The Rising Global Desi – the Glam and the ‘Gram

The exponential rise of influencers and social media has provided influencers of Indian origin with the opportunity to portray their culture globally!How can Indian cultural brands leverage the growing influencer marketing industry? What are the tools and strategies to increase brand awareness and engagement? What makes Instagram the go-to platform for brands and influencers?

As iPhones replace camera gear and ring lights stand in place of studios, the mantra of visual online marketing has now shifted its lens to the role of influential individuals. With the influencer advertising industry projected to hit 13.8 billion USD by 2022, the industry now stands as one of the most widespread effective marketplaces. 

The growing popularity of the ‘Global Indian’ in the early 2000s marked the movement of the aspirations of India’s middle class towards their Western counterparts. With this development, Indians started looking primarily towards Western companies to emulate and keep up with the lifestyle projected by celebrities and influencers alike. However, over the last few years, the Indian group has nursed a growing interest to see their own culture represented on a worldwide scale. This has led to the development of many home-grown brands, contributing to the steady growth of India’s cultural economy. 

Who is a #desiinfluencer?

This exponential rise of influencers and social media has provided influencers of Indian origin with the opportunity to portray their culture globally. Drawing attention to their ethnic background in their online persona, these influencers lend credibility to their brand endorsements by revealing the person behind the camera. The project of the #desiinfluencer was started in an effort to recognize and support more indigenous Indian brands and has helped the community grow and support each other. Instagram being primarily a pictorial and appearance-oriented platform, the beauty, and wellness industry can utilize the growing number of influencers to its advantage.

How will working with these influencers increase brand visibility?

What makes these influencers unique is their focus on user-generated content that helps them stay relevant and engage with their communities. Bringing a factor of authenticity and relatability to the table, they often create a trusted dialogue with their viewers, establishing a closeness akin to breaking the fourth wall. This vulnerability helps them garner a loyal following. A study found that 70% of teens trust products marketed by influencers more than traditional celebrities, and 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations for their purchases. Thus, working with these Indian cultural influencers will be a huge asset for increasing the visibility and reach of NICE entrepreneurs.

It is imperative that Indian cultural enterprises jump on the influencer marketing train as soon as possible due to its high return on investment. The distribution of “PR” (Public Relations) packages to influencers is a highly cost-effective method for brands that aim to get a vast reach. These PR packages included branded or themed elements from the company with personalized notes to the receiver. They often come aesthetically packaged, making the unboxing of the product an eventful reveal. Influencers often advertise these packages in a 24-hour Instagram story clicked and edited in under 5 minutes. These stories or posts often involve links, tags, or promo codes to the brand page or website, making it easily accessible for the lazy scroller. A quarter of GenZ and Millennials reported that they use stories to find products and purchase, and it has been found that 15-25% swipe on these links, giving this method an extensively high hit rate. 

Entrepreneur & Instagram influencer and, Shivani Bafna in partnership with accessories brand, JoyandPooh

How can an upcoming brand capitalize on the new Instagram features rolling out?

Instagram Guides

This new feature rolled out in mid-2020 is an excellent understated tool for the marketing of wellness products. Creating gift guides and hamper lists is a great way to compile product listings into a shopping catalog. These can be themed by season, occasion, or gifting purposes, increasing ease of access for the viewer. Furthermore, guides can also be used to group a range of products under a certain theme or collection. For example, the Ayurvedic skincare brand Ranavat has a holiday gift guide compilation, with the product listings linking to their Instagram store. These guides can also be designed to serve as a pictorial blog, consisting of curated tips and hacks on using the product advertised to the audience. 

Instagram Stories 

With a host of options available, ranging from affiliate links stickers to polls, the utilization of stories helps followers connect with the person behind the brand. With the help of the question and answer stickers, companies can answer frequently asked questions and reach out to their followers to address any of their concerns behind the product. These stories can then be saved as highlights on the Instagram page. A good example of this is the Indian snack brand, Snackible. Making extensive use of the highlights section, they consist of details behind the products sold, periodic offers, audience interaction as well as FAQs in response to the questions of the followers. 

Instagram Reels

Now seen as a sure-shot way to blow up, these short-form videos ranging from 15 to 60 seconds help a brand get noticed outside their usual target audience. With the utilization of trending music and the right hashtags, the brand gets the chance to be put in the spotlight on the trending explore page of millions of users worldwide. The Indian saree brand, Suta, is a good example of a fast-evolving brand that not only creates its own reel content but also invests in Instagram influencers to create videos using their products. This dual technique compounds to ensure that a wider audience is reached. 

Instagram AR Filters

The design of facial and pictorial augmented reality (AR) filters for public use help the brand gain visibility outside its following. AR filters are computer generated and work through your camera and add a layer of effects in the form of design or imagery to the foreground or background of the images. Since filters are used by most influencers in their Instagram stories, and their creators are often tagged, the Instagram page gets recognition from viewers of that story subconsciously. The company, livetinted by Deepica Mutyala, has a filter ‘Rays’ that has been used by multiple influencers, aiding the brand’s growing publicity. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring how enterprises that fall under the five different NICE sectors have made use of the growing popularity of influencer marketing. These focus sectors include Health, Beauty and Wellness, Food and Beverages, Fashion and Accessories, Home Decor and Furnishings, and Experiential Tourism. With the help of informative interviews and a sneak peek into their marketing strategies, these companies will bring to light their plans to tap into the potential of social media marketing. The Desi Influencer is quickly evolving into a critical gear in the marketing machinery of some of the biggest brands in the country and the world. Their ability to connect with the global market, and the diversity and relatability they bring to the table, make them crucial to brands planning to localize their marketing strategies.


About the Author

Maithree Venkatesan is a final year student pursuing her undergraduate studies in Biological Sciences at BITS Pilani. Hyderabad Campus. Passionate about the intersection of neuroscience, literature, and public health, she has completed her Master’s thesis at UC San Diego on Autism early intervention. An avid reader and writer from a young age, Maithree is passionate about the representation of Indian culture on a global scale. 

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