Overseas markets fuel growth for Shemaroo

MUMBAI: Home video major Shemaroo is reasonably optimistic about the future. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly is the fact that they have been able to penetrate overseas markets. The second is the emergence of new media platforms.

Speaking to Shemaroo VP Hiren Gada says that 2006 has been a year of consolidation in existing businesses and expansion into the overseas territory and film production. "We expect revenue growth of 25-30 per cent. A key reason for this is that the overseas market has grown. The US, UK and the Gulf region are our top three markets. Mostly the Hindi blockbusters fare well there. In some territories we distribute films ourselves using our network. For others we have deals with local firms."

Talking about the titles that have fared well he mentions Phir Hera Pheri, Omkara, Sardar, 15 Park Avenue in the Hindi genre. Among regional titles those that did well included the Gujarati titles Kanti Tofane Chadyo, Bas Kar Bakula as well as the Punjabi title Jijaji. Gada adds that song compilations are also important in terms of adding variety to Shemaroos offerings.

Shemaroo about a year and a half back got into the business of distributing English films. The titles Gada says are from independent firms like Pathe, Lakeshore Entertainment and Imageworks Entertainment. That is a business where he sees some potential for growth. In total each month the company releases 15-20 titles which include 10-12 Hindi titles (including New Releases, catalogue and song compilations), 4-5 regional titles (Gujarati/Marathi) and 2-4 English titles.

Venturing into Television: Shemaroo Gada says us looking at the television arena. "We are soon releasing the most popular comedy serial to ever run on Indian Television Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi next year. We are also looking at releasing other similar products in this genre."

Shemaroo he adds has in the past ventured into sports genre with the release of India-Pak Samsung Cup 2004 Series, Really Bend It Like Beckham (Soccer coaching) and Brian Lara 400 Not Out.

Battling Piracy: One bugbear not just for Shemaroo but for the Indian film industry is piracy. Shemaroo has brough down the gap betwen theatrical release of films and their home video release. " We release Super Hit Films after 8-10 weeks of them being in cinema halls. Hits are reelased after six weeks, semi hits after four weeks and for filsm that perform averagelly at the box office there is a two week gao.

" The shorter release window has helped to fight piracy only marginally as early availability of pirated copies before the original home video release has not stopped. Indian consumers still prefer to watch the film on pirated copy as soon as it is available. Stronger cooperation from the government and the police force will help. There is only so much that we as a company can do to fight the menace."

To fight piracy Shemaroo has taken the following measures:

1) It has formed an in house Vigilance Team which conducts raids across India to seize pirated copies and liaisons with Police and other Government bodies to punish the pirates.

2) It also looks to offer the consumers more value for their money in terms of superior packaging, additional features in DVD, giving free merchandise like T-shirts and watches, making Value For Money combo packs.
3) It offers special discounts during festive seasons and special promotional offers.

4) It has also reduced the prices of select VCD titles from its catalogue and deep catalogue to Rs 66/ 88/99 MRP levels to make home videos affordable for the masses.

The New Media Opportunity: Gada is well aware of the fact that new platforms like DTH, IPTV offer an opportunity for the firm. He says that Shemaroo is already talking to some players in the market to offer titles. He notes that in a couple of years time these new platforms will be an important revenue source.

As he points out, "We recognise that new platforms and media are opening up new ways of reaching the consumer. We are one of the largest bollywood content houses and we provide a ready pool of content available for various new and emerging media platforms. We are in talks with all the major players entering this field and should be signing up with a few in due course."

At a time when competition for the film viewers attention is growing innovative marketing is key. Gada points to several innovations done in the past. "For Phir Hera Pheri we created a special trade box containing 25 VCDs which also had a free T- Shirt plus Free Gift plus lucky surprise gift. For the home video release of Sardar we organised a launch function in Delhi where Honorable Civil Aviation Minister Mr. Praful Patel launched the film on VCD and DVD. For Omkara we made special standees, counter tops and bookmarks as the film was based on William Shakespeare's play Othello."

Shemaroo has also tried to be innovative in terms of how it packages its products. "Shemaroo has always been the first mover in terms of innovative packaging and special features. Shemaroo has released many titles which are Collector' Editions with innovative packaging based on the theme of the title with UV, embossing, special booklet on trivia related to the title, etc.

"Also most of the Shemaroo new release DVDs have special features/bonus DVDs containing have making of the film, interviews with cast and crew, theatrical and TV trailers, etc. For example the Sardar DVD had original speeches of Sardar Patel, footage of Sardar Patel Memorial, interviews of key people involved in the making of the film, a booklet containing Sardar's Chronology, exclusive photo gallery with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, etc. The Omkara DVD had a 10 page booklet containing trivia and other facts related to the film."

As far as producing films for theatrical release is concerned Gada says that the next film tentatively titled Manorama will be out next Summer. Each year it is looking at releasing two to three films. Omkara had been reelased under the Shemaroo banner this year. Gada says that the films will be a mix small, medium and large budget films. The idea is to appeal to different audience segments.

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