Influencer Marketing Firm Ykone Acquires Indian Firm Barcode

MILAN — Leading European influencer marketing firm Ykone has looked East to further boost its scope and reach.

The company said Tuesday that it has acquired a 70 percent stake in Indian content and influencer marketing agency Barcode, reflecting its international ambition and the opportunities offered by the brisk Indian influencer market.

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Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed but Ykone Group’s chief executive officer Olivier Billon characterized the acquisition as the largest to date in the Indian influencer marketing space.

“A majority of our clients hail from the luxury industry, making it impossible for us to overlook India’s astonishing growth in this sector,” Billion told WWD.

According to Bain & Co., India’s luxury market value is expected to skyrocket to $200 billion by 2030. This combines with an estimated social media audience of 500 million people in the country.

“Not only Barcode understands the Indian market, but it also accelerates its dynamics,” Billon offered. “Being a partner of companies like YouTube and Meta, Barcode plays a major role in the adoption of social media from a brand perspective,” he added.

Founded in 2019 by Rahul Khanna, Barcode has rapidly grown into a stronghold of influencer marketing in India, representing through its talent management division known as Click Media such famous personalities as Rohit Zinjurke and Karishma Sharma. In 2022 the company received the Influencer Marketing Agency of the Year 2022 – Large award.

According to Khanna, “Ykone’s stronghold in the European Union, U.S. and United Arab Emirates markets is a propellant for Barcode’s journey to the world with our multifaceted talents and influencers. Our vision has come into fruition through this acquisition by bringing creative powerhouses together to dominate influencer marketing globally as the market leader. We share the same values and vision of seamless integration of human and technology to service brands and users.”

The Barcode founder highlighted how ingrained social media usage is within Indian society. “Every Indian is inherently a creator today, thanks to our rich film and content industry and the booming influencer economy,” he said, adding that the country has the highest global base of social media content creators, with the number reaching 100 million last year.

Barcode is Ykone’s third acquisition, following that of a 51 percent interest in Milan-based digital communication agency MB New Media Agency, owned by Matteo Baldi and which includes the Bold Management talent firm, in 2021 and of German agency Cover Communications, helmed by Anne Höweler, a year later.

Founded in Paris in 2008, Ykone boasts offices in Berlin, in addition to Paris; Milan; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Geneva; Munich; Miami; Las Vegas; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Bangalore, India, and Tunis, Tunisia.

In 2022 Saudi Arabian company BinDawood Holding Co. acquired an 80.5 percent stake in Ykone through its wholly owned subsidiary Future Technology Retail, nabbing the 70 percent stake owned by TF1 Group, a French leader in content production, publishing and distribution, and the other 10.5 percent interest from minority investors. Billon, as well as Baldi and Höweler, CEOs of Ykone Italia and Ykone Germany, respectively, maintained minority ownership of Ykone Group alongside other top managers.

Industry sources pegged that transaction at 50 million euros.

Since the sale Ykone’s network-building agenda geared at growing its size, scope and reach has seen the opening of a second U.S. outpost in Las Vegas, while a new unit is to bow in London. Billon told WWD that he expects the Barcode-including Ykone to hit 100 million euros in revenues this year.

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