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Guest column: Taking Indian content to the global market

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The year 2017 has been a year of paradigm shifts in the wake of Digital India. Over the last couple of years, international OTT and VOD players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc, have been making inroads in the Indian market to unlock the true potential that our increasing digital-first audience provide. Telecom, print, broadcasting, FMCG, and virtually every industry has ventured into the digital space. India’s journey on the digital path saw a rise in the number of homegrown content streaming platforms, with some creating original content and some taking and distributing content from external creators. While it came as a boon to India’s digitally driven audience, there was still a paucity of locally relevant content creators and platforms. On the other hand, short length format shows/series soon began to launch in regional markets as well. Additionally, region specific OTT platforms took shape. These developments assured that not just millennials, but family audiences as well were fed entertaining content on digital that matched their tastes and preferences.

Internet penetration and adoption in India has been at an all-time high. As per the KPMG India - Indian M&E report 2017, currently there are 462 million internet users in the country out of which 82 per cent of them access the web through mobile devices. Competitive mobile data pricing and the overwhelming mass adoption of 4G led to a revolution of gigantic proportions for content creators in the digital space. It positively aided the growth of OTT/VOD platforms and thereby, short format content. However, while we continue to open windows for international players and brands to get more and more access to Indian audiences, either by placing our shows on their platforms or striking partnerships to deliver their content here, the most significant question for me is how far are we actually taking ourselves beyond India and Hollywood?

While India’s vision of digital continues to get served, how is that making a difference to the country’s economy? How far are we expanding our digital footprints beyond existing geographies by leveraging both homegrown and international OTT platforms? The year 2018 might well be a step in this direction which in turn would begin to provide the answers to us. A SWOT analysis for the possibility of this happening in the near future would give some key insights on the plan of action.

Focus on the strength - Content, the driving force

While we speak about the generalisation of Indian content across territories through OTT platforms, a similar example was already set this year. Dangal’s staggering success numbers in other countries and approx Rs 200 crore (fifth-highest earning non-English film in global box office history) in China speaks for itself. A similar fate followed for Secret Superstar. These examples prove the potential that lies for Indian content creators to venture into untapped regions beyond India. These mega movies clearly state that strategy plays a vital role in accomplishing the desired results. India is another key selling factor is the original content curated by every media and entertainment entity which brings a fresh perspective. With such great pool of data that lies with us, only selling it won’t serve the purpose. Where do you sell it and how is what will decide its best outcome.

Understand weaknesses

The major roadblock in venturing into other regions is the language barrier. Upon deciding the target regions, next thing to consider is the national language of the country and whether its audience prefers the global language. Analysing this would mean additions or modifications for dubbing or sub-titles in the content, such that it match the sensibilities of the audience across different languages and sensibilities.

Tap into the right opportunities

India’s rich content resonates well with the masses. We are fed with entertainment from across the world, likewise, there also exists a majority of Indian diaspora in regions where we haven’t made in-roads yet. Evaluating such regions helps tapping onto a ready audience base. In order to expand the reach further, it is very crucial to research about the consumption pattern of the region, the inclination towards short-format content, internet usage statistics, number of mobile device users in that region. The digitally savvy audience looks for great content, be it from any source. A populous region having an audience base with varied tastes automatically ensures effective penetration of content into a newer market.

Evaluate the threats –  adapt a differentiated approach and have an evolving nature

The digital world in itself is quite vast with various existing and upcoming mediums that provide access to entertaining content making it widely available. A stark comparison would be between Asia’s first premium VOD service Hooq and the homegrown platform Voot. Hooq’s strong strategy reflects in its distinguished offering. It serves its customer with varied options to choose from Hollywood, local and regional shows across multiple platforms. On the other hand, Voot has tactfully planned its expansion across geographies in a short span of time. There is this agnostic nature of the players from other territories looking at a similar expansion plan that would increase the competition for Indian content creators to gain visibility overseas. Building a differentiated plan of action and being flexible is the key in such a scenario.

While we analyse the various means by which we can best cater to the potential markets across territories, the digital platforms and content creators should continue to maintain a strong foothold within India itself. Having a catalogue of rich content and effective reach pan-India will attract more international brands that look at reaching out to their TG in the country. This in turn will bring in more international buyers which will eventually pave way for homegrown content to have a global presence few years down the line without having to actually root for the expansion, the other way round. This indeed will be a game changer in taking Indian content to global markets.

The author is the CEO of Worldwide Media.The views expressed are personal and Indiatelevision.com may not subscribe to them.

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