“We are trying to give consumers an opportunity to get an assured interaction with their favorite celebrities”: Akshay Saini, CEO & Co-founder, tring
Headquartered in Mumbai, tring is a celebrity engagement platform co-founded by Akshay Saini, Rahul Saini, and Pranav Chabhadia in 2020. The platform was created with a motto to bridge the gap between celebrity idols and fans who want more, in terms of personalized interactions and deeper engagement.
Speaking to Media Infoline in an exclusive interview, Mr. Akshay Saini, CEO & Co-founder of tring, spoke about their operations, how they function, their future plans. Let’s dig in and trad the full interview here…
Q) Please introduce Tring and its features.
We Indians love our stars and celebrities. But it is very difficult for a fan to actually get access to their favourite celebrity. Of course, through social media, you can follow celebrities’ lives. But it is usually a one-way interaction. You only get to see what celebrities are willing to show you. And even then, not every update makes it to all their followers, thanks to the algorithms on social networking platforms.
We launched tring in February 2020. With this platform, we are trying to give consumers an opportunity to get an assured interaction with their favorite celebrities.
We have over 5000 celebrities listed on our platform currently. It is very easy to connect with them. You visit the website (www.tring.co.in) and simply type the name of your favourite celebrity, or the field they are in – like sports, Bollywood etc., to narrow down and accurately find your favourite idols. Once you have found the celebrity you like and click on their profile, you get an introduction to our service offerings catalogue.
- Video Shout Out– Here users can opt for a personalized, recorded video message from a celebrity. They have to share the message to the recipient, like Happy Birthday for self/ friend/ family member with other details like their name. Then the selected celebrity, within a stipulated time (already mentioned on the site) will shoot a personalized video message intended for the recipient.
- Video call– Here you get a chance to chat with your favourite celebrity over a live video call, just like you would with your BFFs! It’s a two-way conversation and not just a recording so whether it is for yourself or for friends or for family members it’s one amazing gift to receive.
- Text message- You can also order direct text messages in your Instagram mailbox from the celebrities’ verified accounts.
While most of these service offerings are used by regular fans and those looking for exclusive, and memorable gifting options for their loved ones, we have also noticed quite a few brands and businesses who have also been keen on engaging with celebrities. They use our services for events like product launches, brand marketing and promotions, milestone announcements, and many more. The procedures remain similar as well. While most of these service offerings are used by regular fans and those looking for exclusive, and memorable gifting options for their loved ones, we have also noticed quite a few brands and businesses who have also been keen on engaging with celebrities. They use our services for events like product launches, brand marketing and promotions, milestone announcements, and many more. The procedures remain similar as well. Responses are delivered by the celebrities, usually within 48 hours, and there are no barriers in between like agents, managers and other middlemen.
Q) How did the idea of Tring happen?
A little over a year ago, the 3 of us cofounders – Pranav Chabhadia, my brother Rahul Saini and I had gotten together to discuss the ideas we had for a start-up, in the tech/digital space, that would create a huge impact. Having grown up in Mumbai, we knew the allure for celebrities as well as the difficulty in actually meeting them or speaking with them. We used to wonder at the sheer number of comments celebrities must be getting from their fans on social media, sharing that it’s their birthday or anniversary, and a hi from their idol will ensure that they feel super special for the rest of the day. We also realized that there was no way, apart from sheer luck, that a celebrity would be able to see this among the millions of messages and respond in time, to make their fans day a little more special.
We thought we could come up with a solution to address these issues. Celebrities want to connect more directly and personally with their fans, but social media platforms, by their very nature of being social, make this a difficult proposition. We wanted to create a platform that could make this happen, and that’s how tring came about.
Q) How does a fan get in touch with his/her idol?
Users just need to visit the website and search for their favourite celebrity using the search bar. Once they have found their idol, they can choose the service option that they want to engage with that particular celebrity – whether it is booking a video call, a video shout-out, and even a text-based message. Type in the message that you want your celebrity to read out to the recipient and confirm the same by making a payment towards the service. The price shown on the website is all-inclusive, and there are no hidden charges or taxes levied over what is shown. Once the payment is made, the service is confirmed for the particular date and time set by the user. The prices may vary depending on the services and celebrities chosen.
Q) You existed in the time of the pandemic. How has it affected the company?
