Indian Instagram Influencers Talk Business, Income and More

How much do Instagram influencers get paid? We talked to some of the top fashion & travel influencers in India to learn about the industry, earnings and the future of this business.

Indian Instagram Influencers earn Business Income paid industry news

The world of blogging is almost as old as the internet itself. Content genres like fashion & travel are very visual in nature, so Instagram is a great platform that lets people showcase their style, experiences and more with pictures and short video formats.

The role of traditional media has evolved. We live in a new era now, where the famous magazines and newspapers have to compete with social media influencers for the attention of their audience, and also the ad budget of brands. That’s because for the average social media user, there’s as much to discover from the post of their favorite influencer as from their favorite magazine.

The Influencer Industry on Instagram

There are 3 types of influencers: mega, macro and micro influencers. The mega influencers are those with millions of followers on a platform, like celebrities. The micro influencers are those with 10K to 100K followers. The in-betweens are the macro influencers, those with 100K to 1 million followers. Even for this category, the list of Indian Instagram influencers is endless.

To understand the business of Instagram influencers, we interviewed some of the top fashion, lifestyle and travel influencers in India, each with a following of 100K or more. The influencers interviewed aged between 24 and 40 years old, and their reach ranged from 140K to 400K followers. For most of the interview subjects, Instagram influencing is their full-time job, and they have been in the business for an average of 8 years.

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Luxury travel & lifestyle influncer @thekrazybutterfly (Veidehi Gite); photographer: Bharath Suthapalli

How Much Do Social Media Influencers Earn in India?

Think of the business of Instagram influencers like a micro-magazine. They invest time and money to create content about a niche, like fashion, travel, fitness, etc. People who want to be in on the latest trends in their area of interest follow them. And brands who want to advertise their latest products want to reach people who have similar interests. So they place an ad with the influencer, sometimes also called a collab or a promotion. The influencers we interviewed reported earning their income through upfront paid IG posts, modeling gigs, affiliate marketing, display ads on their websites and even through other side-businesses like workshops.

Some of them have as high a reach as your average Bollywood movie, making them the perfect platform for product placements for brands. So how much Instagram influencers earn in India? Indian Instagram influencers interviewed with 140-400k followers reported that they charge between ₹5,000 to ₹80,000 per post, and make an average of ₹37,500 per post. They earn an average of ₹11.925 lakhs per year.

Journey & Daily Life of Famous Instagram Influencers

Indian Influencer industry, while still largely unorganized, has already gone through much criticism from the naysayers. The world has called influencers walking billboards for brands, and self obsessed and what not. And yet, people do follow them to know what’s new and trendy. While many post their pictures as a hobby, the business of influencers is a different ballgame altogether.

Also read on OpiniOwn: Fashion Influencers: Fashion’s New Voice or Just Product Catalogs?

But the days when people thought all influencers were hobbyists or self obsessed selfie-clickers are way behind us. And influencers themselves take their job very seriously. The influencers interviewed said that, on an average, they spend 60 hours per week managing their account. They reported doing an average of 63.75 paid IG posts per year, and getting 12 business queries per month. Their client lists include brands like Marks and Spencer, Forever 21, Disney, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Dubai Tourism, and many more.

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Travel influncer @nivedithg (Nivedith Gajapathy) poses for The Westin Hyderabad

The Fame & the Work that Goes Behind It

Top Indian influencers on Instagram receive, on an average, 3000 likes on their posts, and get 48,750 views per reel or video. They reported an average engagement of 3% per post. Whenever a user likes, shares or comments on a post, it’s counted as an engagement. The higher the engagement and reach, the more they can charge from brand collaborations. 50% of the macro influencers we interviewed said they live on the income from their Instagram, and 75% reported that being an IG influencer is their only job.

Not all work content creators do with brands is paid though. In some cases, it’s pro-bono or a barter collaboration. The interviewees reported doing paid to barter work ratio as 70:30 on average. Some mentioned they don’t take up barter work at all.

To grow their following, Instagram influencers have an increasing need to ensure the quality of their content is top-notch. While some of them have nearly the same following as top magazines, it takes a very different skill set to maintain it. Publishing companies have a team to create and post content. However, many IG bloggers have to do it all themselves, including styling, set-design, marketing, business management and more. Some of them have a team of photographers, video-editors or PR managers.

The influencers we interviewed spend up to ₹5.4 lakh on average per year maintaining their Instagram account. Their expenses include camera, marketing, travel, clothing or makeup. Moreover, a 100% of influencers we asked reported having run ads on Instagram. Some have run ads for growing their following and others to promote the paid posts on the demand of their clients. Some of them reported spending upward of ₹10,000 per year on ads. “I place ads on IG every now and then. It allows me to reach specific targeted audience. I have run ads through [Facebook] to gain IG followers. In the last 6 years, I must have spent nearly 8-10 Lakh on marketing my account,” says one.

How Instagram Influencer Business is Evolving in India

The influencers mention that the IG influencer landscape has completely changed since Instagram started. “Initially they were asking if I can make a living out of it,” says travel influencer Nivedith Gajapathy (@nivedithg). “My dad thought I had gone crazy back in 2015 when I left my “real” job to become an influencer,” says another, requesting anonymity. “I wasn’t earning yet but had to spend to produce good content. So he said this isn’t a business, it’s a charity.”

“Earlier in my college days, I used to have to explain to people why I post pictures about my outfits, my fitness and skincare routine,” adds fitness and fashion influencer Shweta Pal (@shwetaapal). “It was difficult to explain it to them back then; now things are easy.”

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Fashion & fitness influncer @shwetaapal (Shweta Pal); photographer: Aman @__.travelographer.__

“Today, Instagram has surpassed 2 billion active users, and with such a large target audience, influencers are making a lot of money from paid brand endorsements,” says luxury travel and lifestyle influencer Veidehi Gite (@thekrazybutterfly).

“This shift has been underscored by Instagram,” she says. “It’s a platform that prides itself on creating fame overnight due to its algorithm-driven feature, which can catapult a nobody into a superstar almost instantly. Being an influencer today typically means posting content regularly to keep a follower base engaged. Then monetizing that audience with revenue streams such as endorsements.”

It’s not all fun and games though. Influencers reported getting a dip of 30-50% in their income during Covid. Moreover, some brands aren’t the best at working with. One even said that they would never want to work with Honda India again. Allegedly, they haven’t made the payment even after four months of the promised date.

The Future of the Indian Influencer Industry

So what does the future hold for these influencers? Well, it’s a growing industry, and many youngsters now wonder how to earn money from Instagram in India. “In every home there’s a creator these days, showing their hidden talents, and that’s a good thing,” says Shweta.

“Since now schools have started adding this as a subject to learn, plus with digital commerce growing exponentially and metaverse coming in, creators are only going to go bigger and bigger,” adds fashion influencer Nishtha Gandhi (@thedramaticdiva).

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Fashion influncer @thedramaticdiva (Nishtha Gandhi)

We asked if being an Instagram influencer is a promising career in 2022 in India, and they all said yes. “It has finally started to garner some respect,” she continues. “However, there are still parents who don’t really understand what we do. I feel there is still a long way to go in terms of organizing this industry and making people understand how respectful and big this is going to be in the next 5-10 years.”

The influencer marketing business is slated to reach ₹2,200 crore in India by 2025. “Well in India, the industry is still nascent and young. It needs to be more organized with better governing rules like in the middle east,” says Nivedith.

Read next:

Evolution of Fashion Blogs: Do People Still Read Them?
Face of Fashion Magazines in the Digital Era: Have Print Magazines Lost Their Edge?

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