Sunday, August 31, 2014

Indian startups with great content marketing strategies

You look around anywhere and there are buzzwords aplenty. ‘Content Marketing’ is probably one of those terms. Everyone is talking about it, everyone knows they need one but only realize the difficulties once they get into it. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the idea of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by creating and curating relevant and valuable content. It is deeply ingrained into the marketing strategy. Globally, the likes of Buffer have set a very high benchmark! We thought of throwing some light on home grown companies that are doing a good job with  content marketing:
1) Zomato
Zomato is an online directory for finding restaurants around you and one of the poster boys of the Indian startup ecosystem. Zomato has gone global to over 15 countries, raised more than $65 million in funding and has shown an impressive growth rate. Coming to the specifics, Zomato is surely one of the best in the business when it comes to content marketing. And content marketing just doesn’t mean a constantly updated blog- Zomato has content in various forms like infographics, videos and campaigns. Zomato is bold and keeps experimenting. Yes, there are things that go wrong with trying out different things but that is the only way to know what works. Some examples:
2) Eventifier (read about them)
Eventifier is a tool that can be used to showcase an event. Competing with the likes of Storify, Eventifier can be used to showcase tweets, slides, pictures, etc about an event on one page. Founded by youngsters from Mangalore, Eventifier was incubated at The Startup Center, raised venture capital and has scaled globally. One of the best part about their business is the content they’ve been producing. Full of valuable insights for event organizers, Eventifer’s blog and newsletter are a great resource. Here’s sample of their newsletter:
Channels- Eventifier Blog and Newsletter subscribe link
3) Brightpod (here’s more on them)
Brightpod is a web-based project management and time tracking software for digital marketing and creative teams. Brightpod aims to take the chaos out of marketing collaboration and helps teams get clarity on their workflows. Brightpod comes from Synage Software which was started back in 2005 by Sahil Parikh. The company has had experience in marketing their products globally and Brightpod is their latest in the fleet of products. The best thing about Brightpod are their constant updates for customers and the resources for marketers on their blog.
Channels- Website | Blog
Druva is an endpoint data protection and governance technology for enterprises. Founded in 2008, the company has scaled globally to find a big market in the US with more than 3000 customers in total. They’ve also managed to raise more than $65 million. The company has a great story of how a young co-founder who took the responsibility of sales took the company to great heights. One of the key things about their content marketing is the domain expertise the team possesses. Their blog is a goldmine for everything related to data security and LinkedIn seems like the channel they’ve cracked for distribution. Druva is a great example of content marketing for a B2B startup.
Channels- Blog
5) Simplify360 (read about them)
Simplify360 is a social media analytics company which was started back in 2009 by Bhupendra Khanal. The company has more than 25 solid customers and had acquisition offers from companies like Adobe, WPP and Twitter. They decided to go ahead themselves and have made good headway. Simplify360 relies on its strength- collecting, chopping, dicing data and presenting it in a meaningful way. The company has come up with interesting infographics, and analysis that have been carried by various publications.
Channels:  Pinterest | Blog
6) JustUnfollow (read their story)
JU is a Twitter and Instagram friend management application that has more than 10 million users across the globe. Founded by Nischal Shetty, this Mumbai based company is bootstrapped and one great example of how to build a successful consumer business from India.  The content they produce surely crosses paths with others in their domain but JU has managed to maintain a certain quality and continuity in the kind of content they produce. Their articles on the blog mainly revolve around managing a person’s social media accounts and happenings from around the globe.
Channels: Blog
6) Thrillophilia (read their story)
Thrillophilia is a Bangalore-based activity based trip planning portal that has climbed up the ladder in the travel domain. It has fixed activity based tours and offbeat travel experience packages. They have managed to build a great content repository with articles that are inherently ‘shareable’. e.g. 15 remote places in India to disconnect from the world25 mysterious places in India, etc.
Channels: Blog 
7) Buzzvalve
Buzzvalve is a data driven content marketing boutique founded by Rohan Chandrashekhar. The company is about content marketing itself and helps companies manage the entire lifecycle of web-based content (creation –> distribution –> promotion –> conversion) with clients like UNICEF, ISB, Honda, Fortis, etc. Their content and track record is what has attracted other companies to hire Buzzvalve for creating content. Buzzvalve has a modest and minimal looking website but has clarity in what it provides and what the client should expect. The examples of their work is present on their social channels.
Channels: Blog
8) Sutra Lite
Sutra Lite is an HR recruitment consultancy that represent a special category in this list. Sutra Lite is popular for writing articles which aren’t in their domain but ones that attract eyeballs. The company focuses on low cost hiring for startups and SMBs and has been around for a while. They have articles regarding the product on the blog but rely on click baits to get in the big traffic. For example, 16 Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs whose stories will amuse you,  top 100 startups of 2014, etc. Such articles pique curiosity and bring in traffic but the alignment with what the company does is not quite there.
Channels: Blog
These were some of the companies that caught our eye with respect to content marketing. Tell us what do you think about them?
Jubin Mehta
Jubin Mehta
Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about more than 1000 startups. With an engineering background and a keen interest in data analysis, his passion for writing and entrepreneurship makes him a perfect match for Yourstory. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he also runs a hackbase. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at

ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media

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Footage From an ISIS Drone

Footage From an ISIS Drone

A scene from a recent hourlong ISIS documentary opening with footage shot from a drone over the Iraqi city of Falluja.
 Publish DateAugust 30, 2014.
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The extremists who have seized large parts ofSyria and Iraq have riveted the world’s attention with their military prowess and unrestrained brutality. But Western intelligence services are also worried about their extraordinary command of seemingly less lethal weapons: state-of-the-art videos, ground images shot from drones and multilingual Twitter messages.
ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is using every contemporary mode of messaging to recruit fighters, intimidate enemies and promote its claim to have established a caliphate, a unified Muslim state run according to a strict interpretation of Islamic law. If its bigotry and beheadings seem to come from a distant century, its use of media is up to the moment.
A review of its prodigious output in print and online reveals a number of surprises. ISIS propaganda, for instance, has strikingly few calls for attacks on the West, even though its most notorious video, among Americans, released 12 days ago, showed the beheading of the American journalist James Foley, threatened another American hostage, and said that American attacks on ISIS “would result in the bloodshed” of Americans. This diverged from nearly all of ISIS’s varied output, which promotes its paramount goal: to secure and expand the Islamic state. Experts say that could change overnight, but for now it sharply distinguishes ISIS from Al Qaeda, which has long made attacks on the West its top priority.
An image posted Friday by ISIS on its Twitter account shows a suicide bomb attack.
And while ISIS may be built on bloodshed, it seems intent on demonstrating the bureaucratic acumen of the state that it claims to be building. Its two annual reports so far are replete with a sort of jihadist-style bookkeeping, tracking statistics on everything from “cities taken over” and “knife murders” committed by ISIS forces to “checkpoints set up” and even “apostates repented.”
ISIS media frames its campaign in epochal terms, mounting a frontal assault on the national divisions and boundaries in the Middle East drawn by Western powers after World War I. These “Crusader partitions” and their modern Arab leaders, ISIS argues in its English-language magazine, were a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to prevent Muslims from unifying “under one imam carrying the banner of truth.”
That sense of historical grievance is an old theme for Al Qaeda and more moderate Islamist groups. The difference is that by capturing expansive territory and heavy weaponry, and flush with wealth from kidnappings, oil piracy, bank robbery and extortion, ISIS claims to have taken a major first step toward righting what it sees as this ancient wrong, creating a unified Muslim state that will subsume existing nations.
ISIS carefully tailors its recruiting pitch, sending starkly different messages to Muslims in the West and to those closer to home. But the image of unstoppable, implacable power animates all of its messaging.
The pitch is effective. The militant rebellion in Syria and Iraq has drawn as many as 2,000 Westerners, including perhaps 100 Americans, and many thousands more from the Middle East and elsewhere, though some have returned home. Experts believe most of those remaining today are fighting with ISIS.
“The overriding point is that success breeds success,” said Emile Nakhleh, a former C.I.A. analyst. “The perception of quick victories and territory and weapons and bases means they don’t need to try hard to recruit.”
A still image from an ISIS video attempting to recruit Canadians. The video features a young Canadian recruit who was killed last year.
For two decades, Mr. Nakhleh said, Osama bin Laden talked about re-establishing the caliphate, but he never claimed to have done it. “Young people look at ISIS and say, ‘By gosh, they’re doing it!’ They see the videos with fighters riding on big tanks. They see that ISIS has money,” he said.
Before ISIS captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in June, other factions fighting in Syria were attracting European recruits, said Thomas Schmidinger, a political scientist from Vienna University. “But since the fall of Mosul, nearly everyone is going to” ISIS, he said.
In the evolution of modern jihadist propaganda, Bin Laden, addressing a single static camera with long-winded rhetoric in highly formal Arabic, represented the first generation. (His videos had to be smuggled to Al Jazeera or another television network to be aired.) The most prominent figure of the second generation was the YouTube star Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, who addressed Westerners in colloquial English, had a blog and Facebook page and helped produce a full-color, English-language magazine called Inspire.
ISIS is online jihad 3.0. Dozens of Twitter accounts spread its message, and it has posted some major speeches in seven languages. Its videos borrow from Madison Avenue and Hollywood, from combat video games and cable television dramas, and its sensational dispatches are echoed and amplified on social media. When its accounts are blocked, new ones appear immediately. It also uses services like JustPaste to publish battle summaries, SoundCloudto release audio reports, Instagram to share images and WhatsApp to spread graphics and videos.
