Without an excellent delivery channel, the experience of the audience falls flat believes Ajay Chacko, the co-founder of Arre


By satyam nagwekar

Jy Chacko finds his chi in growing brinjals on farmland on the outskirts of Mumbai. The former COO of Network18 is not only a technology savant but also an accomplished writer and authors many articles on the platform. “We believe in keeping up with the technology landscape but we balance that with the pay-off in the short to long term. Any technology upgrade that directly aids customer experience, acquisition and revenue improvement will be prioritised and invested in,” Chacko said.
Arré is uniquely an open OTT platform. That is, the original content that it creates is distributed and available across a range of platforms such as Jio Cinema, Ola Play, Yupp TV, and SonyLIV besides Arré’s own site, apps, and social media channels. “To that extent, we are able to scale quickly in terms of reach and users in a cost-efficient manner wherein our technology investments are limited to our own site and apps (IOs and Android),” he added. Arré’s partner platforms are among the leading platforms in India. “We generally align ourselves on upgraded technology as a group. For instance, if Facebook or Ola Play introduces a new feature, we would be one of the preferred partners to pilot the feature with.”

Guarding against obsolescence
In a bid to stay ahead of the technological curve, Arré’s efforts are directed in two areas- refactoring its infrastructure to incorporate newer or improved services (better video player, improved cloud offerings) and adopting standards that benefit its platforms, including Facebook instant articles, YouTube Live, and Google AMP.

Arré started off as a pure publishing website with a social media presence and its transformation is still ongoing. “We are expanding the scope of our offerings to customers that result in an ongoing evolution of the platform—we launched two content verticals in the last six months, Arré Outdoors and Arré Earworm. There are more to come in quick succession. The second area of focus is ensuring our systems at the backend are compatible with the latest developments at Facebook, YouTube, and other OTT platforms like Instant Articles, specific apps for Amazon Fire TV, and Ola Play. Evolving customer experience on our own site with respect to streaming, playback, and other user-engagement-related features is also a focus area,” he pointed out.
Being a daily consumer-facing product, Chacko believes that the UI/UX of the site is the most important aspect of the company’s technology, especially in the early stage of Arré. The company was fully focused on creating an interface that was at par with or better than some of the global players. “We believe this is a significant differentiator and continue to focus on it.” The ground work involved planning day-to-day work along with newer initiatives, a tight delivery schedule, and managing all the work within a fixed budget.

The execution
Arré’s UI/UX strategy and implementation was developed with France and NewYork-based design agency Area17, which has worked with many leading global publications such as The Atlantic and Vice. “This was a long nine-month project,” Chacko reminisced. “They continue to support us on a need-basis.”

Arré’s backend for the website and mobile apps was developed and managed by a technology outfit based out Hyderabad called Monocept. A custom-created video player by Monocept called Video365 is being used. “We work closely with our cloud vendors and third-party service providers to make sure we keep the platform up to date.”

Its partnership with Facebook enables Arré to come in early to pilot various new features, Instant Articles and video monetisation, that the social media company launches. A continuous challenge for Arré was to keep technology—new initiatives and ongoing site improvements—at the same pace as the growth in its content and users without compromising on the processes while being cost efficient.

Plenty of training is now available effectively online with global players putting out effective ‘self-help’ documentation and, hence, a lot of training is on-the-job. “Besides, we work very closely with all the leading platforms whether it is Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon Fire TV that have hand-held us quite well with respect to implementing newer technology,” Chacko added.

The reasons behind the constant quest to build and improve its technology are many. “We are in a very competitive space with very good content being created all around us. Great content is important. Without an excellent delivery channel that an audience in any age group can consume easily, however, the experience falls flat. We want to ensure that not only do we create great content, we also make it available to our audience in the manner and form they would like to consume it.”
Arré’s competitive edge lies in the user experience of its site and apps that bring the content alive. The platform’s approach to distribution, with it being an open OTT platform, is a smart way to be on the fast-moving side of the technology curve without the scale of investment. For now, the strategy seems to be well and truly working.

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