None of us are oblivious to the unrelenting grips of existentialism that takes hold quite so very often. It could come driving in a brand new BMW at a family gathering when a cousin half your age steps out wearing an extremely overpriced cravat tucked behind an equally overpriced Tuxedo. It could come crawling at 2 AM when sleep is nowhere to be seen and the dread of being awake - for some reason - makes you re-evaluate every life decision you’ve ever made and if things would’ve been different ‘only if’ you went the other way. It could come railing at you in a series of LinkedIn posts where everyone you know is turning into founders and VPs, making your progress seem almost laughable. Well, buckle up, because this next part might make you question your very being, but perhaps in a good way.
College dorms have probably seen more sleepless nights than prisons. Honestly, we don’t know if that’s true but the intuition was strong so we just went with it. The point is - college dorm rooms, ironically, are used for anything but sleeping. Countless businesses, ideas, relationships, friendships, families, careers, heartbreaks, and parties simultaneously write themselves within those walls. So many stories that never see the light of day, yet so many that do. This story is about a bunch of guys who tasted the sweet, sweet nectar of success at an age when most of us don’t even know how to drive.
At 17, Anirudh Singla was a first-year engineering student at one of the most prestigious institutions in India. However, his hopes for a decorated corporate job seemed bleak when his grades started to tank. He found solace in writing and thought it to be the one thing he was good at. After writing countless cold emails to media houses and publications, YourStory accepted him for a summer internship. Started freelancing too and spent 2 months working 19 hours a day to make ends meet. He made Rs. 2.5 Lakhs - enough to pay for college tuition and sustain him for a while. But he walked away with more than just money; he came out with an epiphany that the market for content was ridiculously unexplored like a gold mine waiting to be discovered.
It could’ve ended in many different ways for Rishabh Shekhar too who ended up joining Anirudh’s ‘wing’ - as they called it - merely by chance. They started this journey with nothing to lose and a lot to give. Not much later, they were joined by a group of charismatic young folks who believed in the idea with all their heart - Kishan Panpalia, Aadesh Chandra, and Himanshu Goyal. Being part of a company is more than just about being an ‘entrepreneur’ - it’s about persistence, grit, and determination. You have to show up every day. And just like how high pressure aggravates the atmosphere, these bright-eyed not even 20-year-olds were brewing up a storm. A storm called Pepper Content.
The amount of content out there on the internet is unfathomable, really. Creating content isn’t exactly a problem that needs solving, but finding the right content is. Especially for those who want content to be a source for branding and growth but don’t have the budget to pull off a full-fledged team of writers and marketers.
Pepper Content can simply be described as a marketplace that connects businesses to content creators - like Uber or Airbnb, but for content creators. And how is it any different from say - Upwork or Fiverr? Pepper Content, unlike any other freelancing platform, doesn’t leave it upto the two parties involved to figure out the deliverables and quality benchmarks. It takes into its own hands the responsibility of delivering the best content to businesses and ensures that content creators don’t have to worry about anything else other than writing.
On the surface, Pepper content is a platform where content creators can come looking for work, and businesses can come looking for content. But behind the curtains, it’s so much more than that. It’s a beautifully handcrafted engine that tailor-makes every piece of content. Taking into account every excruciating detail such as budget, expertise, deadlines, availability, experience, and type - Pepper hands over the content to the perfect creator. The writer also has an option to reject it.
It’s impossible to have names like Facebook, Amazon, Swiggy, Adobe, etc. attached to your brand if you’re not doing at least something right. Pepper Content doesn’t deliver content unless it’s been approved internally by Subject Matter Experts and checked vigorously against their AI-powered content monitoring system. Even then if they are dissatisfied, a limited number of iterations can be requested for rework on the entire content.
Today, Pepper Content boasts over 2500+ customers, 1 Million+ completed projects, over 100,000 creators who have applied to be a part of it and $3.5 million+ in creator earnings.
In 2017, 10 days before their final exams, they bagged their first deal for 250 articles about automotive parts. Now, there were two things they didn’t know 1) how will they possibly make it through 2nd year of college, and 2) anything even remotely related to automotive parts. The one thing they did know was that an opportunity like this doesn’t come knocking on your door very often. They’d stay up all night every day, gradually inching closer to the 250 mark until somehow, finally, they made it. The first paycheck came through.
