GUEST COLUMN: From Juggle To Juggernaut: Localising content for India

There is an unassailable advantage in being the first to do something - there is so much to do that one is spoilt for choices. Opportunities lie aplenty and the emotional response is that of a kid at a candy store. All of us, in the local factual entertainment space, are that kid staring at a world full of temptations and wondering not ‘what to do’ but ‘what ALL to do’.

In many ways, we enjoy this beautiful predicament only because we are blessed to be here at a very opportune time. Television has come a long way from showing the world in graceful grayscale to this universe of 8K video, immersive 3D and augmented reality. From a box in the village enjoying divine status to being carelessly stuffed into jeans pockets, the medium itself has morphed from a product for mass consumption to a service available en-masse with the ability to deliver packets of content with extraordinary precision. The very dynamics of ‘what ALL can be made’ from a stand-point of both feasibility and viability has grown exponentially such that ‘local factual content’ is a business reality in an industry that made its bones by constantly reinventing the meaning of ‘massy’.

The ground rules for factual entertainment were laid decades ago with media mammoths like Discovery, National Geographic and BBC introducing a world that was still not flat and borders were both political and geographical. One may argue that ‘what ALL to do’ is an exaggeration given their long shadow of achievements. Yet, when one takes the eye away from the keyhole that introduced us to factual entertainment and takes a step back, one realises that the door is no longer there! The wide furrow that seemed never ending is but a rut with the entire planet waiting to be tilled and that the narrative even in content has shifted from globalisation to localisation. From trying to stretch and squeeze the world into one commandment, we are thankfully exploring several narratives to experience the world.

It is this shift, in the very fabric of factual entertainment, which has made a channel like Epic a reality. Where an ever-increasing audience is eager to participate in an exploration of their own country in their own language. The urge is to discover an India they grew up seeing through a filter designed for a global audience from a lens crafted especially for them. The journey of factual entertainment has evolved from concept to context.

And in this bountiful harvest available to the local content producer flutters the original question - what is the Indian context? It is as much a cipher as it is rhetorical. The debates, points of views and nitpicking can be endless. It is a minefield that the producer will have to navigate at every step of his creation. But perhaps, it is in this exploration that those who prefer the journey to the destination will revel?

What to create in an Indian context of factual entertainment is an endless potluck and many will indulge; however, give form to this creation is a question that requires us to take a pause and think. The pitfall of making it to the party late is that there is a lot to catch up. From craft and technology to training of personnel in them: the worldview of the producer is fraught with tough decisions and scarce resources especially since the market is global and the competition is with the very Goliaths who invented the game. It is a delicate scenario but with the silver lining that ‘necessity is after the mother of invention’ and jugaad is very much an Indian patent.

For the optimistic local factual entertainment industry, the words ’What next?’ are sweet chimes that may sound the death knell. In a world where exponential progress arrives regularly by leapfrogging off the shoulders of giants, will this beautiful bubble be recorded in history as one of soap or silk?


( The author is a programming head of Epic Channel. The views expressed are personal and Indian need not necessarily subscribe to them. )

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