Chandni Bar 2018?
The attention grabbing virtual experience that is like a dance bar experience and maybe more.
I was at the arrival gates at T2 and noticed the person sitting next to me send hearts flying to a live video that I suspected was a Facebook Live broadcast. He was at it for a very long time as a girl kept singing and talking and gyrating slowly with seductive eyes. After a while, it didn't seem like an FB live or Instagram broadcast, so I asked the man the name of the app he was using.
It was Bigo Live he said and it's used by people to stream live videos. He has been using it for over a year and a half and he asked me to not download it because you make lots of 'friendship' and it will make you spend money. The statutory warning came quicker than when they show smoking on screen these days.
When I asked him why, he said that it was because you have to buy expensive 'cards' to pay or gift the people who are broadcasting to continue communicating, there are levels to clear and before you know it, you are spending more than what you earn. He called it addictive. Then I asked him, if he was only watching what's women or people broadcast or did he go live and broadcast too. He only watched because broadcasting costs too and there are targets for collection if sign up as a broadcaster.
So how does it work and how is it evolving?
Times of India has this article on the app and since it is a newspaper that usually has promoted stories, we can assume that this is the official statement of the app creators. Times of India article.
What is the nature of this business? Please read this long form story about China's selfie obsession.
BiGo Live is a top 10 grosser in China and in India: The inner mechanics of BiGo Live
The Chinese Playbook :
" Chinese investors are betting on a unique insight they’ve gleaned by watching companies in China. They believe that content or communications is the easiest way to reach the user. Once the platform acquires a large number of users, they typically see gaming, microtransactions, and, finally, e-commerce grow on those platforms."
That the attention industry speaking. Here's what I felt.
I am simply reporting my short interaction with him outside the B gate at T2. But what I felt was the loneliness and the boredom in his eyes is something that was seen before. It was in our dance bars many years back. The thing he said about money is something we have seen before too. Earlier, the lonely men of Mumbai used to be lonely in public and try to buy attention with 10 Rupee notes. Now they do it in private.
I checked online and discovered that the app he was using is owned by a Singapore based company and is a copy of what has been a phenomenon in China for a while too. I have been living in a hole and I had no clue that people, especially a taxi driver in Mumbai would be addicted to an app like this and is udaoing his money on girls like in the heady old days of the chamiya bars.
This is one side of the story. The other side of the story will be even more interesting. The stories of people who broadcast and make money. The struggles to become a star and meet targets. What are the social side effects of what they do? Do they get stalked? Do they do it secretly?
I didn't have to wait too long to get an anser. Some time after I posted this image of Instagram, a journalist working on women issues messaged me to say that she is interviewing and meeting girls in hostels and colleges to understand and tell the story of girls who broadcast live using this app. I will share the link to her article once it is online.