The rise of the media and entertainment industry in India
IT’S been nearly two decades since we gave up the privilege of being ‘entertained’ by a single terrestrial channel — Doordarshan. The satellite invasion changed our habits forever. It’s been a decade since the mobile phone changed how India ‘Talks and Walks’. It’s been close to a decade since the world woke up to the fact that India is the ‘Youngest’ country in the world where close to half of the population is below the age of 25. And its been half a decade since that Young India – has redefined and forced change — not only in the way we consume entertainment and information and media — but also what that content should be.
India is the largest entertainment consuming country in the world. So one would think we have a significant share of the media and entertainment pie globally. But not so! We barely make one per cent of the worldwide revenues. So that’s the cup less than a quarter full. Let me focus on how and what it will take to fill the other three quarters.
This is the game changer as everything in entertainment and media will be consumed on multiple screens and devices and not just the conventional TV screen or movie theatre. But we do have many blinkered approaches that have not allowed this to explode, like it has in most of Asia. Our telco companies — too busy with adding lower tariff prepaid customers — have just not got the opportunity. I hope 3G will be their wake up call.
Second, is the total lack of net and broadband connectivity, which is a shame considering we are one of the most fibre optic cabled countries in the world, waiting with baited breath for the last mile to open up. Therefore, just making the mobile screen a consumption platform for information and entertainment (and we have not even touched the tip of the iceberg). And, giving high speed connectivity to the top 50 niche households that represent almost all of the upper middle class will add that another one per cent to the one per cent that India presently has of the media and entertainment share worldwide.
Our cable TV sector
our cable TV sector needs a revolution. Cable TV goes to 80 million households, which is roughly 400 million people (the single largest in the world). It’s a tribute to the true Indian entrepreneur that cable operations have been able to build this into a business, in spite of no regulation and very limited investment into this core sector that controls the last mile into the homes of one of the largest emerging consumer markets in the world. Lack of political will and lack of comprehension in most parts of the state, centre and regulatory bodies of the enormity of the opportunity here, coupled with various conflicted media interest and lobbies, has kept this ‘gatekeeper’ to growth in media and entertainment, suppressed for too long. Billions in investments has to pour into this archaic cable systems and the future of telecom, triple play, broadcasting, sports and overall entertainment and content monetisation depends on a shake up of this that will unlock another one per cent to India’s share of the worldwide media and entertainment business.
Lets focus on Young India:
For starters, let’s not club them into one age group as they are not
The 14-21 year old: Tech savvy, hungry for informative and interactive entertainment, and a major influencer in shopping and consumption habits at home.
The 22-27 year old: Single or recently married — voracious appetite for new products, services and experiences.
The 28-35 year old: Very distinct preferences and very demanding in innovation, quality and services and has the money for it. So if we focus on this segment — as they will spend 20 per cent of their disposable income on leisure and entertainment (the average Indian spends less than 9 per cent) — they will add yet another of that one per cent additional to India’s global media and entertainment share.
India is a continent, not just a country. Wherever we look at the media and entertainment segment, it’s always viewed primarily as the Hindi belt. But the regional markets offer the highest growth and scalable opportunities. Consider this, the five biggest communities of urban India are Gujarati, Awadhi (UP), Telegu, Kannada and Marathi. Combined they add up to 58 per cent. Their information and entertainment needs, and the way they consume it, are different in many ways. Not enough focus nor enough content offerings in media and entertainment have been for targeted regions and there is a huge opportunity. We all know that focused content always enlarges markets and segments. While we do have over a third of our over 400 channels in regional languages and while 70 per cent of all movies made every year are in regional languages, somehow, most in media and entertainment have not given this the attention it deserves. A focused and expanded offering for region wise India ‘The Continent’ would contribute that one per cent more for India’s global share.
In conclusion, I have shared my personal view on some, not all, of the triggers that can make entertainment and media create India’s next globalisation. Of course, our content innovation and offering would also need to change and evolve as we harness technology, young India and regions. I also believe our media and entertainment prolification can be India’s best brand ambassador worldwide, and more than tourism.
Finally, since China seems to be hurtling forward to be the next ‘Super Power’ and since the United States has been the soft power of the last century, India can and must be the soft power of this century. We all have some work to do.