26 November 2022 13:25

LEADERSHIP TALK

Q&A with Kranti Gada, Chief Operating Officer, Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd

Theatrical releases and direct-to-OTT has its own leverage and experiences that cannot be replaced or substituted with each other- Kranti Gada, Chief Operating Officer, Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd

Here is the complete interaction...

1. How has been the journey from cassettes and CDs to an OTT platform?

It has been a fulfilling journey for Shemaroo with the evolution of technology from yesteryears to advanced platforms available today. In six decades of our presence in the entertainment industry, we have thrived on our ability to preempt the upcoming needs of diverse audience in the country and their appetite for ever changing content formats. Continuous reinvention and adaptability has helped us become a consumer first company.

Over the years, in our efforts to be relevant in the current times, we have diversified and expanded into various consumer -facing businesses such as launching our own video streaming platform ShemarooMe in India and the US, broadcast business with two FTA channels, Shemaroo TV and Shemaroo MarathiBana, Shemaroo Speakers, amongst others. We were one of the first few brands who were the early adopters of YouTube for monetization of its content.

Today, Shemaroo remains one of the only sizable media company with Indian ownership to thrive and grow in this highly challenging and dynamic ecosystem. The digitally-driven brand’s global reach with a presence in over 50 countries through numerous domestic and international partnerships has made it a pioneer in the content aggregation and distribution space.

2. Due to shifting focus towards OTT, do you think theatrical releases will come down in the coming years?

Theatrical releases and direct-to-OTT has its own leverage and experiences that cannot be replaced or substituted with each other. They will continue to co-exist in the coming future and entertain audiences in the format they prefer and enjoy.

Watching films in a theatre is an unsurpassable experience and is largely driven by super stars and big-ticket releases. Whereas, OTT gives the flexibility of watching different genre of content that suits your taste and at your convenience. Many big blockbuster movies including regional films have seen a direct to OTT release and this trend is likely to continue for a long time in a post-pandemic world due to the change in consumers’ viewing preferences. The industry believes in the synergy of this combination has proved to be beneficial for all stakeholders.

3. Originals is the new buzzword in town. What is your content strategy when it comes to Originals?

We have consciously developed a strong regional content strategy across all our platforms after adapting and understanding the deep-rooted connections and traditions the viewers have with their native language. In addition to the regional strategy, our vast content library and synergetic partnerships with Internet Service Providers, Telecom Companies, Global players, and other new-age brands have been part of our overall growth strategy. Such partnerships are significant in expanding the user base through smart content.

With our recent expansion of the Gujarati category, we have beefed up our content portfolio even further with a promise of providing new content every week. We have lined up a plethora of new content that comprises of an entertaining mix of original web series, nataks, blockbuster movies, along with 500+ Gujarati titles, and popular shows that have made a mark in the industry. Our latest web series, ‘Yamraj Calling’ starring Deven Bhojani has become one of the most appreciated family shows on OTT platform. Other recent originals that are also being loved by the audiences include ‘Poori Paani’ – romantic drama, ‘Kshadyantra’- a Gujarati Political thriller, ‘Unknown to Known’ - a light-hearted romantic drama, and ‘Vaat Vaat Ma’ among others.

As a company we are committed to make an impact in the long term and have a mix of both original as well as acquired content. Our investments in content and marketing will continue, and at present we are focused on adding more high-quality content for our audiences to elevate Shemaroo’s platforms as the go-to and preferred channel for entertainment catering to all genres.

4. What has been the changing nature of digital content and streaming services due to COVID-19?

With the digital infrastructure penetrating deeper in the country, and the additional perk of finding content in regional languages based on users interest and watch history, the demand, and usage of digital content consumption via OTT platforms has seen a huge uptake. It has also led to an increase in adoption across demographic segments including women and older generations.

Another trend that is expected to take center stage and remain irreversible is the demand for highly localized and regional content. Any OTT player not thinking of regional will eventually be left out. As per a 2020 KPMG Media and Entertainment report, ‘Year off Script’, the entertainment sector is gearing up and moving towards regional content. Hyper-localized content is the next big thing with the versatility of demand coming in from all regions of the country.

These changes are inevitable as it is going to only progress further from here on driven by both consumer expectations and boom in the media and entertainment sector at large.

5. You recently expanded the Gujarati category, how has the response been so far?

To fully understand and decode the regional content cravings of Gujarati audiences, we conducted in-depth research and found gaps in the Gujarati content space. To bridge these gaps and take Gujarati entertainment a notch higher, ShemarooMe recently expanded its Gujarati content offering with the promise of new content every week and the response has been remarkable from Gujarati audience not just from India but worldwide.

Right now our focus is to take the Gujarati entertainment quotient a notch higher with a plethora of new content that comprises of an entertaining mix of original web series, nataks, blockbuster movies, along with 500+ Gujarati Titles, and popular shows that have made a mark in the industry.

Our Gujarati content consumption has seen a huge surge with as high as 102% viewership growth in the peak months of the lockdown last year. It is therefore very encouraging for us to meet the consumer appetite for such regional content that is well received and is in-demand throughout.

