India’s alignment on technology-related values and the relocation of major supply chains puts it in a favourable position to becoming a global manufacturing hub.
Social media has been an integral part of our lives for more than a decade. It is now the basis for how we interact with friends and family or connect to new people with similar or complementary interests. Reports suggest that more than 4 billion people (out of 4.7bn internet users) around the world use social media every month, with 2 million people signing up to a social media network every day.
Advertisers love these networks as it gives them the ability to target specific and engaged audience. Some of the largest and most prominent tech platforms in the world, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, among others are social networks. These platforms are now powerful enough to influence local public sentiment, global geopolitics and stock markets. They are now central to how news is disseminated to the masses and thus have a heavy influence on the freedom of speech in a region or a country.
Their recent tussles with authorities in the US (banning of Donald Trump’s account), India (with the Government of India asking Twitter to ban certain accounts that it deemed were “being run from Pakistan and that they were tweeting about the ongoing farmers' protests”) and other regions are examples of their increased influence. With this dominance of social media, you would not be blamed to assume that this sector is saturated and no longer has the high growth opportunities that existed in the first decade of the 21st century.
It is also fair to think that these platforms are now too big for their good. Why would any entrepreneur want to enter this complex space which is exposed to scrutiny and is populated by tech giants?
Still room for growth
Turns out some would. From TikTok which launched in 2017 (post-merger with Musical.ly) to Houseparty which became a household name during the initial days of the global lockdown in 2020, social networks are now catering to niche interests, content or demographics.
A typical internet user, who has more than 8 social media accounts on average, is now looking for bespoke, more tailored experiences that are in line with his/her preferences. Furthermore, ‘veteran’ social media users are not only looking to use the platforms to engage with friends, family or professionals but also for monetising their creative skills as part of the so-called Passion Economy.
I covered the Passion Economy in detail in a recent article I wrote for this column titled “The Passion Economy - a positive disruption finding its feet in the world”. Finally, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 in 2020 changed the way we socialise - both offline and online.
On the back of these trends, niche platforms like Discord have gained exponential traction recently. What started as a platform focused on gamers is now mainstream. Recent press reports suggest that an acquirer, which could potentially be Microsoft, is considering acquiring the platform at a valuation of $10bn. Following the trend for niche audiences, it is reported that ex-President of the United States, Donald Trump is looking to launch his own social media platform as well.
Patreon, a platform that enables creators to monetise their skills by offering targeted subscriptions to their fanbase, raised $90m at a valuation of $1.2bn in 2020.
New social media networks are also catering to regional audiences. Examples include the Koo app, India’s answer to Twitter, which received a lot of attention during the recent row between the Indian Government and Twitter. Also in India, location-based Public App recently raised $41m after raising $35m just 6 months ago. Public App connects individuals to people in their locality.
Finally, some new social media platforms like Clubhouse are focusing on new formats like audio to connect and engage their audience. Earlier this year, the social media company raised $100m from famed investors like Andreessen Horowitz at a $1bn valuation. Its meteoric rise can be highlighted by the fact that just in May 2020, the start-up had raised $10m in Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz.
With this in mind, as people look for online experiences that are more in line with their interests and preferences, such new currents in the vast world of social media will continue to emerge.