“They are very adept at targeting a young audience,” said John G. Horgan, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell who has long studied terrorism. “There’s an urgency: ‘Be part of something that’s bigger than yourself and be part of it now.’ ” Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of “The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global,” said ISIS had so far consistently focused on what militants call “the near enemy” — leaders of Muslim countries like Bashar al-Assad of Syria — and not “the far enemy” of the United States and Europe.
“The struggle against the Americans and the Israelis is distant, not a priority,” he said. “It has to await liberation at home.”
The video features a young Canadian recruit who was killed last year.
Al Qaeda has often stressed the advantage to the terrorist network of supporters who hold Western passports and can attack in their countries. But a common public rite of passage for new recruits to ISIS is tearing up or burning their passports, signifying a no-going-back commitment to the Islamic state.
One polished ISIS video features a Canadian recruit named Andre Poulin urging North American Muslims to follow him — and even to bring their families. “You’d be very well taken care of here,” he said in the video. “Your families would live here in safety, just like how it is back home. You know we have expanses of territory here in Syria.”
In another English-language video pitch, a British fighter identified as Brother Abu Bara al-Hindi poses the call to jihad as a test for comfortable Westerners. “Are you willing to sacrifice the fat job you’ve got, the big car, the family?” he asks. Despite such luxuries, he says, “Living in the West, I know how you feel — in the heart you feel depressed.” The Prophet Muhammad, he declares, said, “The cure for depression is jihad.”
Such appeals provoke curiosity, and British fighters have answered hundreds of questions about joining ISIS on, a website, including what type of shoes to bring and whether toothbrushes are available. When asked what to do upon arriving in Turkey or Syria, the fighters often casually reply, “Kik me,” referring to the instant messenger for smartphones, and continue the discussion in private.
The English-language videos do not soft-pedal the dangers of the fight; the video of Mr. Poulin, for instance, shows and celebrates his death in battle. But the message to English speakers is nonetheless far softer than the Arabic-language videos, which linger on enemy corpses and show handcuffed prisoners casually machine-gunned.
The message, said Mr. Gerges, is blunt: “Get out of the way or you will be crushed; join our caravan and make history.”
The most recent cover of an ISIS magazine, which includes coverage of James Foley, the murdered American journalist.
Instead of emphasizing jihad as a means of personal fulfillment, the Arabic media production portrays it as duty for all Muslims. It flaunts violence toward its foes, especially Shiites and the Iraqi and Syrian security services, while portraying the killing as just vengeance.
A recent hourlong ISIS documentary opens with video shot from a drone over Falluja in Iraq and then over a convoy of ISIS gun trucks heading off to battle. A voice-over says that the Islamic state is expanding and that Jerusalem’s Aqsa mosque is “only a stone’s throw away.”
In a later scene, a fighter holding a rifle and his passport mocks his home country, Bahrain, for threatening to withdraw citizenship from those who fight jihad abroad.
“Don’t you know that you, your citizenship, your laws, your constitutions and your threats are under our feet?” the fighter says. “Don’t you know that we are the soldiers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and that our state will expand until it removes the thrones that you sold your religion for?”
Nowhere in the hourlong production — full of threats, drive-by shootings, explosions and gunfights — does an ISIS fighter mention the United States or directly mention or threaten Israel, apart from the allusion to the Aqsa mosque.
Hassan Hassan, a Syrian analyst with the Delma Institute in Abu Dhabi, said that ISIS portrays itself as restoring idealized eras of earlier Islamic history in a way that resonates with many of the region’s Muslims.
A graphic from an ISIS annual report that details its military attacks by type, part of the group’s varied media strategy.
“ISIS tries to reflect an image of being the continuation of the system of the caliphate,” he said. “In people’s minds, the caliphate is about victory and dignity of Muslims. A caliph is a defender of Muslims against the enemies from within and without.”
ISIS’ emphasis on strict implementation of Islamic law also draws support, he said, as does its portrayal of its battle in staunchly sectarian terms.
Many of the region’s Sunnis have deep sympathy for any force that can challenge the Iraqi or Syrian governments, which they feel have oppressed Sunnis.
ISIS “is the group that is capable of hitting these governments’ security forces and loyalists,” and that has “massive appeal,” Mr. Hassan said.
The State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications has stepped up its efforts to counter ISIS propaganda, publishing a steady stream of ISIS horror tales on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #ThinkAgainTurnAway.
For now, it seems an uphill climb. Last week, an ISIS fighter calling himself Abu Turaab wrote on Twitter, “For those who want to come but are facing obstacles, be patient and keep the desire for Jihad alive within you always.”
The State Department account replied, “ISIS recruits’ 2 choices: commit atrocities & die as criminals, get nabbed and waste lives in prison.” As of Friday, Abu Turaab’s comment had been named as a “favorite” 32 times. The count for the State Department’s response: Zero.