Indus Media Entertainment to enter film and TV production in India

MUMBAI: The film and television industry in the country is all set to get fresh infusion of funds from Singapore?s Indus Media and Entertainment (IME) in the form of a venture capital (VC) fund worth Rs 75 crore. IME is looking at raising capital to invest in Hollywood films, south Indian films and producing TV content, with Rs 300 crore as the target and 75 per cent (Rs 225 crore) of it being invested in Hollywood. ?Hollywood has a more structured work environment. There is a completion bond as to when will the film be completed as well as the exact amount of expenditure. So it makes sense to enter Hollywood,? says IME co-founder Naveen Chathappuram. 

IME founding director Devarajan Venkat is of the view that India cannot be ignored. ?South Indian films, Tamil and Malayalam, are our first targets and eventually after we make some profit, we will explore the Telugu market as well. Initially we will work with small budgets before moving to larger projects,? he says. Venkat adds that unlike other film producers and private equity funds, IME is here to look at opportunities that make commercial sense rather than pick projects driven by creative compulsion.

Soft commitments worth Rs 90 crore have already been obtained from investors based mainly in the Middle East. Venkat is aware that people are apprehensive of VC funds, especially because this is the first off shore fund in India. Investors are being promised returns of 18 to 20 per cent. 

IME?s other focus is TV production on a global scale. ?The American sitcom market is booming in India, especially amongst the teenage audience. We are looking at creating original concepts that could be adapted into every language,? adds Venkat. IME aims to be genre agnostic but it knows that drama, reality and sitcom are the types that work here informs Venkat. Again, the aim is not on creativity but on commercial viability, he further informs. His own experience of 20 years in finance with the Reliance Group and Balaji Telefilms will ensure that only financially viable projects would be undertaken.

Shows that will be created will be in English but with Indian sensibilities and Indian actors. Venkat believes that just as Indians can connect with American shows with American sensibilities, shows with Indian sensibilities will be gobbled up across the world, especially by the non-resident Indians as well as by Indians themselves. One such show Brown Nation is already under production.

?The objective is dual- to reach out to Indians across the world and also target the niche in India. We don?t want an India exclusive product,? he adds. The show costs are in the rage of approximately Rs 60 lakh per episode or USD 1 lakh. The fact that IME is a global fund will ensure that revenues come from across the globe as only Indian revenues may not be able to sustain the costs.

The fund is expected to launch by September 2014 with nearly 20 investors from across the globe and fund deployment will begin by this year end. Venkat believes that TV is not a business where one could incur loss since IME is looking at creating shows and then selling them. But IME?s focus is higher on films because of the glamour factor.

IME?s offices are currently located in Singapore, Chicago and Chennai with an extension being made to Mumbai shortly. The fund will be based out of Mauritius. On the board of directors are Venkat, Chathappuram, Charles Leslie, Ramu Veerappan, T Jeyananth and PAR Subramaniam.

Projects currently being worked upon are Night of the Living Dead which will see actor R Madhavan enter Hollywood and a Malayali movie featuring Fahad Fazil.

Other existing domestic VC funds are Third Eye Cinema Fund and soon to launch Bend It Media Fund.

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