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It’s the Best Time for OTT Players to Invest in Technology & Digital Content: Vishal Maheshwari, India Head, Vuclip

No doubt about so many fish in the sea but we see it as a race against time of the viewer, our biggest competition is the attention of the viewer which he might like to put in somewhere else. More players are sure to bring more traction digitally.

The Indian audiences have an exotic flavor of content and have been glued to the television largely for about two decades now. However, the youth of the country has been craving for high quality and exclusive viewing of the content for quiet sometime. In other countries people were exposed to watching shows digitally and enjoy gripping stories on platforms such as Netflix etc.

However, for India this is a phase of transitioning from TV viewing to video on demand (VOD) channels or shows. OverTheTop (OTT) video content providers have gained considerable market share due to the boom in mobile data and broadband. The growth of 4G will only accelerate customers’ ability to receive and enjoy such video content. Entry of global players like Amazon Prime in Indian market will further boost the sector and get more people into a habit of paying to watch content online. According to IAMAI, India has more than 460 million Internet users with access to the cheapest data.

The report emphasizes on the fact that 52% of internet users from rural areas access the internet for the prime purpose of entertainment, followed by 39% for social media and 37% for communication.

To understand the rules of the new digital game, BW Businessworld’s Soumya Gupta spoke to Mobile VOD company Vuclip’s India Head, Vishal Maheshwari.

Maheshwari as the country head for India, is responsible for consumer adoption, engagement and monetization in India. As of now, Vuclip claims to have a free user base of close to 20 million and a paying subscriber base of over 5 million in India.

Edited excerpts from the interview-

Q: What has been the vision behind entering the digital content sector, which is seeing many small and big fish diving in right now?
We see immense opportunity in India, where people are adopting the habit of consuming good quality content over the internet. The screens are changing and the mindset is also shifting towards exclusive viewership. Digital is increasingly having more ad-sales revenues as the advertisers are able to target each one of the consumer, separately. Our monetization also depends on how worthy our content is rated at and hence it drives the advertisers to give ads in the middle of the programme once or at the beginning.

Racing rapidly towards the finishing line, mobile video-on-demand service Vuclip has been trying to beef up its programming and hiring fresh talent to facilitate the process. Most popular faces are being reintroduced from the television on to the digital platform, and this is a great concept to bring the TV audiences here without a pinch of unfamiliarity.

No doubt about so many fish in the sea but we see it as a race against time of the viewer, our biggest competition is the attention of the viewer which he might like to put in somewhere else. More players are sure to bring more traction digitally. That’s a good news.

Q: What’s your focus and strategy at the moment, how do you plan to expand, and get the returns on investment?
There has been a focus on regional language content, content needs to grow hugely vernacular and that is what gains traction, recognition and loyalty. We have shows in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Marathi etc to target the young and emerging target group and much more. As of now we are in 17 countries, almost all South-east Asian big markets and we want to be the market leaders close home first.

A year ago, the industry was looked upon as a clone of what was happening in the West – largely aggregated content, movies being played out on a big screen running in a cast mode or stream. However, creating content libraries will not work in the Indian context. The Indian viewers like more lip-smacking & fresh content versus extra content served as a meal. A lot of the content is going to get consumed on the go, that’s for sure.

One thing that we’ve done very well is to operate at the cusp of technology, media and content. We’ve really used that play in the last 12 months to understand the customer and what he wants from a VOD platform. The key insight we have is, there is a difference in the way the customer consumes content on YouTube and what he expects from a VOD platform. He clearly, expects from a VOD player, rich and fresh content in terms of cinematography, script and type of execution.

The young India is ready and looking for edgy, whacky and relatable situations, which he never got on the television, which is more about drama and grandeur. It’s not what an 18 -24 year old wants.

As of now we will continue to be a freemium product. We have a model where 70 % of our content is free and 30 %of our content is behind the paywall. Our monthly subscription is Rs. 99 on Android and Rs. 120 on iOS. We are integrated across carriers, payment wallets and credit cards.

We have also partnered with the larger studios in Tamil and Telugu markets. Annapurna Studios, the largest studios in the Telugu market, have partnered with us to make content and that’s a very deep investment. We want to work with the younger film makers as they understand the younger target audience better.

Q: Which has been the most popular series you have run so far?
Last year, we launched an original series near about the IPL, which was called, “What the Duck?” We got over 50 million views. In fact it has done so well that we are contemplating for a second season very soon.

Q: What kind of advertisers’ associations you have at Viu?
We’ve been careful with how many advertisers we should run on the platform and the kind of which we get on board. We only get brands whose advertising resonates with the youth. Pepsi, Airtel, McDowell’s are some of the brands, and we have taken care of brands’ integration and an interruption-free experience for the consumers too.

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