India’s fledgling scene has pretty much everything — it has big-ticket investors, it has superstar founders, and even has vast amounts of funding. But what the sector hasn’t had is meaningful exits — just a handful of Indian startups have managed to go public over the last couple of decades. But a small digital media company based out of Hyderabad is now launching its IPO, just four years after it was founded.
Silly Monks’s IPO opens today for subscription on NSE Emerge, the SME listing platform of the NSE. The company plans to raise Rs. 15.2 crore through the issue, which runs from 5th January to 10th January.
Silly Monks isn’t a name that’ll immediately ring a bell in startup circles, but the company has been quietly building an impressive portfolio of digital media properties. Silly Monks runs a YouTube Multichannel Network, through which it creates and promotes content including videos and music, including the first Telugu webseries Muddapappu Avakai, and also allows individual content creators to promote their content through its network. So while most creators aim to create one channel and grow it, SillyMonks runs 975 YouTube channels at last count, and they collectively have over 10.5 million subscribers. These subscribers got it an astonishing one billion view minutes in October last year.
But apart from YouTube, SillyMonks has also forayed into several other related areas — to add on to its music portfolio on YouTube, it’s launched its own music company, Monkstar Music, that promotes live artists through gigs and events, and organizes music festivals. SillyMonks also has a celebrity management arm that handles the digital properties of celebrities.
Having a finger in so many pies can quickly add up in terms of revenue — Silly Monks racked up revenues of Rs. 6.54 crore for the half financial year ending September 2017. And unlike most players in the space, it has managed to be profitable — Silly Monks’ profit for the half year ending in September 2017 was Rs. 0.96 crore. For the full year that ended in March 2017, Silly Monks’ revenues and profits were Rs. 12.01 crore and Rs. 1.45 crore respectively.
It’s been an impressive journey for the company that had been founded just in September 2013 by Sanjay Reddy and Anil Pallala. Reddy is a veteran of the entertainment industry, having held executive roles at Walt Disney, ESPN Star Sports, Sony, and Sun, before becoming the Executive Vice President at Zee Entertainment. Soon after its founding, SillyMonks had raised angel funding from film producer Korrapati Ranganatha Sai, who’d produced films such as S.S. Rajamouli’s Eega. Silly Monks now also co produces movies, and had raised an additional Rs. 3 crore in 2016.
But most importantly, Silly Monks’ IPO, apart from adding to the small list of IPOs in the Indian startup ecosystem, will also encourage India’s nascent digital media industry. Several new age firms were launched in the space in the recent past, but few are making profits — ScoopWhoop had run up losses of Rs. 6.5 crore last year, YourStory’s losses were Rs. 8.7 crore, and even established companies like Huffington Post had laid off employees. But Reddy believes that digital is the future. “Just like television took over from the print medium in the late 1900s in its ability to effectively reach out to the masses, so would the Internet gradually replace the ‘idiot box’ to a great extent,” he says. And Silly Monks has shown that if done correctly, digital can make money too.