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With the Metaverse market estimated to hold an $8 trillion opportunity over the next five years, fashion brands are going big on this next big thing, so stay relevant at their game. Is it an opportunity for smart companies or a bubble? During a ‘Metaverse – From Fantasy to Reality’ panel discussion on Fortune India‘s 40 under 40 awards today Vignesh Selvaraj, founder of TardiVerse, says it is an opportunity and the next age of the internet. “If you take the Internet. People were afraid of how data will be transferred. After the pandemic, virtual reality and extended reality, I think metaverse will be the next big opportunity where people don’t want to travel or have a different experience. Like going to a supermarket goes and finds predefined clothes. But in the metaverse you can find any kind of design and you can customize everything yourself.”

Shuvadip Banerjee, chief digital marketing officer, ITC, says the metaverse is certainly not a bubble to burst. “We have moved from an information economy to a platform economy. Now we are moving towards a property economy, so we become co-owners. It helps in decentralizing the entire data or monopoly in a particular platform space. It also brings a whole new consumer experience. The immersive experience possible in the metaverse will encourage much more brand building. “

Ramkumar Subramaniam, CEO and co-founder, GuardianLink, thinks metaverse is an extension of social media and the online world. “Last year about $57 billion was invested in the metaverse and this year we’re halfway there and almost $120 billion has already been invested. Brands see this as a much more immersive experience. So if someone builds NikeWorld and someone spends two hours in NikeWorld, it’s two hours of ads that Nike puts on you. You don’t see an experience like that anymore these days. The experience is going to be much more immersive and much more practical. What you can do with it is entirely up to your imagination. According to their ethos brands try to build something of their own in this space.’

Neeraj Roy, founder of Hungama, says the metaverse has three to four components. “Our journey as consumers into the metaverse started when we started doing ani-moji or simple emojis. There will be more virtualization (in the future). I read this as a journey from the internet to a more persistent virtual world. there’s going to be a whole space of big data, which means whatever happens, there’s data and computers taking place. We’re physically here today with six. I’m envisioning a scenario not too long into the future, maybe four years, where we maybe have 2-4-20 avatars of us and you, because of the whole space of Web 3, have control over that avatar or the data being asked. AI will create different learning experiences.”

Puneet Das, president of Tata Consumer Products, says the metaverse is an amalgamation of the physical and virtual worlds. “It’s a natural progression into the future. You distinguish between hype and real trend by looking from a consumer lens. The virtual and physical worlds will overlap, enhancing the experience and so it’s a great opportunity.”

As for what kinds of business models are likely to appear in the metaverse, GuardianLink’s Subramaniam says he thinks it starts with entertainment. “Music concerts, events like this (Fortune India 40 Under 40 Awards) will take place on the metaverse. Gaming would be a great business model. E-commerce and food e-commerce are also going to be big things.”

Hungama MD Roy says his company is developing a marketplace across the four industries of entertainment, gaming, art and fashion in which NFTs are a gateway to the metaverse. “In the next four to five years, almost every existing business model will need to be realigned to embrace this change.”

TardiVerse CEO Vignesh Selvaraj says entertainment is the first key to dragging people into the metaverse. “Without people, the metaverse is nothing. We are attracted to entertainment movies, cricket, etc. Let’s take the movies. In the metaverse, it will be more than looking at the screen, it will be more like being around Shah Rukh Khan. People don’t want to travel. In the future, people will be lazy when it comes to travel. More than money, time will be their most important thing.”

In India, most brands use the metaverse as a marketing tool. Globally, some brands are already moving 2-5% of their digital spend to the metaverse. Will the space see a lot of marketing money allotted to metaverse?

Das from Tata Consumer Products says that all good ideas start with the consumer. “We came from Covid and there was uncertainty. In that context, we said how can we recreate the Holi experience for people? That’s how the metaverse thought just came in. We launched the Holi metaverse for Tata tea Premium, where people could avatar and were able to participate in Holi. We have been in touch with some influencers. The point is that brands want to interact with consumers in a more differentiated way. This is a natural evolution. Brands have to be daring, try something from a use case and then decide about the experience they want to give the consumer.”

ITC’s Banerjee also sees it as an evolution. “We’ll see what new unlocks can happen. But stepping back, similar conversations took place in 2010-12 when we talked about why someone should come to an ecommerce site to buy a pack of things. Then the conversation turned to why branding on social media, and not on TV? The same is happening now.”

The metaverse world is part of the Web 3.0 ecosystem, which means that a consumer can not only communicate and buy, but also own it. But wow prepared is India Inc for Web 3.0? Selvaraj of Tardiverse says in India that the internet can be an obstacle in many areas. “5G and 6G will enable the capabilities of the metaverse much faster.”

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