6. How has response been for your broadcasting business and what are your future plans?

We forayed into the broadcasting business by launching two FTA channels, Shemaroo TV, a Hindi GEC channel and Shemaroo MarathiBana, a Marathi movie channel. These two channels were launched in the midst of the pandemic and has received immense love from our audiences.

Both the channels not only aimed at building a robust content portfolio but at the same time has invested in building a strong relationship with our viewers. The journey so far has been very fulfilling with amplified viewership and great content line up along with constant effort to boost the content portfolio. This is evident through our bouquet of content offerings across genres. Earlier this year, Shemaroo TV launched its first original crime show, ‘Jurm Aur Jazbaat’ with Ronit Roy, which marked the actors return to television after a long period of 5 years. Additionally, we also announced a festive treat for our Marathi audiences with the Marathi version of the blockbuster action epic franchise, ‘Baahubali’ exclusively on Shemaroo MarathiBana.

Taking the scale higher, we will be adding more originals and direct to digital movies and shows to the portfolio which is going to be a delight for both our audiences and partners alike.

7. What is your content and marketing strategy for Shemaroo TV? Are you planning to make it a premium channel?

We launched our flagship channel – Shemaroo TV (Hindi GEC) during the pandemic to ensure our audiences have enough and more content accessible amidst the uncertainties. Our offering for TV also has a wide array of genres ranging from drama, mytho, thriller etc, considering most of the content was a first time watch for the audiences, Shemaroo TV has already become a household name in the HSM belt.

The primary aim for Shemaroo TV this year is to achieve an exponential growth increase in reach, and getting into the consideration set for the audience. We will introduce new programming one step at a time. There is a lot of R&D going as to what we should be doing next. We have started with reruns of some popular shows and will be putting together our original programming too. This constant commitment to entertain and satiate the content needs of our audiences has been the key driver to success for all our businesses and offerings.

With respect to content marketing, I feel the best strategy is that it shouldn’t look like marketing. It should look like an integral part of content and give a meaningful proposition to the consumer. If a content fulfills the overall need of the consumer in terms of either being entertaining or being informative, it yields great outcomes.

8. Shemaroo Entertainment worked with more than 30 temples during pandemic to stream their artis live on their channels. How was the response and your thoughts on devotional content?

The devotional segment has been one of the focus areas for Shemaroo and we aim to expand the market by connecting different consumers to this category. As a step in this direction, Shemaroo has introduced a lot of initiatives to celebrate each and every festival. Especially due to the pandemic induced restrictions, many of our consumers could not visit their favorite temples or pandals and we are glad that we could harness the power of technology to bring the festive celebrations live to their homes. For us live streaming is bundled with other digital content, which is a value-addition to our subscribers.

Additionally, we have an extensive collection of speakers for every occasion, which includes Shemaroo Shrimad Bhagavad Gita Audio Book, Shemaroo Hindu Bhajan Speaker, Shemaroo Amrit Bani Speaker, and Shemaroo Bhakti Maalai Speaker amongst others. Shemaroo Bhakti recently released new series of Shravan special songs. These songs were a combination of ‘Mahamrutunjay Mantra’ and ‘Sanjeevani Mantra’ rendered by renowned singer, Shankar Mahadevan along with Shiv Aarti and Amrit Wani in the magical voice of legendary artist Anuradha Paudwal. The music for these songs was composed by music maestro, Dr. Sanjayraj Gaurinandan.

9. The Best Businesses Are Built Around Passion. What are your views on this?

Well, for a business to thrive there has to be a lot of dedication to it and you need to put your heart into it. Passionpreneur is the new buzzword for businesses that are backed with one’s interest and passion in that area or sector. There are many inspiring stories of people pursuing a business that stems out of their deep-set inclination and then it is no more just work, it becomes a part of life. At Shemaroo, we have built our team around this theme. Each business head owns his business and thrives on passion.

10. On a personal note, what have been the highlights of your career so far? Your key learnings?

I have always drawn learnings and inspiration from success stories of leaders that I personally identify with and reflect on my experiences and viewpoints. This helps in transforming as a leader and viewing what more is possible. I have aspired to lead by example and the mindset of constantly learning to evolve is quite empowering at each step of the ladder. In my career progression, there are many instances when I have challenged the status quo to take risks for expansion and finding my own route to success amidst uncomfortable situations. This has been the backdrop of Shemaroo’s growth over the past few years in a dynamic and cluttered space of entertainment where audiences are continuously switching between various platforms and content formats.

In these past years, Shemaroo has not just successfully set up the mobile business but also established itself as a leading Mobile VAS player in India. I had a clear vision of the digital future for content enabled Shemaroo to become one of the early adopters of YouTube for monetization of its content.

As the Chief Operating Officer of Shemaroo Entertainment, I have worked towards entrenching in the field of OTT with the ShemarooMe app. I lead a diverse set of businesses ranging from Shemaroo’s digital verticals, DTH, broadcast business which consists of two recently launched channels – Shemaroo MarathiBana and Shemaroo TV, Shemaroo devices and international businesses of Shemaroo Entertainment.

This journey has showered me with numerous recognitions, one of them being in the list of 40 under 40 young leaders organized by BW (Businessworld) Disrupt.

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