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1000 hours of original content a year is our target: Hoichoi's Vishnu Mohta

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The Bengali content market may not be spoken of much, but it is not without its share of audience. There are 258 million Bengali speaking people around the world, and this is the target for the latest kid on the block. Hoichoi, a Bengali OTT platform was launched on 20 September 2017 by Shree Venkatesh Films, a Kolkata-based media company.

Hoichoi means positive activities happening around you. The ad-free platform has already launched seven original web series and three more are lined up for this month. Co-founder Vishnu Mohta, who has been with SVF since a decade, speaks to Indiantelevision.com’s Kirti Chauhan about the growth and future plans of the platform.

What was the thought behind launching a Bengali OTT platform?

We wanted to give our customers high-quality Bengali entertainment and the market was ready for it. Currently, India is equipped with all the ingredients to make content available over the internet with a ready to serve system, availability of bandwidth, cheap data, digital payment friendly generation and a smartphone handy generation. It was the right time to provide content for people to consume on their smart phones and set top boxes, which include internet, connected devices like – Apple TV, Roku TV, Amazon Fire TV, etc.

Where all are the Bengali audiences located?

India and Bangladesh contribute the largest Bengali community. In India, the Bengali speaking community is around 90 million, wherein, Bangladesh has a population of around 160-170 million Bengali expats and rest of the world has a Bengali diaspora between 5-8 million.

Currently, 30-40 per cent of Indian population has access to the internet. However, in the coming five years, the number will double, which will include the crowd of tier II and III cities. This new internet user will prefer to consume content in his vernacular language. 75 per cent of the new internet users will come from rural India, of which 75 per cent want to consume content in their local language.

What would make a person pick Hoichoi over others?

Our experience of over 20 years has enabled us to understand the needs of the Bengali people, which will be visible through our original content. Apart from this, we have the largest collection of the best in Bengali entertainment that is not available on any other platform. We are offering 360 degree entertainment – movies, original shows and in the future, it will be music streaming. We have started with over 500 movies, 1000 songs and 10 original shows in Bengali language.

What type of content does the Bengali community like to watch?

They are an evolved audience. They like to watch mystery shows and films, horror movies, mass films, documentaries and much more. They have an ability to absorb different genres of content.

What are the new shows in pipeline?

We are coming up with a stand up comedy show called ‘Stand up’, then another show is ‘Bhutu Re’ which is an investigative story around a haunted house and the third one is ‘Bouma Detective’ where a housewife will be playing the role of a detective. We have 4 shows for November and December too.

You have kept different subscription charges for Indian and global audiences. Will the same pricing be applied in Bangladesh, which economically weaker than India?

Our subscription charges for Indian audiences are Rs 399 for 12 months, Rs 249 for six months and Rs 149 for three months. Internationally we have kept the charges around $8.99 per month and $79.99 per year. The international audience is ready to pay for content since they are already in the habit. We haven’t come up with subscription charges for Bangladeshi audiences yet but it won’t be very different from India.

Will there be any content specifically catering to Bengali audience of Bangladesh?

We are in process of buying and creating content for Bangladeshi audience. We are creating 2 feature films in Bangladesh, likely to release next year.

Why did you choose ViewLift for technology over Brightcove, Kaltura or Diagonal Technologies?

We wanted to work with an experienced company that is aware of current technological demands of the Indian market, since we are new to digital. ViewLift is specifically working on this technology from the past 10 years and has already launched similar platforms worldwide. We are the first Indian company to have worked with ViewLift. Other technology providers like Brightcove, Kaltura and Diagonal are best in content management system. They are a platform itself and you can build on top of it but can’t provide an end-to-end customisation.

Why you did not choose in-house technology option?

It would have been a time-consuming experience for us if we had taken the in-house technology option. There was a possibility of making mistakes in the beginning while dealing with the learning of new technology. We did not want to make any mistake in the beginning and so decided to take an expert as our technology partner for best results.

What is the average time spent on Hoichoi?

We have just begun and within a month, the average time spent on Hoichoi is around 39-40 minutes.

How large is your team?

Hoichoi is a collaboration of three separate teams. We have 300 experts working for SVF, some of whom are actively engaged in the development of Hoichoi. We have 35-40 people of ViewLift working with us. And, Hoichoi separately has a team of 30-35 experts. Altogether, 200 people are working for Hoichoi.

What are your future targets?

Our ambition is to create 1000 hours of original content every year, i.e., three hours per day. In addition, we are targeting to launch two shows every month.

Q. When and what are you planning to bring for kids in your library?

Kids as a separate genre on Hoichoi will likely be seen early next year. It will be a combination of acquired/curated and created content. Satyajit Ray has written various interesting stories catering to kids. We are planning to translate them in animation for our kids.

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