Tring started its journey in February 2020 with the key objective of enabling fans to be able to get a personalized interaction experience from their favourite celebrities. In the span of just 1 year, the platform has onboarded over 4500 celebrities doing several thousand shoutouts to fans across India and the world. Tring has been an industry disruptor and has received funding from renowned investors like the founders of ALT Balaji, Flipkart, Udaan, Venture Network India to name a few. The company offers a quirky way to add emotional values in the relation between fans & celebrities by enabling conversations that were previously never as easily accessible. Tring has the largest roster of local, regional and international celebrities across genres, offering digital services for fans to connect with their favourite celebrities via video shoutouts, video calls, text messaging, and Direct Messages on social media amongst others.
Tring has identified a need in the market; a gap between fans and their favourite celebrities in terms of regular people desiring more personalized interactions with their idols, as well as celebrities wanting to connect with their fans, individually. The success story of Tring in India has been incredible so far, and it continues rapidly growing its user base and celebrity portfolio at a fast pace.
The easy-to-use platform enables fans to connect with their celebrity of choice, simply by logging onto the website and choosing from a range of different services like personalised video messages, DMs on social media and live video calls. What the user receives is a personalised message filled with excitement and charged with emotions. Tring helps in taking the users’ fandom for their favourite stars to the next level, by serving them experiences that are extremely personalisable and exclusive.
Akshay Saini, Co-Founder, tring, talks to MediaNews4U about the launch of the platform, the funding they have received and their focus in 2021.
You launched in February 2020, and the whole year was gripped by the pandemic, how has your journey been and what were the challenges?
We launched early last year in February, and since March 2020 the country was in quarantine and lockdown mode. Everyone had to adapt to the new normal – in the way we work and interact socially. Tring was no different and we too faced similar issues and challenges, especially as we had just commenced our operations. A lot of our original plans had to be revisited and rebuilt from scratch to accommodate this unforeseen circumstance. Things like hiring the right people for the right roles, and enabling them to work remotely also became a high priority.
In the initial stages, as celebrity engagement platforms were a new concept in India, finding investors who believed in us and raising capital for Tring was also a challenge as they were sceptical, given the pandemic induced lockdown across the world. Getting celebrities to partner with us was also one of the challenges at this time, as not many were aware of digital celebrity engagement platforms. However, we persevered through this and concentrated on recruiting and enabling a motivated team to work on the platform and strengthen our technology backbone. We also started popularizing and spreading awareness about the concept of celebrity engagement as we also started speaking with more and more celebrities, and they too began to see the benefits of the platform.
Towards the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the year, we had managed to not only raise funds, but our investors were also people who found the platform interesting and saw true long-term potential in our vision for the brand. We ended December 2020 on a strong note with over 2400 celebrities on the platform. And in just 3 months since then, this number doubled to over 5000+ celebrities by the end of March 2021.
There is a plethora of talent management and engagement platforms. What was the strategy behind launching TRING?
Indians love their idols, and our country has over a billion people who are starstruck by celebrities. In South India for example, we hear examples of fandom where temples have been constructed for celebrities. But despite this level of fandom, access to celebrities has traditionally always been limited. Fans had to go through many layers of people and agencies before they could meet or speak to their favourite stars, unless they got very lucky.
We realised that there’s a deep need for fans to connect with their favourite celebrities and vice versa, leaving both wanting to engage more with each other. Advances in technology coupled with the rapid proliferation of affordable internet and devices as well as social media have made celebrities accessible to fans, like never before. We wanted to solve this last mile engagement between stars and fans, and we realized we could connect them with each other, digitally. We formed Tring to further push and take Indian fandom and celebrity engagement to the next level. Our platform gives fans an opportunity to engage with their favourite celebrities, creating beautiful, unique, valuable and everlasting memories that they can cherish all their lives and share with their friends and families.
Growing up in Mumbai, we also noticed that the celebrities/ content-creators have sacrificed much in their lives and worked very hard to get to their positions. Presently, with the growing number of celebrities from different fields, there is a widening gap between their fame and earning potential of many celebrities. Tring helps bridge that gap and give celebrities the chance to better maximize both their popularity and add a stream of revenue proportional to that fame that delivers multi-fold earnings per unit time relative to conventional sources.
