasions?
A dedicated set of startups — Tring, Wysh, YoShot, and Celebrify, to name a few — are helping fans, mainly from small towns and cities, connect directly with their favorite television and regional movie stars.
These include direct messages from celebrities on Instagram, and recorded videos to friends and family, opening up monetisation avenues for celebrities and marking lifetime memories for fans, at as little as Rs 500 a wish.
Teenagers, college-goers, housewives from small towns and cities are driving the bulk of demand for such services, companies say.
Some of these celebrities include Telugu Actor Kaushal Manda and popular television stars Sudha Chandran, Ronit Roy, Sara Khan, Varun Badola, Hari Teja and Sameer Dharmadhikari.
“This is a new form of gifting,” Mahesh Gogineni, cofounder and CEO of Wysh told ET.
Concurring, Akshay Saini, co-founder of Tring, said that about 75-80% of the requests the company gets are from small towns including Kochi, Rajkot, Patna, Lucknow and Surat.
“While these artistes are easily seen in cities like Mumbai or Delhi, youngsters from small cities hardly get a chance to see or interact with them. These platforms give them that access – to interact with their favorite television stars,” says Saini. Launched in December last year, Tring has so far roped in 250 celebrities. It has also raised $100,000 from investors.
Celebrities — including television artists, singers, sportsmen, and social media influencers and a few Bollywood stars— also end up cashing in on their brand.
Their rates differ and are based on factors such as popularity, fan demand and peer group pricing. Users can buy a range of services by spending as low as Rs 500 to as much as Rs 20,000. “Till now, social networking sites facilitated only one-way communication between fans and celebrities, but now we can offer deeper engagement,” Wysh CEO Gogineni said.
These companies let celebrities decide their fee, and only suggest the price range based on a few factors such as popularity and the nature of requests posted by customers. Once a request is placed, these apps take 1-2 weeks to send the final video to the customer.
Celebrities are embracing these platforms in a big way.
“I keep receiving messages for greetings for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions. Now, finally, I will be able to sort out the people who want a genuine message for a loved one, or for themselves,” said Bollywood actress Sunny Leone who is listed on the Wysh platform.
The space is still nascent, but already US-based video app Cameo is thinking of venturing into the Indian market, according to people familiar with the matter. The company, which has raised $65 million from Kleiner Perkins and Lightspeed Venture Partners, is in talks to partner with Times Bridge, the people said.
“We at Times Bridge admire Cameo’s success worldwide, believe there is significant value in this emerging ecosystem of companies connecting fans more personally with their favorite people and – as part of our mission – are always happy to support global entrepreneurs with deep conviction regarding their India opportunity,” said a Times Bridge spokesperson.
Times Bridge is the global investments and partnership arm of the Times Group, which also publishes this newspaper.
Experts and investors tracking the space say it is a win-win for both fans and celebrities.
However, not everyone seems to be in it to make money.
“My problem is commercialising the engagement we have with our fans,” says Paras Tomar, a social media influencer who is joining StarBytes, another such upcoming video-based app, which is expected to launch in a month.
While early signals seem to suggest that the business is working, making money may be tough, some experts say.
“These apps are looking at smaller cities and towns where a user does not spend on such platforms. That has been the major reason why social media platforms have remained free till date,” said Karthik Srinivasan, a brand and social media expert.