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Straight out of college, this entrepreneur found his niche in connecting India’s top influencers and brands

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Influencer marketing was a little-known concept until just a few years back. Cut to 2022, two years after a global pandemic forced a large part of the population indoors with increased dependence on digital and social media, companies are seen leaning heavily towards influencers to attract customers.

Evidently, brands have realised influencers have a sway over their target audience, and it is easier to reach out to customers through them.

This increasing popularity and demand for influencers has paved the way for influencer marketing and talent management agencies. One such agency is IPLIX Media by Neel Gogia, named after his inspiration Iplex, a videoscope product by Japanese manufacturer of optics and reprography products, Olympus. 

Started in 2019 by Neel, Delhi-based IPLIX Media is into influencer marketing and talent management. It has close to 25 exclusive talents under its portfolio, including Saloni Gaur, Tech Burner aka Shlok Srivastava, and Neha Doodles.

“We want to be in this niche because, as influencers or content creators, we are helping them build a brand for themselves,” says Neel in an interaction with YourStory.

Besides building a brand name, IPLIX helps influencers with revenue and content growth, and this 360-degree support system helps influencers find all their requirements catered to at one place. On the other hand, brands stand to benefit with the startup helping make the right influencer connect for endorsements and product placement.

“Gone are the days when someone just used to hold a product and put a selfie with it. Audiences are quite smart nowadays,” says Neel. He claims the company is planning to end FY22 with an estimated revenue of Rs 40 crores, a staggering 500 percent growth from last year where it closed at Rs 8 crores.

How it works

In just over two years of existence, the startup claims to have an impressive portfolio of customers – with the likes of Audi, Samsung, Mamaearth, Skillshare, and Udemy on board. It started its pilot with OYO in 2019, where it worked to create various campaigns and jingles.

IPLIX begins its pre-work before any campaign by obtaining the brand’s mandate, based on which it strategises its future course of work.

“Strategy was never part of influencer marketing before. It was purely execution. We introduced strategy to the game,” remarks Neel.

Its first step is to talk to the management, and understand its business objectives. Based on which, the startup lays down the action plan for the target audience. “This ultimately helps us build impeccable stories that also fulfil the business goals at the same time.”

Citing an example, Neel explains that for Audi, a brand known for celebrity marketing, IPLIX tapped into influencer marketing for better reach to customers who could afford the brand.

Similarly, Skillshare, a US-based tech company which entered India in 2019, initially tried its hand at influencer marketing campaigns, but was not quite successful in reaching the expected target audience

“We reached out and told them that it is not a problem with the audience. The problem is with the strategy adopted, and the kind of influencers used for the campaign. We redesigned their campaign, their strategy and since last year, they are working with us every month,” informs Neel.

He goes on to explain that in general, influencer marketing is used for awareness-building purposes. So, the biggest challenge in this form of marketing is, conversion does not take place immediately as it is not performance marketing.

IPLIX Media aims for successful conversion-driven campaigns for brands. This is the differentiation the startup promises its clients.

“In fact, we are the only agency that’s working with such a diverse set of brands to drive conversion-driven campaigns and is even refining it further on a monthly basis,” adds Neel.

Citing the example of Mamaearth, he says the problem statement was how to get sales via coupon code redemptions with the help of content. IPLIX had to also work on a strategy of working with beauty and lifestyle creators but also expand further.

The team worked on a plan of action to integrate Mamaearth promotions using entertainment channels which might not be relevant to the product category and still make it work because any audience could be a potential customer. For this, it adopted the strategy of integrating an infotainment video, which turned out successful.

Similarly, Myprotein, a UK-based sports nutrition brand, wanted to expand their influence beyond fitness. Neel says for this, the team put forth a game plan to use people in the lifestyle and category segment. A move that turned out to be successful for the brand as it continued to opt to sign more lifestyle ambassadors vis-a-vis fitness influencers. This not only helped them with brand recognition but also opened a new potentially untapped market.

Founder’s background

Before he launched IPLIX Media, Neel started out as an independent talent manager, and was managing one influencer during his college days.

“I still have the first emails I had sent out in my not so good English to influencers asking to be their manager. In my first stint, I got a monthly salary of Rs 5,000,” quips Neel.

He set up IPLIX Media in the last year of his undergraduate years, when there was a mandate to do a compulsory internship in a company. He was convinced he could leverage his persuasion skills to build a market not just for influencers but for brands as well.

IPLIX is now a 50-member team , and completely bootstrapped. It recently expanded to the Middle East after signing on exclusive talent Mariam George from the region.

By the end of 2022, it plans to increase its influencer number to 100, with close to 25 from the Middle East. It also plans to venture into the South East Asian region to acquire talents.

