KC Das Commerce College drop-out now leads North-East’s influencer market, business in crores: Here’s the story of Mafuz and his Madify journey
Five years back, people would not have thought content creation could be a full-time career, but today that’s the reality. Creators, influencers and internet stars are making it big. Starting from TV shows, and daily soaps to now the big silver screen, this truly looks like the era of internet stars and social media creators. Assam is nowhere lagging behind, from Celesti Bairagey, Surabhi Das to Silchar’s own Debattama Saha, they have made their place in the media industry through their Internet fame. Managing these stars and bringing them business and brands, that is, “influencer marketing” is fairly less talked about. Mafuz Alom Laskar is a forerunner of this industry. “Madify” today is North East India’s leading influencer marketing platform. Started with merely 1200 rupees, this Silchar boy is doing business in crores just 3 years. Madify brings business to over 150 creators of North East. Barak Bulletin sat with Mafuz, the founder and CEO of Madify to understand what goes behind the business and understand the nitty-gritty of content creation. Here are the edited excerpts from the deep dive into the world of content:
Why the name Madify and what is it all about?
I wanted a name that should be vague but can mean many things because scaling up can be difficult if it means something specific. Just like Tata, Reliance and others, I was inspired by them. But how I came to this name Madify was an exciting journey, “MA” are the first two letters of my name and “DI” are of my then start-up partner, which gave Madi, but that sounded incomplete. So I Googled common endings of names of businesses or organisations and the result was “FY”, and that clicked, and that is how we arrived at “MADIFY”. Coming to what we do in Madify is “influencer marketing and management” for content creators. We look after the business side of the content creators who are our clients.
You were talking about someone else, whose name is attached to your company, who was that and why did you not name them? Are you comfortable talking about it?
He was one of the smartest people I knew and we started the company together back in 2020. Presently, he is not with Madify. When any company or startup is in its infant stage the results often come after a difficult wait. For any new entrepreneur it can be a time-testing process and many give up, I guess was difficult for him as well and he decided to switch paths. I realised I shouldn’t stop him from pursuing what he wanted, but I hope our paths cross in the future again.
Take us through your business. Why do creators need you and what do you provide them?
Anyone who is creating good content is always in a creative process and I’ve personally found most content creators to be introverted to talk business deals. To be called a professional content creator is to monetise content and the best way for this is through ads and branded collaborations. Talking to brands is like any other business deal and that needs knowledge about business and lots of negotiations. We do that on behalf of the creators and also ensure that they are getting well paid for their work and not exploited. Brands mostly pay 60 days after the project is complete, which is a long wait. But we ensure that the creator is getting paid well before that. Sometimes we even pay the influencers from our side even before the brand pays us, say on a Friday so that they can also enjoy their weekend. We also manage their business emails for any event requests, campaigns or whatever is necessary. Also, most of our creators are female and they are not comfortable sharing their phone numbers with clients as they fear their number getting public resulting in unnecessary annoyance, so we do the calls and communications for them as well. In addition to that also ensure that they don’t fall prey to hackers, and scammers and ensure the safety of their social media handles.
If you can explain in brief, what is influencer marketing and how big is the business?
As of 2022, the influencer marketing industry in India was valued at over 12 billion rupees. The global influencer marketing market size has more than doubled since 2019. When the COVID pandemic hit, it was the best time for influencer marketing. When all outdoor marketing stopped, brands started to look towards social media and online marketing but that was not going well, a personal touch was missing and that’s where content creators and internet celebrities came in. Initially, it was just a promotion of the product but now it’s a lot more than that. Now influencer marketing is smart and mature.
How is that?
If you have watched the movie, Jawan, you might have seen how different brands were prompted. Zomato, Poco, Asian Paints and others have been placed very smartly without making it seem like an advertisement. That is what content creators have been doing. Subtle promotion and intelligent placement of brands give them more reach.
Why are brands choosing you?
North East is unexplored and many areas are uncharted, influencer marketing here is just like that. Brands don’t come to Assam and North East easily also they are not sure whether they will find creators with the reach they desire and the level of content they are looking for. We bridge that gap. Brands choose Madify because we help them reach the roots of our North Eastern states with fantastic creators with niche audiences.
Looking back at your journey, when did you start and how?
It was back in 2020, a couple of months before the complete lockdown started and I think it was the right time. The first 2-3 months were very tough as there was no traction in the market and I didn’t have any background, no connections or networks, there was no business then. So I reached out to some of my friends who back then had 5K to 10K followers on Instagram and I got them onboarded but that obviously didn’t bring many deals. Gradually we started to get good people and along with that good deals too.
You started at a time when the influencer marketing industry was just growing and especially in North East there was nothing of that sort. What pushed you to that? Is there any business background that runs in your family?
I come from a very humble middle-class family. My father is a government employee and my mother is a homemaker. My parents wanted me to become an IAS officer when I grew up but I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and even before Madify, I had started several initiatives. I had an online gifting service before. Before that, I had a page which I started back in class 9, where I posted short stories and writings on Instagram, that also had over 25K followers, which was “huge” back in 2017 and that too from North East. Later, I also did an open mic in Guwahati in 2019, where through this page I connected with some influencers of that time from Guwahati. They were very helpful and posted stories to promote the event. The response was crazy, our venue was fully booked and many even had to stand. That is when I first saw the power of influencer marketing and thought this could be a start-up.