Last year Alt Balaji acquired 17.5% stakes, who are your other investors?
Our platform is backed by renowned celebrity photographerAtulKasbekar, along with investments from Kalyan Krishnamurthy of Flipkart, Sujeet Kumar, CEO of Udaan and GauravMunjal, CEO of Unacademy among others. Our investors’ backing and involvement strengthen our business not just financially in this early stage, but also provide intellectual guidance and moral support, while we focus on better monetizing the Tring platform and its services.
With so much competition, what is Tring’s USP to stand above the rest?
At Tring, our focus is mainly on our content and offerings. Our USP is our technology platform that’s making celebrities so accessible across the length and breadth of the country. Further, backed by the celebrity count (over 5000+), we have celebrities from different arenas, including TV/ movies/ OTT, sports, food, lifestyle and social media influencers. We recently set a milestone by onboarding over 5000 celebrities in just under 14 months since we commenced operations.
Our users can not only send wishes on birthdays, anniversaries and festivals from their favourite celebrities but they can also use this platform to motivate employees, roast friends, send congratulatory messages on the wedding day, baby shower etc. The use-cases are only limited by the imagination of our users.
Tring not only gives celebrities the chance to increase their earnings based on their popularity amongst fans, but celebrities are also collaborating and partnering with Tring, to raise awareness & mobilize funds for causes that are close to their hearts. This is also Tring’s way to give back to society and bring about sustainable change. These collaborations are part of our initiative named #IconsForChange which was immensely successful during the covid first phase in 2020. The campaign supported by 14 top celebrities including VidyaBalan, Farhan Akhtar, Sonakshi Sinha, Harbhajan Singh, PoojaHegde, Vir Das, amongst others helped deliver 22,000+ PPE kits to 50+ government hospitals across India, by raising funds from their fans who in return got engagements like personalised video messages and video calls from the celebrities. In 2021, the Icons For Change initiative has seen celebrities like TaapseePannu, Tamannaah Bhatia and now DiaMirza – pursuing their respective missions through the platform.
Influencer marketing is a big business today, globally what is the scenario and in India what is your market share?
The 2020 global pandemic completely changed the dynamics of how brands work with influencers. Despite all the challenges, brands and influencers sought collaborative opportunities and redefined existing industry trends. The lockdown triggered a massive slowdown of investments across the world. As we ourselves experienced, this was not an easy transition to make. Various factors like a rising cost-consciousness amid low/no sales during lockdown forced brands to re-examine where they channelled their spending. This was the silver lining. With the growing popularity of this segment especially amongst the millennial and Genz population, brands now chose to adopt influencer marketing, in more mainstream promotions. Both influencers and brands moved away from mere product advertising as a format and shifted more towards branded content, both for B2B as well as D2C.
With stricter guidelines on Influencer marketing, what are your thoughts?
With a growing demand for Influencer marketing, there’s a greater need for transparency to ensure proper protection of customers’ interests and expectations. We believe that these stricter guidelines on Influencer Marketing are necessary to safeguard customers from misleading information, as most branded content has evolved to be almost indistinguishable from non-sponsored content.
Focus for 2021?
We are clear in our vision and in 2021, we will be focussing on deeper penetration into tier-2/3/4 markets, optimise technical operations and the product, bring onboard more celebrities, and introduce new and unique offerings to increase engagement on the platform. We want to make the technology more robust, ensuring seamless user experiences and at the same time, we will also be seeing various initiatives to drive awareness for Tring. The goal is to delight customers with a flawless user experience. We are expecting to onboard over 20,000 celebrities by end of the year.
What is your vision going forward and where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
With over 5000+ celebrities on Tring, we are currently India’s largest celebrity engagement platform. Our vision is to bring fans closer than ever to their celebrity of choice. So building this leadership, scaling our services to give a seamless user experience to our fans, brand partners and celebrities is what the action will be going forward. Our long term goal is to be a one-stop-shop and the first port-of-call for all digital celebrity engagement service requirements that one can think of.