Funding and more

When asked if the startup would be seeking funds in the future, Neel remarks, “We are in no need to raise capital right now, if in the future we need to then, we will enter the market to raise capital. We are happy where we are.”

In 2019, IPLIX was registered as a sole proprietor company. In 2020, it converted itself to a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) with the entry of its partner Jag Chima, who joined the startup in September 2020.

Jag is a UK-based entrepreneur, investor and health and fitness enthusiast. He created Physique Global and a gym chain called Kris Gethin Gyms. He joined IPLIX as an advisor to influencers, helping them with marketing decisions and setting up their own brands.

Jag and Neel also train their 50-member strong team members on how to communicate with the talents, influencers, and brands, which Neel adds is their biggest challenge.

Market

IPLIX Media counts talent management firms such as Monk Entertainment, and influencer marketing agencies such as Confluencer, Lets Influence as competitors.

 

According to The India Influencer Marketing Report by INCA, GroupM’s brand-safe influencer and content marketing solution unit and Exchange4media Group, the top four categories that contribute to nearly 70 percent of influencer marketing are personal care (25 percent), food & beverages (20 percent), fashion and jewelry (15 percent) and mobile and electronics (10 percent).

The report also states that the Influencer Marketing industry is poised to grow at a CAGR of 25 percent for the next decade, reaching a size of Rs 2200 crores by 2025.

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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Akros Technologies, an AI-powered asset management platform, raises funding from Z Holdings • TechCrunch

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Artificial intelligence is taking over almost every industry. The investment and finance industry is no exception. In Deloitte’s 2019 report, the firm reveals that AI is transforming the financial ecosystem to reduce costs and make operations more efficient by providing automated insights and alternative data, analysis and risk management.

Technology such as AI has digitized the finance sector, ranging from payments and remittances to lending. However, asset management is still in the nascent stage of digitization, according to the chief strategy officer and co-founder of Akros Technologies, Jin Chung.

Akros Technologies wants to disrupt the current asset management industry via its AI-driven asset management software platform that mines market data for stocks. Akros just raised $2.3 million from Z Venture Capital, the corporate venture capital wholly owned by Z Holdings, which also owns the Japanese messaging app Line and internet portal Yahoo Japan.

Akros intends to strengthen strategic ties with Z Holdings via strategic investment, the startup said. The latest funding, which brings Akros’s total amount raised to $6.1 million since its 2021 inception, will help Akros to scale its software platform and asset management products and ramp up its users, including local and global financial institutions and fintech companies.

The outfit is already in discussions with potential partners to expand its AI-powered product called portfolio management as a service, or PMaaS, an all-in-one operating system for portfolio management. Chung explained to TechCrunch that PMaaS “enables B2B clients such as financial institutions, fintech startups and robot-advisors to launch their own exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without having to set up ETF teams and infrastructure.”

He added that it expects to secure more than five B2B clients in the first quarter of 2023.

The startup claims that its AI-powered portfolio management platform can reduce “the overall cost structure [of] the traditional fund development,” including management fees and unnecessary fees involved in the investment process, by more than 80%. The outfit aims to maximize the finance management performance of data-driven ETFs and offer a portfolio management solution via the PMaaS for Akros’s users to help them compete with global ETF institutions like Vanguard or JPMorgan.

In August, Contents Technologies launched Korean pop music, also known as K-pop, and Korea Entertainment ETF, on the NYSE Arca Exchange under the ticker KPOP, using Akros’s PMaaS solution to develop the ETFs. In addition, Akros listed an AI-driven target income ETF, called Akros Monthly Payout ETF (ticker: MPAY), on the NYSE in May with monthly distributions at an annualized target rate of 7%, according to the startup.

To build a slew of investment strategies that lower the cost of portfolio modeling and generate scores of investment portfolios, Akros applies a generative AI model based on a decision transformer, which predicts future actions through the sequencing model, Chung said, adding the company also employs GPT-3 natural language processing (NLP) to analyze unstructured language data.

Akros plans continuously to enhance its engineering technology by bolstering its business to disrupt the asset management market and attract new partners across the globe, including Japan, Singapore and the U.S., co-founder and chief executive officer Kyle Moon said in a statement.

Founded by CEO Moon, CSO Jin and chief marketing officer Justin Gim, Akros employs seven people.

Co-founders of Akros Technologies: (Left to right) Justin Gim, Kyle Moon and Jin Chung. Image Credits: Akros Technologies

Moon previously worked for Qraft Technologies as head of AI research and CSO and had experience listing four ETFs on NYSE. Before co-founding Akros, Gim had more than nine years of experience in the asset management industry; Chung did research work for Bayesian deep learning in autonomous driving cars at Oxford Robotics Institute.

In March, Akros raised $3.75 million in funding from PeopleFund, a South Korean peer-to-peer lending platform. The company declined to provide its valuation when asked.

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