Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Influencer management agencies are giving creators their 'Call My Agent' moment

The boom of influencer marketing in India has created an industry of full service agencies that manage influencers and content creators across genres. A deeper dive into the rise of influencer management agencies

Published: Mar 24, 2022 12:06:30 PM IST
Updated: Mar 24, 2022 05:28:50 PM IST

Influencer management agencies are giving creators their 'Call My Agent' momentInfluencer management agencies are running an industry that is easily worth anywhere between Rs 500 crore and Rs 800 crore, say experts. Image: Shutterstock

Influencer marketing in India is touching new heights. Factoring in just talent and production costs, the industry is currently valued at Rs 900 crore and projected to grow at a CAGR of 25 percent till 2025 according to a recent GroupM report.

For marketing leaders’ ROI-focused influencer campaigns are a top of the funnel move at the moment. What is difficult for them is to figure out the perfect fit for their brand—an influencer with just the right tone and following.

Enter influencer management agencies.

Scaling success by bringing brands and influencers together

Connecting brands with the right influencers and vice versa; influencer management agencies have established not just a white glove network but a place for themselves in the digital advertising space. Albeit unorganised, these agencies are running an industry that is easily worth anywhere between Rs 500 crore and Rs 800 crore, say experts.

Delhi-based OpraahFx, for instance, founded by 26-year-old influencer-turned-entrepreneur, Pranav Panpalia, has seen a growth of 345 percent since they started operations in 2017.

How did OpraahFx get that kind of growth?

Thanks to brands like Activision, Pokemon, HP, Tinder, Oyo, Oneplus, Netflix and a network of about 10,000 plus influencers and content creators. OpraahFx has executed about 500 campaigns with 100-plus brands across different industries in the last five years.

After Panpalia conceptualised and delivered a creative influencer marketing campaign for a Bollywood film called Fukrey Returns, he started OpraahFx which would be committed to leveraging and mentoring aspiring content creators and developing brand and business value for them.

Explaining their operations, Panpalia says, “Five years back we started with influencers across genres but now the agency’s focus is on gamers and gaming content creators. We help them with branding, public relations, content ideation and creation, getting them brand deals and endorsements and maintaining relationships with platforms.”

The agency, like most others in the industry, works on a commission basis. The agency gets a cut of 15 percent to 20 percent from any and every deal that comes to the influencers.

For OpraahFx though, there is another revenue channel. When the agency designs content for a brand they charge them with a fee of up to 20 percent of the entire campaign budget.

The agency model

Like OpraahFx, most of these agencies are full-service agencies that work with brands and influencers. Their services cover everything from getting influencer brand deals, negotiating their remuneration, content creation and its paid amplification thus saving brands not just time but also giving them the access they need.

The need for access holds equally true for the influencers.

Sharan Hegde, one of the first financial influencers to launch his own NFT, says working with an agency frees up a lot of his time.

Hegde who is managed by Finnet Media says, “Discussion with brands at a unilateral level can get overwhelming at times. Having an agency on board helps in better bargaining power. Moreover, Finnet does the screening of content for me, they also do the due diligence of brands that approach me and does all the coordination with them to monitor performance and recalibrate what is to be done next.”

Pandemic boost

As it turns out, a lot of these agencies got a huge boost during the pandemic. While the agencies that had been around before the pandemic gained new clients, there were at least a hundred new agencies that opened shops between 2020 and now.

Ayush Shukla, founder and CEO at Finnet Media, an agency that manages financial influencers or finfluencers, explains how the past two years helped these agencies grow.

Shukla says while influencers and content creators had more time in hand to create meaningful content, the digital consumption of content had also gone up leading to high demand for creators. This was followed by another very important factor of short-form videos taking over the market.

TikTok was already becoming a favourite for marketers to reach out to their audience outside of metros through influencers but with the sudden ban of the app along with 58 other Chinese apps the industry saw a momentary pause. However Instagram's Reels was introduced in India within weeks of the ban, taking influencer marketing to another level where targeting was not just restricted to Tier II and Tier III cities. From luxe to daily essential brands, Meta-owned Instagram tried to get in every category through Reels.

“Reels took influencer marketing to a whole new level and this was followed by the influx of funds soon after the first two phases of lockdown were over. Brands needed more influencers and influencers needed monetisation and that’s where we came in,” he says.

Like Finnet services financial influencers, there are agencies to handle different sectors such as beauty, lifestyle, fashion, food, travel, gaming, and entertainment.

Investing in raw talent

Contrary to popular belief, the agencies do not just onboard influencers who are already celebrities but also invest in budding talents.

Shubham Singhal, co-founder at TGB, an agency that handles popular faces like Karan Kundrra, Rashami Desai, Abhijeet Kain, and child influencer Kiara Nautiyal says they often onboard talent where the individual or group has less than 10,000 social media followings.

“We invest in the talent we believe in because we know within six months they will be making money. As the influencer brands grow, our agency also grows,” Singhal says.

From a team of just five employees in 2019, that included two founder members and three employees, TGB now has 120 people working for them. The agency has a full-fledged video production team, a business development team, a management team, and a design and editing team.

However, it’s not just the size of the team that saw growth since they started operations.

TGB saw their revenue growing from Rs 25 lakh a month to Rs 4 crore a month. Singhal says in the next six months they would be touching the Rs 5 crore mark as monthly revenue.

Mainstream agencies acquiring influencer marketing agencies

The popularity of influencer marketing and the parallel growth trajectory of the influencer management agencies has led to large acquisitions not just globally but also in India.

This February, WPP announced the acquisition of influencer marketing agency, Village Marketing in North America.

In an official statement, Mark Read, CEO of WPP, spoke about how the acquisition of Village Marketing will drive results for modern marketers that work with the company.

Likewise, in India, companies are setting up their own influencer management agencies. The Good Glamm Group for instance is setting up an influencer marketing and data analytics brand called the Good Creator Co. The beauty unicorn has acquired Winkl and Vidooly to put together a creator ecosystem.

But whether brands are looking to outsource or in-house their creator or influencer-led content marketing, the boom in this space has led to the rise of these influencer management agencies, creating an industry of full service agencies and giving content creators their Call My Agent-moment.