It was his daily three-hour commute between Gurgaon and Noida that convinced Rohan Nayak that many Indians like him craved high-quality audio content. Less than four years after the launch of the Pocket FM app, the audio streamer claims to have more than 15 million monthly active users.
Nayak, like others on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia: Media, Marketing & Advertising list, is looking to transform the way content is consumed by Gen Z audience.
With cofounders Nishanth KS and Prateek Dixit (both over 30), he has created and distributed more than 100,000 hours of longform content related to entertainment, education and other genres in eight languages: English, Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. The typical user spends 100 minutes every day listening to Pocket FM audio content, according to Nayak.
The Bangalore-based company has so far raised $94 million from investors such as Goodwater Capital, Tanglin Venture Partners and Lightspeed India Partners. After focusing on developing content for the past few years, Nayak says the next goal is to build on the 10% of listeners who are paid subscribers and monetize more assets.
Rise of the Influencers
Besides audio, other forms of content are also on the rise, mainly driven by social media influencers who cover everything from entertainment and lifestyle to tech, education and career advice.
In Australia, beauty journalist Jordyn Christensen saw a gap in the market for a Gen Z-focused news site and helped launch Centennial Beauty in 2019. In addition to beauty and pop culture, the platform features “viral news” ‘social media shared stories about Instagram and TikTok and YouTube influencers. There is also a weekly podcast from Christensen and cofounder Lauren Meisner (over 30) on viral stardom, the creator economy and social media. Besides media-campaign partnerships with firms like MAC Cosmetics, Pinterest and others, the duo run a subscription service that offers businesses insight into the next generation.
In India, social media influencer Masoom Minawala leveraged her popularity to create e-commerce platform, Style Fiesta, and has taken her career global, representing Indian designers along the way. She was the first fashion blogger from India at Paris Fashion Week. Most recently, Minawala was also the first Indian creator to walk at Milan Fashion Week, modeling for Vaishali S–the first Indian female designer to showcase a collection there. She has 1.2 million followers on Instagram and a team of 15 full-time employees working to manage the Masoom Minawala brand online. She also hosts a social media-exclusive reality series, Masoom Takes Fashion Week, sharing the ins and outs of Milan and Paris Fashion Week with her more than 50,000 YouTube subscribers.
Taking on a more comedic tone, Los Angeles-based Indian comedian and content creator Niharika Nm has two million Instagram followers and over 700,000 YouTube subscribers. Her recent video ‘Living Alone 101’ went viral on Instagram and hit 14 million views in just under 15 days. Another video, ‘One Way Street It Is’ hit 10 million views within a week last year. She has partnered with Netflix and Amazon Prime India and has worked with brands like BYJUs and OPPO. The 24-year-old won several awards and recognitions including Best Entertainment Influencer at Impact Digital Influencers Awards 2021 and Blogger/Creator of the year 2021 at Women Disruptors Awards 2021 by Adgully. She was selected by YouTube as one of the global ambassadors for the Creators for Change program.
Focusing on career-related content such as tips for resume writing and job interviews, Indonesia’s Vina Muliana has amassed nearly 4.5 million followers on TikTok since she posted her first video a year ago. She initially started posting to help those struggling to find jobs during the pandemic. Her videos were recognized as Best of Learning and Education at the TikTok Awards Indonesia 2022. Before starting her TikTok channel, Muliana worked a reporter and communication specialist for seven years.
Catering to a younger audience, Tokyo-based Japanese American YouTube and TikTok content creator, Cyber Bunny produces upbeat segments for adults and kids to teach them about Japanese language, grammar and culture. From her lesson songs on YouTube (over 80,000 followers, with over two million total views, and her ‘Hiragana Song’ logged a million-plus views) to comedy skits about culture, unwritten rules and etiquette on TikTok (nearly 440,000 followers) and Instagram, she entertains while delivering informative points about bridging cultures between Japan and the West.
Informing the Public
Elsewhere on the list, journalists and entrepreneurs are bringing awareness to marginalized issues through their independent platforms.
28-year-old Zahra Joya is an Afghan journalist who founded news agency Rukhshana Media to publicize otherwise untold stories of women and girls in Afghanistan and to support female journalists in the country. In August last year, as the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban retook control of the country, she partnered with The Guardian to publish the Women Report Afghanistan project to relay to the world the realities of what was happening in the country. She named her agency after a 19-year-old woman who was stoned to death by the Taliban in 2015. As a 5-year-old and prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Joya had to dress as a boy and walk two hours to go to school. She is currently running Rukhshana Media from exile in London and was recently selected as one of 12 women in Time‘s Women of the Year 2022.
One of India’s first openly transgender doctors, Tinetra Haldar Gummaraju also made the 30 Under 30 Asia list. She uses her social media platforms with audience of almost 250,000 to address social, medical and legal issues on Instagram and YouTube. Gummaraju strives to focus on creating a mainstream representation of LGBTQIA+ people and awareness around trans rights, challenges and life in general. Her work has helped bring light to the lack of queer-inclusive information in medical education and transphobia in medical colleges in India. She has also pushed to have conversion therapy made illegal and removed queerphobic content from medical textbooks.
Additional reporting by Ramakrishnan Narayanan.
To learn more about these entrepreneurs and influencers, read our complete Media, Marketing & Advertising list here – and be sure to check out our full Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia coverage here.