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Online presence, a must for TV channels, says PepperMedia’s Radhakrishnan Ramachandran

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MUMBAI: Narendra Modi dreams of a ‘Digital India’ as do many others who are working towards achieving the same goal. One of them is PepperMedia founder and CEO Radhakrishnan Ramachandran.

Ramachandran entered the digital space almost 15 years ago, when it was in its nascent stage. With the launch of India Syndicate, which was later followed by iStream.com, Ramachandran has seen the online video segment grow from scratch in India.

“With iStream.com, we ventured into the world of online video segment with Youtube and established a good platform. Through this initiative we helped the likes of MTV and Colors launch their channels on Youtube. We also worked on MSN videos and Yahoo for Yahoo Cricket. We had raised $5 million from SAIF for launching istream.com as a VOD play. However, had to shut it down in 2013 since the second round of funding didn’t  happen. ,” recalls Ramachandran, adding he didn’t lose faith in the medium and went on to launch his third venture, an MCN, (PepperMedia) with personal financial backing.

Talking about the plans ahead, Ramachandaran says, “The next 12-18 months, our focus will be on Youtube because nobody else has been able to crack the model. Of course, we have Netflix and Hulu aboard but in India, it is only Youtube, which has been able to successfully monetise and hence we will focus on that.”

In the online video segment, where monetisation is the biggest challenge, consumption pattern has changed over the years. Making revenue with plans in place, a startup focused on creating original online video content and building video solutions for brands and media entities, aims to marry content and technology. To achieve the same, PepperMedia recently appointed Milind Naik as its director of technology.

“If you are looking at building a sustainable business model in the MCN space, technology is one of the core accelerators. It will play a key role in simplifying the model for brand managers, by helping them analyse the impact of their video campaigns on platforms like Youtube,” says Ramachandran. He adds, “Our team is building tools, which will help brands monetise.”

The startup is looking at enhancing the MCN model by bringing together TV networks, celebrities, content creators and brands.

“We are powering TV networks on the digital world as we offer them end-to-end solutions and have revenue sharing deal with them. We hope to rope in celebs and create content with them for the virtual world. Content creators are someone, who have the talent to become stars online across languages and platforms,” Ramachandran says.

He further draws concern over the critical issue of getting brands associated with the entire network. “There are two business models – one, the more views you get on Youtube, the more money you get out of it. Second, can we also have a premium model where you can get brands to marry with the content? So, that will be the primary area of focus,” he informs.

For instance, in July 2014, the company had partnered with fashion retail major Megamart to launch an online reality show for designers. Titled ‘Megamart Fashion Designer of the Year,’ the show aimed at discovering the top talent in the fashion designing space in the country.

Being part of the online video ecosystem for a long time now, Ramachandran believes that it is the company’s job to lure brands to open their minds and their purses. “It would mean building tools that would help brands build engaged audiences and monitor their influence metrics. It would also mean creating customised decks for brands that would help them analyse the impact of their video campaigns on platforms like YouTube,” he states.

Nonetheless, he is happy that things have changed and continue to move towards a better phase. Recalling earlier days, Ramachandaran says, “In 2008-2009, it was very difficult to convince TV channels to put their content online. But today most of them have their own video-on-demand platforms. Its good to know that they have realised if they don’t take this route, there is bound to be trouble in the future.”

Citing the example of the West, Ramachandaran believes that over the coming years, the number of people watching content on television will also decrease. “As more and more people consume content on mobile, especially regional content, VoD needs to be on everyone’s game plan and need to tweak their strategy to suit the consumer,” he advises.

Though there is a huge gap between the West and India’s online monetisation system, there is hope as investors are showing interest in the transparent medium. To build sustainable and monetisable concepts, products and global audiences, the year 2015 will play an important role in PepperMedia’s future plans. “If we get brands on board and have the best technology to do so, then MCN will soon go through a purple patch in our country too,” he concludes.

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