Being an entrepreneur is tough and doing it during a pandemic situation did not make life any easier. However, we were fortunate to be involved in a digital venture, and having the support of our mentors as well as our early employees, who championed through the pandemic inspite of all challenges, to help us get to where we are today
We were also one of the first celebrity engagement platforms in India, and spreading the awareness of what celebrity engagement platforms are and how they operate was tough, since we couldn’t meet people and explain, both investors as well as consumers from our social circles. But the silver lining was that virtual gifting took off during the pandemic as people couldn’t step out of home or meet like they regularly would, thanks to social distancing. And providing a memorable experience, to lighten up the day of your loved one during these uncertain times, is something most people want. So people chose tring and wanted to make genuine memory for a lifetime for self or the loved ones.
Q) How has your revenue affected by the pandemic?
It has just been one year since we started operations and having started in the pandemic, we have no baseline for comparing how normal years would have affected our revenues. But it hasn’t been all gloomy, given that we are a tech platform with a digital presence online. With more and more people staying at home and practising social distancing and isolating for health reasons, the way people gave and received gifts has changed. Now eGifting or virtual gifting has become an option. So while we can’t compare how the pandemic affected our revenues, we did see a big jump towards the end of the year, Q4 revenue in 2020 was almost 500% more than the Q3 revenue.
Q) Celebrities and big names should speak on current issues. Do you think it is necessary to address the scenario as influencers to millions of people?
Celebrities directly or indirectly affect millions of people. There are several people who look upon them, trying to emulate them, observe and learn from them. These celebrities if come out and speak about a subject, can actually influence a lot of people. An Amitabh Bachchan asking you to wear your mask every time you step out of home, is going to be a lot more influential than me telling people to wear a mask.
But after having worked with these celebrities and partnered with them I can tell you that these people care very much about their surroundings. During the 2020 lockdown, Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Vir Das, Harbhajan Singh, Sonakshi Singh and many more celebrities, came together through tring’s Icons of Change platform to raise funds for essentials for many frontline workers. At the end of this campaign, tring donated 22,000 plus PPE kits to 50 plus hospitals across India due to the efforts of 14 celebrities. We are very glad that these celebrities are coming forward and showing that we are in this together.
Q) Can you provide demographic details?
When we started, we thought we would do quite well in Tier 1 & 2 cities within the country. But to our surprise, there were initially lots of NRIs reaching out to us from countries where Indian ex-pats are predominant. Later we saw orders increasing from Tier 1 cities and now gradually we are seeing a lot of orders coming in from Tier 2 and 3 cities.
Mumbai and Delhi are the cities that have the most users, followed by Surat, Rajkot, Baroda, Patna, Ludhiana, Indore and Bhopal. We also have a sizable audience from all the southern states.
Age Group: Most of our users are between 16 to 45 years of age. These are people who understand online orders and are comfortable with digital gifting and payments. However, as we expand our celebrity roster, we keep expanding the demographics we attract onto the platform. For example, we recently added stars of the 70’s like Prem Chopra and Kabir Bedi on the platform. This saw a lot of gifting orders for parents and grandparents, followed by them getting onto tring to share with their friends.
Q) What is your current user base?
We have 1 lakh users on our platform. 20% of the people have already booked our services earlier. It is a very optimistic rate for a business that just hit the market with a unique idea.
Q) Are you planning to expand on mobile app?
We are privileged, as we live in metros with the latest smartphones and gadgets, with large memories and storage capacities. But we see our growth push coming from the emerging towns of Bharat, where low-end mobile devices with limited storage and low bandwidth speeds would hamper and affect an app-based experience. Using a website platform allows access from any device while keeping the user experience seamless and smooth.
We do have an app for the celebrity partners on the platform since we don’t see these issues apply to them.
As we expand and scale our operations, we will ofcourse develop an app for the users, to complement the website and add more functionality.
Q) What are your plans for 2021?
This year we are focusing on three main areas:
- User Awareness
- Improving our technology backbone and enhancing the user experience. We recently also launched the Hindi language option of the website, and in the coming weeks, we are looking at adding 11 more languages.
- Adding more celebrities – we are looking at getting at least 20,000 celebrities on board by the end of this year. We hope to power our growth through increasing adoption rates among audiences from tier 2,3 & 4 towns.