Carol Goyal
Sep 17, 2018

"Localisation is the key for Snapchat in India": Imran Khan

In an exclusive interview with Carol Goyal for Campaign India, Imran Khan, chief strategy officer, Snap Inc., who was in India recently, shares some interesting perspectives and plans for Snapchat both globally, and in India.

Imran Khan serves as Chief Strategy Officer of Snap Inc., the creator of Snapchat. He joined the company in January 2015 after a career on Wall Street as Head of Internet Investment Banking at Credit Suisse and Head of Global Internet and U.S. Entertainment Equity Research at JP Morgan. At Snap, Imran leads the team building the infrastructure of Snap's business. He oversees company-wide business operations, such as the monetization team, user experience team, and advertising product team.

Snap Founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel had once said, “I think art has always played with this concept of reality, and so I think it’s very exciting now that technology is playing a much bigger role in art.” Which is why Snap’s reality-warping lenses help you to create, smooth over, enlarge, sharpen, superimpose, add-subtract, in short transform any picture you have just shot, and wish to share with friends and family. And this is what perhaps makes Snapchat different from other social media platforms and applications. Carol Goyal met Imran Khan thrice during his two-day trip to Mumbai and followed it up with an e-mail questionnaire to chat about Snap and its plans.

What are your first impressions of India?
I have always loved to visit India. I grew up in Bangladesh, where my parents and much of my family still live. India is one of the most exciting, dynamic parts of the world, and a fantastic place to study and understand the future of consumer tech. I always visit when I have the opportunity.
What is cool and new at Snap?
One of the most popular aspects of Snapchat is augmented reality. From turning your face into a puppy for a selfie, to adding a fun object - like a dancing hot dog -- to your videos, AR Lenses on Snapchat let you apply real-time effects and sounds to your videos. 
Snapchat has become one of the world’s most-used cameras and largest platforms for augmented reality and over 3 billion Snaps are created a day. Every day, over one-third our daily audience play with augmented reality lenses, averaging over 3 minutes each per day. 
In terms of new at Snapchat, a few months ago we launched Snappables, a new feature to play augmented reality selfie games with your friends. You can control the new games by using touch, motion, and even facial expressions -- imagine starting a rock band with your friends, or playing against them in a sport, all from your mobile phone. 
How do Bitmojis enhance the Snap experience?
Bitmojis are your own personal emoji, and one of my favorite ways to express myself in Snapchat. Your Bitmoji is your cartoon avatar, and millions of people create and use their own Bitmoji as a personal extension of themselves in the digital world. 
When creating your own Bitmoji, you choose from a library of physical attributes and clothing styles -- eyes, eyebrows, noses, hair, outfits -- that can be combined in thousands of unique ways to create a Bitmoji to represent you. Then you can send sticker messages to friends where your Bitmoji is the star. Bitmojis are really designed to make mobile communication more human and more fun.
Are features like face filter and face swap enough to differentiate Snap and endear younger audiences, the GenZ?
Young people love Snap because it’s built to quickly send fun, creative photos and videos to friends. Our home screen is a camera that invites you to Snap your friends, and to be creative with fun selfie Lenses, stickers, emojis, Bitmojis, and more. 
We’ve worked hard to create exciting technology for our community, and we’ve pioneered trends ranging from vertical video, to augmented reality, to our famous Stories, which are essentially daily video journals you post for your friends to watch. Our technology is helping to transform how people communicate today, and we’ll continue to launch new ideas and innovate.
Are the Discover and Stories sections overcrowded?
Our goal is to increase the volume and diversity of content available to the Snapchat community. We want to make sure we can deliver the right piece of content to the right person, which means always adding more options to Discover. Snapchat users are deeply engaged, and spend over thirty minutes a day on the app. So it makes strategic sense to keep adding high-quality, curated content our community can watch from top publishers. 
Is Snap too Americanised?
Many people may not realise how popular Snapchat has grown around the world. In fact, nearly 60 percent of our Daily Active Users are from outside of North America. People from a diversity of backgrounds and regions are finding the use and fun in Snapchat.
188 million people use Snapchat every day around the world. Over sixty percent of daily users actually create content with Snapchat each day, rather than simply watching. And daily users spend over 30 minutes on the app daily, on average. The reach of Snapchat’s global audience is larger than some realize. For example, we have over 100 million Monthly Active Users in the United States and Canada. India is among our fastest growing regions, and a very important region for Snapchat.
Has Snapchat got left behind for good in India? If not, how can it regain lost ground?
It’s important to remember that Snapchat launched and grew large quickly in the United States despite the fact that other popular platforms already had large market share.
Snapchat is just seven years old as a company, so it’s still early for us, particularly in comparison to other companies in the space. We’re just getting started, and we're excited about India as a key market going forward. Localisation is going to be key, and we have a lot planned on this front to help us better serve Indian Snapchatters. We have great momentum in the country, and as more and more people in India try the app, we believe they’ll see the value and become more regular users.
All major celebrities in India are on Instagram. Why not Snap?
Snapchat is the fastest way to share a moment with friends, and the world’s largest platform for Augmented Reality, like selfie Lenses. We strongly believe that more and more Indians, including celebrities, will find the use and fun in that.
What are you doing to compete with IGTV?
It’s important to recognise that time spent on mobile is growing rapidly, and that’s driving the growth in time spent on the Internet overall. There is a lot of potential for meaningful growth in the space, and we do not believe that this is a zero sum game. We’re focused on connecting people with their best friends and providing the most relevant content to every Snapchatter. 
We launched Discover a few years ago as a place for Snapchatters to explore vertical content from professional publisher’s editorial perspectives. Discover is built on values of authoritative and credible sources of information. More recently we launched Snap Map, which provides Snapchatters another way to discover and consume the unique content being created on our platform every day. It’s a great way to find out what’s going on in the world around you, from breaking news to cultural moments.
What are revenue expectations from your tie-up with Tyroo?
Tyroo will help drive ad monetisation for us in India. India is one of our important bets for growing international advertising revenue, so we were looking for a partner who could take an active role in educating the market on Snapchat and our ad products. Since earlier this year, we’ve been working closely with Tyroo to help both brand and performance advertisers in the region understand the value of our highly engaged audience.
Our Snapchat ad formats all have one thing in common: they’re based on our fun consumer Snapchat products, which is strategy that’s delivering strong ROI for marketers. We believe that as Indian advertisers learn more about our platform and the performance we can bring, they will be eager to add Snapchat to their media plans. 
(Carol Goyal is a lawyer by training. She writes regularly for Campaign India.)


Campaign India

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