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We are local but investing for national and global success: Aha's Ajit Thakur

The Telugu OTT will add one more language this year.

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KOLKATA: Regional has been a buzzword for quite some time now but there were few hyperlocal platforms gaining national prominence. Among all the language-specific platforms launched last year, Telugu OTT Aha has already hogged the limelight. The platform which crossed 10 lakh paid subscribers in less than a year is now ready to foray into Tamil streaming this year and one more language early next year, as well as up its efforts in the international market.

Aha CEO Ajit Thakur says capital inflow into the platform is up 100 per cent this year given its entry into more languages. “In terms of investment, we are not holding anything back. We will be very aggressive. We will leave no stone unturned in terms of content, marketing, and product. We are local but we are investing for national and global success,” he asserts.

Looking back on Aha’s first year of operations, Thakur says it has been fantastic in terms of all parameters including subscription, market share, market awareness. He claims that the platform is 2X-3X ahead of the target it set for March.

Aha was the top OTT brand in Telugu in January, according to a brand study. The platform has crossed 50 million plus streaming users, and touched 25 million unique users. The team is quite satisfied with these numbers because it is SVoD, and priced at Rs 365. While other competitive national players are priced in the same range, they have diverse content in their bouquet unlike Aha which currently caters to content in only one language.

The three factors which have led to this success are personalisation, content curation and content acquisition, and aggressive marketing, details Thakur. The platform entered the market in early 2020 but due to the unprecedented Covid2019 crisis, it had to push back some of its plans. With production resuming in September, Aha was back on track to lure one of the largest entertainment markets in India.

Thakur also highlights some interesting trends – Aha is getting viewers from all areas, not only metros and tier-1 cities, as OTT is now penetrating all markets much better. More women viewers are increasingly taking to the platform. Another significant shift in consumption pattern is that a number of new users are consuming content through smart TVs and connected devices compared to pre-Covid era, when most viewers were coming from mobile devices.

While Covid2019 helped in growth of OTT, it also hampered the original content production process. After a pause of six months, the platform started full-fledged shooting in October. Hence, it is gradually catching up on its backlog. In 2021, Thakur promises to have one premier every week without any further disruption.

The next wave of OTT growth is coming from the hinterlands of India. The annual media and entertainment report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) published in late 2020 states that 35-40 per cent of the consumption on streaming services happens in local languages. Even the hours of original content in vernacular languages have gone up by 3X in 2020 from 2018.

However, the consumption of Aha is not limited among the Telugu speaking market. Thakur notes that Bangalore and Chennai are among its top ten hotspots. It is noticing significant growth in the international market too, especially in the US, Canada, and Australia despite the fact that foreign viewers still account for less than five per cent of overall viewership. After a promising start, Thakur is optimistic that the platform will break even in less than half the time they estimated earlier, albeit not giving out a definite figure. Notably, Aha promoter Ramu Rao Jupally said in September 2020 that it would be able to break even within three-four years post debut.

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