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Niche regional OTT player Hoichoi offers Bengali content on iOS, Android and Chromecast

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MUMBAI: As predicted by most observers, regionalisation as well as niche services are coming to the VOD or OTT ecosystem in India. It's happening at a trickle now, but could gain momentum over the next few months. For with its large population of more than a billion mobile users, there is room for more -- for sure. Kolkata-based Bengali entertainment major Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF), is the latest to take the plunge with its OTT play called Hoichoi.

Vishnu Mohta - one of the promoters - who has worked with KPMG Risk Advisory and Lloyds TSB corporate strategy in their London offices, is the driving force behind the new platform which is targeting 220 million Bengalis globally. With original web-series, short films, and documentaries exclusively for Hoichoi in the pipeline, the service will also offer over 500 Bengali Movies and 1000 songs for subscribers. Recently, in the run-up to the Hoichoi launch, SVF had rolled out an innovative social media campaign to promote its upcoming original web series, an adult-comedy, Dupur Thakurpo.

Among the big players in the game figure global players such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, and homegrown startups such as Hotstar, dittoTV, Voot, ALT Balaji and SonyLiv, as well as independent platforms such as TVF Play and Spuul. The congested Indian OTT market has around 32 plus players - some with an overwhelming or exclusive content, some with niche content or pricing plans and others who want to be counted.

SVF, on its part, had selected ViewLift, a global content distribution and monetisation platform, as its technology partner. The VOD service claims to provide the largest collection of the best in Bengali entertainment content on Web, iOS, Android, and Chromecast. ViewLift CTO Manik Bambha states, "Hoichoi is well positioned to capture significant opportunities in the space with a niche offering meant for Bengali consumers. Hoichoi will benefit from our extensive marketing, data and analytics tools that will help them enhance interaction with their audience."

"ViewLift is an expert in the OTT space," says Vishn, who has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Bond University Australia and MSc in International Business from Aston University Birmingham, UK. With enhanced service architecture, extensive data and analytics insights, and global client support, ViewLift delivers high quality video consumption experiences worldwide.

SVF is helmed by Shrikant Mohta, Mahendra Soni and Vishnu. Shrikant is SVF's creative muscle who produced the internationally acclaimed ‘Chokher Bali’ and five other national award-winning films -- 'Raincoat', 'Memories in March', 'Apur Panchali', 'Chotoder Chobi', and 'Chander Pahar'. President of Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA), and an active member of Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), he initiated the shooting of Bengali films abroad.

Under Soni's leadership, SVF distributed almost 900 films including blockbusters like ‘Dangal’, ‘Sultan’, ‘Dabangg’, ‘Ghajini’, ‘'Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, ‘Kahaani 2’, ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Kapoor & Sons’, ‘Neerja’, ‘Airlift’ and Drishyam.’ He also drives satellite and music syndication deals, along with film acquisitions.

Mohta and Soni are pretty gung-ho about Hoichoi. The Indian consumer who has access to OTT entertainment -- with internet penetration around 32-34 per cent today, and one-third owning smartphones -- may well be spoilt for choice, now.

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