So how did you learn all the business of marketing and advertisement?
Initially while talking to brands and companies, I would google stuff while on the call with them and understand if any terms were trivial. Also, luckily for me the first few businesses were considerate and would explain everything very clearly without any hidden terms and conditions that helped me understand and learn. A lot of Quora and Reddit rabbit-hole helped. Also when I reached out to influencers with big numbers, initially they didn’t reply. So I had to think another way around. I started making Instagram filters when it was trending, every influencer wanted to have their own filters for their followers. I reached out with the offer to make filters for them for free and that is how I connected with many big influencers and celebrities who are our clients now.
Was there any opposition from your family about Madify or the earlier businesses?
My parents didn’t know about my business for a very long time. I had to keep it secret and it was only recently back in 2021, I came clean and told them about what I was up to. I had to keep it that way because I believe it’s not easy for them to understand business and I don’t blame them at all. Business is not a safe option as there are many risks. I decided I would tell them when I personally see success and my business is on the right track. When the business is stable and it’s going somewhere, parents will obviously support and that happened in my case also.
Two years later, do your parents consider you successful?
They are happy for sure but they wanted me to complete my studies but I had no choice but to give more time to Madify. I started Madify when I was in the first year of my graduation, back then it was easy because classes were online but in my third year, I really had to choose between my studies and the company. I had to skip exams of the final year otherwise we would lose significant business. I was answerable to at least 30 people and their earnings depended on me, which I couldn’t risk at that stage. But I think if I could delegate with my team better at that stage I could have appeared in the exams, but I was also new to this. Right now, I have no regrets and I don’t think I would be going back to complete my graduation.
At this stage where you are now, how big is your team and how many creators and celebrities are you managing now?
For 2 years I managed almost everything with only 2-3 people in my core team who shared profit equally. The first official employee we hired was 2 years into the launch of the company. Now we have around 15 people in our team who have different roles and we also have an events team, which does shows and events all across Assam. About the number of influencers, we manage all the big influencers of North East it’s over 150 now and the team keeps on onboarding new people almost every day. It’s surprising, sometimes when I scroll through Instagram I see some good reels and check their profile thinking to onboard them with us and I find “Managed by @Madify.Official on their bio and that honestly is one of the best feelings. We are not about quantity but the quality of content and all the creators we work with are the best in the game.
Give us some names, who are the big creators you are managing?
We have Celesti Bairagey, she has over 1 Million followers and she recently got into Star Plus and that too happened through us, we also help with casting and auditions. We have Surabhi Das, who was in a Colors TV Show. Other than that, we have Sukanya Boruah, Bhagyabro (Bhagyashree Sharma) among others who have great reach and a very engaging audience.
Are there any criteria to qualify as a Madify creator? What do you see when you onboard a creator?
It is never the number of followers but the quality of content they make and how they engage with their followers. We see the vibe, the work and the effort a creator puts behind a reel or managing their account. We have onboarded creators with as low as 5K followers but we understood their potential. When we started working with Celesti, she just had 12000 followers and now she has a Million. There is a creator whom we onboarded when she had just 6k followers and in 6 months now she has over 108K.
What will be your words of wisdom for content creators who are new to this and are trying to make it big?
Today anyone can be a content creator. I personally think there are two parts of content creation, one is the video and another is the “content”. The video should be clear and with adequate lighting and for that, you don’t need industry-grade equipment. Most Android phones have good cameras and natural lighting is the best. About “content”, you need to make it engaging, say “Get ready with me”, make-up, grooming and that sort of reel. Also, if the creator is a girl, her content should targeted towards females, her followers should not be all men. That’s my two cents with brutal honesty. I talk about the three C’s- Consistency, Community and Content. Building a community is very important.
What do you think about the creators of Silchar and Barak Valley at large, is there any potential?
The content creation market has a vicious circle, if there are content creators, there will be brands and vice-versa. The problem in Barak Valley is that not many brands are coming here and it is the problem of the entire North East. When any brands come here, they see Guwahati as the whole of Assam. But things are changing. We are trying to educate brands that, there are two markets inside Assam, and you have to target two valleys- both Brahmaputra and Barak. Max Fashion was among the first to campaign in Silchar and we did that with local creators. Other brands are also entering the Barak Valley market and I’m sure we will see great creators from my town as well.
How good is influencer marketing and the whole content creator job as a career option, talking monetarily?
I started off with 1200 rupees and after 3 years of long hours of work 7 days a week, Madify is doing an 8-figure business which is doubling every year. About the creators, I know many who are doing this full-time, that too in a city like Guwahati, paying rent and having a quite decent lifestyle. It pays well if you are consistent.
Do you have any workshops or training on content creation?
We have a program called “Creators Connect” which will happen in Guwahati this October 8 and there will be some workshops by creators who are doing great. There will be panel discussions and all sorts of things. Gradually we will be doing this event in all other major towns and cities of Assam and even other states of North East. This will be a great platform for learning. All the details will be on our Instagram Page (madify.official).