Bollywood studio goes online to reach rich Indians overseas
By Joe Leahy in Mumbai
Published: December 28 2006 02:00 | Last updated: December 28 2006 02:00
A Bollywood studio has launched a video-on-demand website for Hindi films and other programmes in the first attempt by the local industry to use the internet to tap the wealthy Indian diaspora.
Mumbai-based Rajshri Media, a division of one of Bollywood's biggest filmmakers and distributors, has shown its latest Hindi film, Vivah, on its new portal, rajshri.com, at the same time it was released in Indian cinemas to try to woo non-resident Indians to its service.
"Movies, cricket and probably religion are the three things that bind Indianseverywhere," said Rajjat A. Barjatya, managing director of Rajshri Media.
The website represents the first time that a company from Bollywood has tried to take advantage of the extensive broadband access enjoyed by many overseas Indians to sell them films.
"Anyone who gets the first-mover advantage to reach out to the larger audience of NRIs [non-resident Indians] would certainly have an edge," said Rajesh Jain, a national industry director with KPMG in India.
There are estimated to be 20m Indians and people of Indian origin living in foreign countries, many of whom are in the upper income brackets. In the US, the richest such market, there are about 200,000 Indian millionaires, with some 15 per cent of Silicon Valley start-ups believed to be owned by Indians, according to a report by JPMorgan.
JPMorgan said exports of Indian films were growing at about 60 per cent a year but still constituted only a small proportion of the industry's sales, estimated at $1.5bn last year.
"In the coming years, revenue from overseas markets, particularly Indians living overseas, will become more important for Bollywood film-makers," JPMorgan said in the report.
Web portals could become a part of this but Mr Barjatya admitted it was early days and the company was experimenting with formats.
Vivah, a film about the importance of commitment in an arranged marriage, costs $9.99 to download, compared with $2-$4 for an Indian cinema ticket.
The website features another 100 or so older films that can be watched for free in streaming format on the website. About half of them can be downloaded at $4.99 each.
In total, the site has about 700 pieces of content ranging from music videos to TV series. Most of these have subtitles in English or other languages.
Rajshri claims users watched 4m streams from the site within the first fortnight of its launch last month and it is preparing to begin selling advertising next month. The company is still feeling its way in terms of what to do about piracy.
Vivah and other new films on the site are protected from piracy using digital rights management software and content available through video-streaming cannot be copied.
However, the older films are not protected from piracy if they are downloaded.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006