“We are in an era of content, community and commerce”
Anirudh Singla, Founder & CEO, Pepper, shares insights on the ‘content divide’ that businesses face today (especially in the post-COVID context), and how a content marketplace like Pepper can better fulfil their objectives of market differentiation in the digital domain.
IBT: What was the inspiration or market insight in your mind when you started Pepper as a content platform?
Anirudh Singla: When we were conceptualising Pepper, I sensed an evident need in the market, and felt that content is going to become huge; with every business scaling it up for themselves. So it is going to be a key part of what they do as a part of marketing. So I thought it will be best for us to create a platform that enables transactions between both the supply and demand sides. We found that there were tailwinds for us on both sides.
IBT: How has the journey progressed for you so far, and what has been the key inflexion point for your business?
Anirudh Singla: At this point of time, as business models evolve, the vision also expands. Initially, we were looking at just text-based content and a network of writers. But later we realised that graphics and video are emerging as a bigger market, where more and more people are interested. So we spent a lot of time and energy on how we can scale that up as a segment. The vision evolved into something bigger.
Eventually, we should be taking this to become a global company. India has huge opportunity in the content space. For a market like the US, 80-85% of the supply comes from Southeast Asia. So evidently, a large market has been set up already, which just needs a big push. And that’s where Pepper can come in.
IBT: Along with the digital divide, can we also say that there is a content divide today? What factors have made content indispensable for business? On the other hand, the internet is said to have proved to be the death knell for traditional journalism. But how does the medium fare as a better platform for content creators today?
Anirudh Singla: Today, we live in an era of content, community and commerce. Most organisations are now going digital. So what is that one differentiating factor, given that you are in the trade industry? The product can be a differentiator up to a certain level. But eventually, which companies are able to aggressively market themselves better and gain a bigger share? There content plays a key part.
Opportunities for content creators are even better now, because there is better discoverability for them. With platforms like Pepper, we have empowered over 35,000 content creators across segments. For us, the standard is very high in terms of the quality that we work with.
IBT: What are the key USPs for Pepper, and how does it fare in comparison to other content marketplaces on the net today?
Anirudh Singla: In a nutshell, Pepper is what you can call a managed marketplace. You look at an open marketplace like an Upwork or a Fiverr. The issue with these is that they are open marketplaces. You have to spend a lot of time to find the best freelancer. Then accordingly, you talk to them and give them a brief. Companies often find it tough to manage freelancers and do regular follow ups with them. With one bad quality output, the relationship can get discontinued and then you have to restart with someone else.
This is where Pepper comes in. We say that we give you a managed service end-to-end. There is no interaction between the freelancer and the business. Through our intelligent platform, we manage the best fit project of the business with the best fit content creator. Our mandate is to break down the expectations into as many parameters and allow both parties to communicate in a structured way. So if you are giving an order on Pepper, you are giving a very structured, detailed brief. So parameters are well defined.
We build this strong workflow operations platform that helps us scale up content volume. For example, we are a platform that can do 3,000 articles in one month. This would otherwise have taken 2,000 freelancers and around 10-12 agencies to do. So that level of scale and operations excellence is something that defines Pepper a lot.
IBT: What kind of content categories are most in demand on your platform?
Anirudh Singla: From a platform perspective, blogs, SEO and social media content have a lot of potential. It is among the highest chunk. Language is coming up massively. A lot of folks want Indian language and foreign language content. We have just started graphic design, which is a very big opportunity right in front of us.
There are also interesting demand categories like thought leadership. People want to create personal brands on the internet, and they are open to paying around that. At the senior level, they do not have the time to curate such content. That’s where we have been helping them.
IBT: Post-COVID, how has business changed for you, and what are your future plans?
Anirudh Singla: COVID has been a great scaling factor for us. More and more brands have understood that content can be done remotely. Relevance of content has increased, and is expected to keep increasing. More and more freelancers have also come up. The way forward is interesting, as we will be launching a full stack product that was in private beta next month.
Anirudh Singla (21) is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pepper Content, one of the leading content marketplace platforms that connect businesses with content creators. With the extensive talent network, the platform consists of a two-sided managed marketplace for creative professionals like content writers, graphic designers, language specialists, editors; where creators get matched to the best fit content projects from businesses. Anirudh and Rishabh Shekhar, who were batchmates at BITS Pilani, founded Pepper Content with a vision to build a global content company out of India that would disrupt the entire content creation industry at scale and create a stronger, qualitative, and more organized ecosystem for content creators.
Pepper was part of YourStory’s Tech30 list and got shortlisted for an interview at Y Combinator when the founders were in their third year of college. Anirudh has been a featured columnist for The Hindu and Qrius and has also been the Head of BITS Pilani’s Annual Technical Festival, APOGEE. Pepper also secured the second position in Lufthansa’s Startup Expo last year.