Between 2017-2018, Pepper clocked $6,700 in revenue with a network of 25 creators and 20 customers. They continued to see growth over the next couple of years but weren’t quite able to get through the hurdle of establishing a platform for Pepper. It wasn’t until they raised a seed round in November 2019 for $300,000 that things started looking up. In March 2020, Pepper Content was established officially with their office in Mumbai. By the end of 2020, they had 5,000+ creators registered with them and hit $500,000 in creator earnings.
Raising investments wasn’t easy. Cold emails got colder collecting dust in investors’ inboxes. People didn’t believe that Pepper Content had a market, and honestly, a lot of them didn’t trust a bunch of 20-year-olds with the hopes of building the largest content marketplace. They said although it was a good business, it wasn’t Venture Capital worthy. But consistency pays off, always. Less than a year after raising the Seed Round, led by Lightspeed India they raised $4.2 million in Series A.
From traveling to Bangalore in the middle of our final examinations only to get rejected by YC in the final round to pitching Lightspeed on the same day when I gave the last viva ever, it sure has been a dream run, if not perfect. - Rishabh Shekhar (source)
The pandemic followed a growth curve quite reminiscent of how Pepper Content gained momentum. Unescapable remote work accelerated the adoption of tech in business. After realizing that they were sitting on a $400 billion global market for content, Singla and Shekhar wanted to steer the Pepper Content ship towards disruptive innovation. Content is not immune to digital transformation, and as the young founders would come to realize, the time for turning Pepper into a digital playground for content creation was nigh.
Pepper’s platform evolved quite a bit over the last couple of years. What started as 5 members strong dream turned into a state-of-the-art technologically-driven content creation self-serve platform for businesses and creators alike, now being run by 100+ members.
There’s more. If you’re a creator, you’d undoubtedly be aware of the infamous ‘writer’s block’. It’s a nightmare when it happens and leaves your consciousness crippled as if you’ve, in an instant, forgotten what it means to be able to think at all. The only resolution to this is often a panic-induced kickstart that forces your brain to work in overdrive as it sees the deadline coming closer. Well, the greatest thing about Pepper is that it’s run by people who built an empire on something they love. They know inside-out what it feels like to be a writer. And empathy can go a long way if you’re trying to solve problems.
In comes Peppertype.ai - an AI-enabled content assistant that generates content pieces for you and all you have to do is tell the tool what you want. It can give you - blog ideas, topics, introductions, outlines, social media captions, website copy, descriptions, titles, questions, reviewed content, and so much more. The tool is perfect for content creators and businesses all the same. Especially for those who’re out there doing everything on their own and might not find the time to sit and think of a content piece.
The creator economy thrives on intimacy. The more you connect with someone, the more intricate their content gets. This is inherently true for communities too. The purpose of community is to create a sense of belonging in everyone who’s a part of it and bind people together with a shared sense of value. At the intersection of community and content lies immense value, a value screaming to be discovered.
Building a community of content creators evolves into a community-led growth curve powered by learning and self-growth. We’ve seen that community is integral to introspection and eventually, wisdom. An external impact directly influences who you become; the more you give, the more you open yourself up, and the more you learn. This makes you wonder if being part of a community can be transcendental to your development as a person.
Building a part of a community of creators lets them rediscover themselves, which directly influences their work. Creativity is always inspirational, and community-driven learning is key to finding a profound sense of inspiration. The community team at Pepper understands that in order to inspire more quality content, there needs to be a driving force - community.
We spoke to Pawan Rochwani who heads all things community for Pepper’s rapidly growing network of content creators. For over the past year, Pawan has been handcrafting and implementing various community-building strategies from the ground up. He and the team have carefully cultivated a welcoming and immersive culture for content creators. He talks about how the community has grown and how their efforts have grown with it.
“Content demands innovation. Our focus has been primarily on being as innovative as we can in our experiments. We know that content creator have some of the most progressive and creative minds, so, we have to bring to the table a spectrum of new opportunities,” Pawan said. “We’ve successfully pulled off quite a few events in the past year gathering some of the most well-known content creators globally. It’s been daunting but the satisfaction you get is worth all of it.”
But community is not just decorative events and gatherings. You really have to plunge yourself into the nitty-gritty of working with community. It‘s equally important to listen to your community to the best of your abilities.
