There is panic all around as new cases of novel coronavirus surface every passing hour, triggering meltdown of markets all around the globe. But unlike the previous black swans, the severity of crisis transcends the world of finance, with manufacturing and services becoming major casualties.
Schools and universities have already been closed, conferences cancelled and flights grounded. This has forced many to adopt remote work while local educational institutions are testing e-learning.
And to make that transition from real to virtual a little smoother, there is a startup. Plutwo.com is a live streaming platform that lets experts organise or attend webinars/online sessions using simple software.
If you are a learner, all you have to do is sign up with an affiliated account (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google), add details like phone number and country, enrol in anything with a simple tap. But in order to become an expert, you have to apply first for that profile, which will be vetted by Plutwo’s team. Once given the access, you can simply create a session using a form with stuff like cover photo, timings, date, agenda, title and the per head fee (if there is any) — on top of which it automatically adds a commission — and pay with one of the listed digital channels.
If approved by the admin, you get a few more tools to conduct the event online and get access to a dashboard to track audience, payments among other things. The live session has chat and Q&A options while the presenter can share their screen or slides, distribute handouts, conduct polls etc.
Maybe you are wondering why there is a need for such a streaming platform in the first place? YouTube, Instagram, Facebook all offer this service, that too at no cost while potentially exposing to a much broader audience.
“First of all, they don’t have any monetisation channels other than advertising which, in the case of YouTube, requires having at least a 1,000 subscribers [and 4,000 watch hours]. Plus, there is always a lack of professionalism on those platforms as viewers can often be seen commenting on the speaker’s attributes such as looks. Ours, on the other hand, allows a more closed environment,” explains Founder Fatima Rizwan.
Keeping in mind Plutwo’s target market of Gen Z, one can’t help but think of another platform which has swept across that age group: TikTok. Yes, it has the same problems as other social media giants regarding monetisation and reaching target audience but it is extremely relevant to the concerned demographic. “TikTok, despite its reach, has a brand perception issue which prevents many experts to market there,” she says. In all fairness, this sentiment is echoed by others in the ecosystem too.
And what about the many live streaming software which already exist in the market? Livestorm and Crowdcast are two names that I am familiar with. “There are a number of players offering webinar tools but Plutwo is more than that. It’s more like a platform with a network of learners,” she says, adding that “you can think of it as Twitch [a live-streaming portal for gamers] for domain experts or maybe Masterclass, but on steroids.”
The startup was launched in December 2019 by Fatima Rizwan, an experienced entrepreneur who previously founded and scaled the famed tech publication, Techjuice.pk. “There was no channel available for influencers to cash in on their influence, so I started exploring this space. And this is a broader problem with Gen Z that is looking for ways to cash in on their skills,” she recalls.
Plutwo has already raised a small seed round after participating in the UK-headquartered Entrepreneur First’s programme from the same organisation.
Its income comes from a flat 25 per cent commission. However, looking at the 23 current listings, the average per user price comes in at Rs943, yielding Rs236 in commission from every customer.
Assuming there is one stream each day with 50 attendees, it would still generate a revenue of around Rs350,000. What is required to make the unit economics sounder, especially taking into account the curation-scale trade off?
Will Fatima pursue volumes at the current rates or is tapping on the high-value market the right approach? “We are looking at markets like Singapore where per session fee is higher, which would make our numbers more sustainable,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean she is willing to compromise on growth. “Recent events have forced many organisations to go remote or conferences to be conducted virtually, creating demand for a product like ours for the time being,” says the founder.
To tap on that opportunity, Plutwo is already offering free migration of lectures to educational institutions and new tools for organisations to conduct conferences digitally.
“But this might just trigger a broader and more long-term shift in the world of work towards cyberspace,” Fatima continues.
The writer is member of staff:
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2020