Shaping India's Media Landscape: Redefining Narratives, Engaging Audiences, and Cultural Trends.

Breaking Boundaries with Mehak Kasbekar: BRUT India's Editor – in – Chief & Vice President. Redefining News, Captivating Audiences, and Setting Trends in the Heart of Cultural Diversity.

UJA | Meha Kasbekar
Meha Kasbekar

Editor - in - Chief & Vice President
Brut India

UJA: Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey and how you found yourself working in the Indian media industry?

Meha Kasbekar: Somewhere around my final year as an Electronic Science student, I realized that while others were passionately building robots, I was more interested in reading and writing stories.I also had this burning desire to add value to society in some way. I pursued a postgraduate degree at Xavier University in Mumbai in journalism and mass communication. In my first job, I was part of a pilot project with Reuters in Bangalore that started with only five people and has since grown to a large operation. I eventually moved to CNBC TV18, where I was part of a desk that performed very interesting work, which was dealing with economic crime for a business channel.
And then I went to Mint, which was the first newspaper in India in the Berliner format that was launched in the 2000s. I also covered policy for CNBC TV 18 in Delhi. Following that, I assisted in the establishment of the Bloomberg Television Bureau, which I led in Delhi.

I relocated to New York because I felt it was time to advance my skills and expand my world of possibilities. I graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism. Right after I got back, it was time for digital media to take off. After over 13 years in television, I pivoted to where the viewers were—social media—and learned to educate audiences on issues they’d like to know more about and have a well-informed discussion about. That’s when Brut happened. I was fortunate enough to help build Brut into a respected and credible brand for the younger generation. 

UJA: What motivated Brut to expand its operations to India, and how has the experience been so far?

Meha Kasbekar: Brut is a social first digital video publisher headquartered in Paris that focuses on creating video content for social media. From its launch, Brut was successful really quickly in France. It started in 2016, during the French elections, and it delivered what young people wanted from news – to have unbiased and credible information. Brut rose to prominence quickly, thus it seemed natural to expand into new markets.

It made sense to be in India because there is so much going on here. India is growing in prominence for the Western market. Brut India employed an innovation-first media strategy upon entering the Indian market. From a five member team in 2018 Brut India has grown strong and fast to a robust publisher bringing news in compelling formats and remaining independent. I am ecstatic to report that it is also financially profitable- no mean feat given it’s a young organization.

Throughout India, what was really amazing was that we were able to expand in such a way that we filled a need in the market in terms of how news is covered. We had the language to interact with young people, and we added value there. Given the cultural diversity and widespread reach of these platforms in India, Brut provided a solid foundation for reaching a broad audience.
We had no competition when we first came to India, and we still don’t have anyone who does exactly what we do today. In the last five years, there has been a lot of imitation when it comes to anything to do with a video where people say let’s do it the “BRUT STYLE.” People prefer the way we’ve structured storytelling and news. In the media landscape, the types of formats, language, and value addition that we provide are fantastic.

As the market evolved, we increased the emphasis on online channels, social media, and influencer marketing which became integral components. Engaging with consumers through digital platforms allows brands to create a more interactive and personalized experience, which is crucial in the modern marketing landscape.

Additionally, in essence, India’s media strategy likely transitioned from a traditional focus to a more integrated approach, incorporating both traditional and digital channels to connect with a diverse and evolving consumer base.

UJA: In what ways do you think the Indian media Industry is different from the French in terms of working culture?

Meha Kasbekar: It is certainly different. The French are incredibly creative, and they foster their creativity very well. They also value work-life balance, which instantly brings them back to work with new ideas. It is important to take that pause so you come back with better ways of telling stories and being relevant in the fast environment.

UJA: Can you share some insights into how Brut tailors its content to resonate with the Indian audience while maintaining its global identity?

Meha Kasbekar: BRUT means “raw,” and the goal was to eliminate bias around news. Viewers wanted just the news rather than opinions. Incorporating cultural nuances and references that resonate with the Indian audience was important for us.

While leveraging social media platforms to connect with the younger audience, possibly using popular social media trends and challenges, we value young people’s opinions and just deliver the news- we don’t impress opinions. We try to understand viewers and add perspective to it.

Conducting in-depth research to understand the cultural nuances, traditions, and values of different regions in India, collaborating with creators who have a pan-India appeal and are respected across various cultural backgrounds is what Brut does. Demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of the community we have built through storytelling is what we do.

UJA: How do you measure the impact of Brut's content in India, and are there any particular stories or campaigns that stand out in terms of audience engagement?

Meha Kasbekar: The Cannes Film Festival honors the art of filmmaking, and Brut is the media partner for the festival. We brought it live to the Indian audience with not just the largest number of views but the audience engagement we brought to the table with Cannes is something we are very proud of, and we were able to create a mark with it.

We took Indian creators to Cannes to walk the red carpet and collaborate with brands, which was incredibly remarkable because it allowed younger audiences and their followers to be a part of that marketplace.

It served as a platform where film intersects with fashion and beauty, leading to fresh ideas.
Being a part of Cannes was incredibly significant for Indian influencers since it provided global visibility and the ideal platform for brand collaboration. These events had a major impact, generating significant attention and opening doors internationally.

Cannes coverage had 350 million global views, accounting for 51% of the Indian market share. Our goal as a platform aimed at millennials and Generation Z was to capitalize on our young audience and establish Cannes as a pop culture phenomenon. Over 75% of our views came from people under the age of 34, which is impressive.

UJA: What is the business model? How do you make revenue?

Meha Kasbekar: We make money through branded content and innovative data-led tools. Our strength is storytelling and conscious-driven marketing for brands who have the same values. E.g., doing something for the environment, we work with them to tell their stories as well. We also look at data very closely. In India, it’s largely branded content. Brut India invested in content marketing, leveraging online platforms to share grooming tips, lifestyle content, and stories that resonate with their target audience. This approach not only builds brand loyalty but also positions Brut as more than just a product—it becomes a lifestyle. 

UJA: What are the challenges you faced personally?

Meha Kasbekar: Brut is always ahead of the curve. Which means carving your own path and delivering in a constantly changing environment. So we keep innovating and looking for the next big thing which is challenging and exhilarating at the same time

UJA: What advice would you give to any French company that wants to enter the Indian market?

Meha Kasbekar: India is a great market; it has its own challenges but we need to Indianize the product in order to reach a wider appeal. If you look at any brand, whether it’s apparel or food, it always requires a tiny pinch of Indianness to work. It is critical to adapt the language and communication style to resonate with India’s linguistic variety. Being aware of local conventions in order to avoid unintended cultural insensitivity is also important. 

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