Pawan said, “Being responsible for a community means letting go of any selfish goal or intent. It’s not a transaction. You have to listen and provide what the people are looking for. We spend a lot of time listening to our community and getting feedback. Any member can schedule calls with us anytime and we’re there to support them in an instant. Despite the number of requests and calls we receive on a daily basis, in the past year we’ve reduced the average resolution time to 48 hours. Which has been quite a significant achievement for us as a team.”
Furthermore, he talks about how they’re building a universe of content through creators. From using cutting-edge technologies like Peppertype.ai to building the largest network of creators - Pepper Content is setting a benchmark in the content industry.
But how do they do it? What have they done? Let’s take a closer look👇
If you’re a creator or a writer of any kind, join the Pepper cloud and be part of one of the largest creator communities. Pepper ensures that all creators get equal opportunities unlike the typical ‘bid-war’ that determines who gets the cake and who doesn't. Fueling the creator economy is also about celebrating the art of content creation and not just monetizing it. Pepper believes in a ‘meritocratic’ system that tries to maximize the chances of every creator to work on projects that best suit their skillset.
4 ways in which you can work with Pepper Content and make good money -
Elevate is the ‘Ultimate Global Content Summit’ that brings together some of the biggest names in content and marketing across the globe. It’s an immersive content summit where creators get to learn, grow, and elevate with some of the most prolific content creators in the industry.
Some of the headliners for 2021’s session were Ankur Warikoo, Suchita Salwan, Ewan Hamilton, Roshan Abbas, and many more.
Here’s the episode with Ankur talking about what it takes to be a content entrepreneur 👇
And here’s a Masterclass featuring Utkarsh Amitabh who talks about building a category with content, community, and curiosity.
The Next Big Creator or NBC awards were this year's highlight (yet) of Pepper’s creator community. The goal was to recognize creators who are challenging the status quo by using content as both a weapon and ammunition. The new wave of content creators is disruptive and is not willing to settle for anything less than what they want. It’s an era of social change and Pepper wants to give creators all the tools they need to make an impact.
NBC awarded 30 creators with cash prizes worth Rs. 50,000 (~$650) to the winners. Not just that, the event also highlighted masterclasses, panel discussions, and fireside chats for all. It was a great place for content creators to connect with others and grow their networks.
Check out their vlog -
Spotlight is Pepper’s official podcast series featuring incredible guests like industry professionals, artists, and indie creators talking about the content industry, where it stands, where it's headed, and where the future lies.
In one of the episodes, Malini talks about how the future of content is community -
Top of the funnel or TOFU is a video interview series with marketing leaders who come and talk about their content marketing strategies and how have they leveraged them to grow their brand. What can brands do with content as a growth strategy?
In one of the episodes, Dipashree talks about how a consumer-centric approach lies at the heart of content marketing. She talks about how content is not just a metric for marketing but something that speaks to people at an interpersonal level. How can you leverage content to build better communities?
Pepper’s blog is a knowledge-base of carefully curated content from content creators, and about content creators.
From listicles and insights to how individual content creators honed their content game - learn how you can too, excel in content creation.
In the last year, Pepper Content’s revenue has grown 10x from $500,000 to $5 million ARR and they’re looking to grow at the same rate if not faster, in the years to come.
Pioneering the Indian content market with technology and innovation, what Pepper has in store next is to enter the global market and power content generation around the world. This new era of work culture is seeing skyrocketing growth in freelancers. Freelancing is not just a buzzword anymore, it’s an entrepreneurial success story for many who are inspiring so many others to build their own brand.
Pepper’s technological advancements too are looking towards an eventful future. Anirudh believes that in the next few years we will be able to order content on-demand in 2-3 hours. Pepper also envisions the development of a Grammarly-like chrome extension that will automatically help with content creation and generation.
Every company is going to be a content company because, in a sea of companies, content, community, and commerce are 3 key pillars upon which any business is going to be built. And community and commerce are going to be enabled by content. - Anirudh (source)
There’s no denying that community and content will evolve more intricately as the future unfolds. Even in the face of adversity or unpredictability, what comes next will heavily depend on how content is created and consumed on a global scale.
Is it existential crisis or necessitated inspiration?
Spicing up your content with Pepper
Content is King
Technology meets content
Empowering a community of content creators
Shaping the future of content creation
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