Startup Saturday: Creating quality content on YouTube in order to pay bills
Why would you get into a venture that has everyone and his uncle doing the same thing? What is the need gap one can fill in the already overcrowded market of You Tube films? Seems like entrepreneurial suicide? But wait. You have to look deeper and you will find the gaps. Like Sandeep Saxena did. “I was on a holiday to Kerala with my family when my sister-in-law started filming our resort. Her husband held the mobile phone and she was jumping around the place talking about it. So I thought why is she doing this, surely there must be enough and more films on Kerela resorts?”
And surprise! There wasn’t a single film on YouTube that gave any idea about the particular resort. And that was Saxena’s eureka moment. He has always been an entrepreneur at heart even though he was working with Persistent Systems at one point in time. Earlier he had set up Acton Biotech that did genetic tests to help patients find out if certain medications would work for them. “But I shut that business down. The mistake I made in that venture was not to take a salary. Even after I got an angel investor I was taking just Rs 25,000 per month and was surviving on my wife’s salary and loans. As a result I spent a lot of time running around to pay back these loans rather than on my business.”
Sandeep figured out that though the You Tube content is too full of content, there is a dearth of films on local tourist spots. “There are many people posting films on YouTube but most of these are from countries like say Switzerland that has a population of 10 million. And most of the films are in English, German, French or some European language. And the films are on technology, automobiles, fitness, fashion, dance, food and so on.
“There isn’t much content on travel. We now have 500 million people with access to the Internet in India. But these people are not neccesarily English speaking. Content is required in Indian regional languages like Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Odia, Bengali etc.” A fact he quickly realized after he made his first film that got very few hits. “People are hungry for regional language content,” he said.
So what did it take to set up Hapy India?
Saxena said that it is very simple. “Technology has made it so easy. It is possible to make a film with just your mobile phone. But then that would be very amateurish. There are professional films made by TV and film production houses that use fancy camera and equipment. So to make a small corporate film, it will cost you nothing less than a lakh of rupees. I make films which are of semi-professional quality. When I decided to set up this business three months ago, I invested Rs 50,000. I got an angel investor who funded me with Rs 25 Lakhs,” he said.
Saxena bought a Go Pro camera which could be set up on the windscreen of the car. “Even through potholes, it does not give you a shaky picture. I learnt editing and write my own scripts and record the voice over on my cell phone at night when the world sleeps. The quality is really good and it takes only Rs 10,000 to produce a short film.” Saxena had a stint with journalism earlier.
The Business Model
Producing films is one thing and selling them quite another. “That’s true. But in the three months that we have been up and running we have made 25 films and have got four customers. My model is very simple. I can make a film for you, which you can upload on your site or wherever you wish to broadcast it. My USP here is that I can make it with as little as Rs 10,000 compared to an ad agency that will charge Rs 1 lakh.” He carries the cost advantage that makes him an attractive proposition.
Using technology, he offers more to his clients. “When we wanted to film a beach resort or one near the Mulshi dam, I realised that this could not be done with just a camera. So I roped in a drone guy who charges me Rs 10,000 for a day and we can film anything we want. The client gets very happy with the results.”
Sandeep also uses affiliate marketing to increase revenue. “I can film a place and then say I used a Samsung phone, or Lenovo or whatever. These people depending on how many eyeballs I conquer will pay me. He also makes films for a builder who is willing to use his channel and services.”
He aims to reach 4000 hours of watch time and a 1000 subscribers when he will be able to monetise the channel. So far he has touched 600 hours. Says Sunil Kumar, his investor, “I found this non linear form of revenue generation exciting. If you have any business you will make money as long as you produce the product or service. But with this business you will make money even after you stop production. The films will generate revenue every time someone watches it which can be forever.”
So far Sandeep has not hit break-even but aims to do so in a few months’ time.
“So far we have created videos on cruises, beaches, resorts, villas, forts, rope ways and statues. We plan to cover festivals, folk dances, shopping destinations, temples, adventure activities soon. We plan to get to one video a day. Pune is my test market. I want to go all over India, to Jammu & Kashmir, Jaipur, Calcutta, Chennai everywhere and create content in as many regional languages as possible.
Sandeep plans to tie up with people across the country. “Last time I asked my investor’s driver to do a film for me in Ahemdabad. He did it. I need the raw film that I will edit. The script will be translated using Google and for as little as Rs 200 for a 5 minute voice over, there are people who will record it using their phones in different languages. But isn’t he worried that people may steal his idea and post similar videos themselves? “No. If that were the case then everyone would be doing it. It’s not just about posting videos. It’s also about attracting eyeballs. It’s about selling your services to a person who is willing to pay. It’s about being able to write a script, film it, edit it, record it. Not many people can do all of these things.
“In future we are looking at making short films, documentaries and also low budget feature films. The whole scenario of Over The Top or video on demand has changed with Net Flix, Amazon Prime Hotstar, Zee5, ALTBalaji and SonyLive all competing for eyeballs and content. There is a lot of work in the creative and advertising space as well. We plan to engage with lots of brands and sponsor as we go forward.