Content writing has witnessed a huge growth in the Indian market over the last few years. According to research conducted by SEMrush that focused on the most searched digital marketing jobs in different countries, India had a share of 73.87 per cent for content writer jobs. Furthermore it also revealed that content writing contributed 47.57 per cent amongst all leading digital marketing jobs and that it gained greater prominence than other jobs.
However, with the rise of new platforms like Instagram, Youtube and Netflix, companies today are moving past the traditional method of content marketing and looking for smarter ways to effectively engage with their audience. Fortunately one start-up has emerged that is changing the conventions of how content is written. This start-up is none other than Instoried.
Instoried is an online content platform, created by Sharmin Ali, that helps customers understand the effect of their content before it is even published. After 5 years of working in sales for Fortune 100 companies in the US, she created her first OTT content production company in 2014-15 with the hopes of launching India’s very own Netflix. She wrote 70 original scripts, published two books and also helped a number of CXOs with their content strategies. During this time, Ali noticed that creating content that can really connect with the audience was a major challenge.
She soon realized the best way to solve this was to create a data-driven AI tool that can analyse the emotional effect of the content and also provide smart recommendations to make it more effective. This inspired her to launch Instoried along with her friend, Sutanshu, a coding expert and former Microsoft employee with experience in AI.
The start-up mainly helps writers of e-commerce, FMCG, and news to optimize their marketing content. In October 2020, it was able to secure $ 1 million in a pre-Series A fundraise led by Mumbai Angels Network. Recently it has also managed to raise an undisclosed amount from Rockstud Capital.
There are two primary services which Instoried offers, mainly AI Analysis and Panel Analysis which are text-based applications. The AI Analysis tool has several features such as emotional analysis, tone analysis, headline analysis, plagiarism checker and corrections. With the software, users can check which words in the document correspond to the categories of Joy, Fear, Anger, Sadness, Surprise and Anticipation.
They can also identify whether the tone is positive, negative or neutral and the words affect it. Panel Analysis, on the other hand, allows users to collaborate with a real-time audience. This helps in finding out whether the content is really striking a chord with the audience.
“Instead of publishing the content on a public platform and then getting user feedback, we thought why not get user feedback on the tool itself”, says Ali.
Furthermore, Instoried also provides a specialized Developer’s Portal which integrates its API (Application Programming Interface) with the systems of clients and the services they use. The company has also launched an MVP with facial recognition software to automatically record the reactions and the corresponding scenes in video content. The work on iris recognition is still in progress but Sharmin Ali has made it very clear the reasons for this.
“Before diversifying our portfolio with respect to the content format we want to test all the use cases that we have for text content”, she says.
The most interesting aspect about Instoried is that it helps brands improve their effect of their marketing content by optimising emotions. Emotion AI is a game-changer in the advertising space as it helps in establishing a significant relationship with modern consumers who hate ads so much that they pay to avoid them. By observing specific reactions, content can be customised according to each individual’s preferences. While it is possible that the content could be improved with the help of questions from a focus group, Sharmin Ali makes an interesting observation.
“It is highly probable that with a focus group, they would have forgotten what they would have seen by the time questions are asked. It is unproductive and ineffective”, she says.
Instoried’s AI tool utilizes natural language programming algorithms, developed in-house and a proprietary database, filled with millions of lines of text with emotions and tone in order to analyse and provide smart recommendations. While it may seem a bit complex, the company has truly left an impact on the companies it has worked with.
“From a customer standpoint, we’ve helped increase inbound leads on their marketing content by over 300% and their ROIs have increased by 1.5x in less than 6 months”, says Ali.
Challenges Faced by The Team
The biggest challenge that Ali and her team faced during the initial launch of Instoried was getting adequate funds. In fact the situation became so severe that she had to break her Public Provident Fund in order to pay the salaries. In the midst of this financial crisis, both Sharmin Ali and her partner, Sutanshu never gave up hope. They went to various cities pitching to one investor after another. They were also able to secure funding from start-up Chile in Santiago, which provides grant money to global start-ups.
By working relentlessly and stepping outside of their comfort zone, the two of them were successful in getting $500,000 from some of the most notable investors in the UK and India. Despite these achievements, funding is still an issue that the company deals with on a daily basis. However, Sharmin Ali does not shy away from managing this problem. As an entrepreneur, she loves the fact that she has the privilege of running her own company and paying the salaries of the employees.
“When you are someone who is creating jobs and responsible for a number of people’s careers, you know that at the end of the day, a lot of people are essentially vouching their livelihood upon you and that is a very gratifying and rewarding feeling”, says Ali.
Since she has converted her passion into her fulltime job, Ali also has a lot of mental freedom which she enjoys. The customer feedback is also another aspect of being entrepreneur that she cherishes.
Covid Pandemic Impact
Although most businesses were in a state of pandemonium due to brick-and-mortar stores being shut down, Instoried was able to identify a huge opportunity in the adversity.
“We understood that everyone wants to sell better and more online and we are essentially a platform that helps create content online. Its a direct portfolio fit”, notes Ali.
During Covid, the company gained 8-10 fresh new leads on a daily basis and has grown immensely in the past 10 months. It has also entered the B2C space and managed to get 10000+ users on-board its service.
Instoried has set major goals and ambitions for its future as a start-up. However its primary vision is to grow globally. In addition, it has set up a sales team in the US and also plans to expand its business there. From a tech adoption perspective, the US is a market space where it is much easier to grow and hence it is a very lucrative market for the company according to Ali. Intense marketing strategies for the current and next financial year are currently in progress but clients can definitely look forward to big things from Instoried in the near future.