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India on a global reelout

A FICCI-E&Y study finds Indian content makers are establishing themselves abroad and trends show that they will tighten their grip further. Saurabh Turakhia tells us more...

business Updated: Oct 23, 2007 22:31 IST
Saurabh Turakhia

A report recently released by FICCI and Ernst & Young, titled “Indian Content on the Move”, values the overseas market for Indian entertainment content at US $200 million. It also predicts that this value will increase by over 20 per cent every year. Since globalisation started blurring boundary lines between nations, Indian content makers have not lost time focussing their attention on tapping the potential that popular Indian content has outside India.

According to the report, The Namesake, produced in collaboration with Hollywood's Fox Searchlight and Japanese company Entertainment Farm, earned $ 13 million from the US alone. The film released with a total of 1,000 prints, a lot more than a blockbuster Bollywood film usually releases with.

Rajjat Barjatya, managing director of Rajshri.com, confirms the big opportunity: "There are 25 million NRIs spread all over the globe. Plus, there are 25-30 million non-Indians regularly consuming Indian content – including Sri Lankans, Russians and Egyptians." Even Finland has close to 15,000 Indian families, he adds.

There are three primary windows of opportunity: the first is content that is typically Indian. The second, content revolving around Indian themes such as mythology and culture that appeals to global audiences. The third opportunity is in getting across content to content-deficient geographies—for example, a demand-supply gap in animated content in the CIS region, Middle East and Africa.

Indian content companies, smelling the opportunities overseas, have swung into action consciously. Yashraj and Reliance-Adlabs have set up distribution arms overseas; UTV Motion Pictures has set up one local office in UK and two in USA, managed by those well-versed with local demographics and sensibilities; Mukta Arts while serving markets like USA, UK and Middle East currently, has earmarked Spain, Austria and Germany as emerging markets. Sony Entertainment Television and Zee Group are also making their content available in nations other than USA and UK.

Besides such physical presence initiatives, Rajshri.com and Reliance's Bigflicks.com have taken initiatives to make content available on broadband. These operate in the content-on-demand model, wherein broadband subscribers can either watch a movie through free streaming or download to their computers for a fee. <b1>

These are still early efforts, though, given the potential, aver experts. Farokh T. Balsara, partner, national sector leader, media & entertainment, Ernst & Young India, explains, "The involvement of the marketing team has to be right since the early stages of film-making." He adds that all marketing touchpoints—film festival screenings, blogs and the like—have to be tapped in order to create good awareness. Ashok Rajgopal, partner, Ernst & Young, gets more specific: "The first step is to identify the potential consumption pockets where our content would be demanded. The profiling has to be done accurately. The next step would be to make content available either through adequate number of prints or through DVDs and broadband."

Barjatya believes broadband is promising in “making content available legally.” He says, "Companies should seriously explore the online medium as in one stroke, it helps one to reach to the global net audience. Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun has recorded 4,40,000 views. Mahabharat, the television epic serial, surpasses it with over five million views and remains the single most popular content."

Current marketing efforts are also quite defined. Amrita Pandey, AVP, international marketing & syndication, UTV Motion Pictures, says, "In our studio model, marketing is involved right from the project development stage. Marketing works on the look and feel, communication, PR, key art for the film right from the time principal photography starts, even in terms of brand associations, visibility in film/out of film, initiated at the script stage. We use research at every stage of our movies, an important tool for marketing strategy."

It is unlikely that any film-maker would today not factor in tapping the international markets for his/her film, even if the film is primarily focused on the Indian market. Already, collections at the box offices are taking into account foreign earnings besides the Indian, giving film-makers a breather from just the Indian returns on investment. A number of film producers, in fact, are not overtly perturbed if their films’ India reception is lukewarm, if their international earnings are decent.