Ravi Kumar Pillai

Ankur, twenty something is a Graduate from the prestigious IIT, Chennai working as a Research Engineer in the Global Development Centre of a top notch MNC in Seattle. Ramcharan, a street-smart handyman makes a living by doing errant jobs in the industrial town of Pithampur, near Indore. Jaqueline is an NRI single mother working as Secretary to the CEO of a business house in downtown Dubai. Sangeetha has just been married and relocated to Singapore with her spouse. Rafique is a Cricket buff working as Air-Conditioning Technician in a major Shipping Company and spends weeks together on-board.

Five Indians, quite apart in skill levels, tastes and habits. Yet all of them share an infectious passion for digital content. Ankur rewinds after a hectic day by tapping on to his favourite tele series over Netflix or Amazon Prime. Programmes made in India to global standards of technical excellence. Ram accesses scintillating music and dance numbers on his smart phone in between his chores. He relishes the tinsel town fantasies brought to his private world before the next hour of hard labour. As for Jaqueline, she chooses to forget her short-lived marriage and puts her baby to sleep with the nostalgic Konkani lullaby from the internet radio. Sangeetha experiments Bengali recipes by tapping the you-tube videos of her favorite culinary experts. Rafique enjoys the day’s cricket match highlights as he retires to his bed after a taxing shift duty. If the digital media brings cheer and smile to such a variety of Indians, truly content is king.

With more than 850 TV channels and over 17,000 newspapers, the country is one of the most diverse and vibrant media markets globally. India has the world’s second highest number of internet users after China, with more than 570 million subscribers. India is also the second largest Pay-TV market again next only to China, with nearly 200 million subscribers.

It is no surprise that Media and Entertainment (M&E) is one of the fastest growing businesses in India. The richness, variety, creativity and technical excellence of Indian M&E have caught global attention. The rising popularity of digital content in the Over-The-Top (OTT) platform points to the tremendous opportunities for creativity and monetization. Digital technologies trigger disruption in almost all aspects of our day-to-day life. What we are witnessing and what we can expect in the next decade in M&E sector is truly transformational impacting digital content, platforms and business models.

India is one of the largest and arguably the most diversified content producers in the world. The popularity of Indian film industry, especially the run-of-the-mill romance stories laced with song and dance sequences extends beyond the domestic audience to the vast Indian diaspora and geographies as diverse as Russia, China, Far-East and Arab nations. With digital technology advances and the emergence of the new generation of technicians, artists and creative professionals, there is an all-round upgrade in the quality and variety in both movie and non-movie genre of digital entertainment.

Technological developments are currently sweeping across the whole value chain of content industry. Our large talent pool, world-class production facilities, expertise in animation/VFX and improved connectivity are bound to fast-track Indian M&E industry. The number of Hollywood producers tapping Indian expertise in animation and VFX is showing a healthy uptrend.

A recent study by Ernst and Young projects the overall size of Indian Media and Entertainment revenue to increase during the three-year period 2018-2021 by a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 12% to reach Rs. 2,33,000 Crores. If we add to this Education, Training and Technical/Professional content, the overall size is humongous. The creativity, freedom and sense of accomplishment that content development offers are in sync with the values of Generation Y. Hence temperamentally, digital content industry is likely to emerge as the darling of the tech savvy young jobseekers, entrepreneurs and innovators.

A significant trend that is likely to get accentuated in future is the falling share of print media in the overall media pie. The CAGR of print media over the period 2018-2021 is likely to be a measly 3.4% as against the corresponding growth figures of 35% for online gaming and 28% for digital media. Publishing industry, covering the generic and technical/academic books as well as the newspapers, periodicals and coffee table products are facing stiff challenge from digital alternatives; e-books, audiobooks and digital news magazines are gaining increasing popularity.

With the smartphone becoming the preferred internet access medium for most of the people and the expected ubiquitous availability of 5G connectivity by 2022, the conventional media-radio, television and newspapers- are likely to be relegated in customer preference. More and more people are likely to access online media for news, views and entertainment. The trend has been factored into the media business model as evidenced by the omnichannel strategies adopted by the media houses by venturing into TV, Digital Music and gaming space.

Convergence, synergy and holistic customer experience are the mantras of the emerging digital content business models. The stereo-typed sitcoms and tear-jerkers do not have many takers in the younger viewers. They increasingly prefer the slick and trendy fare in the OTT offerings. A whole new industry is fast getting established in India providing world-class entertainment in the OTT platform. Amazon Prime, Hot Star, Netflix and other similar OTT providers are offering powerful alternatives to the age-old formula driven mainstream cinema and television programs.

As we go forward, it will become tougher for the traditional media space comprising of TV, print media and movie houses to compete with the agility, variety, digital enhancements and cost optimization of the digital media. Those who refuse to adapt, innovate and transform would go out of business.

Indian film industry is learning the trick fast. With the aura of outlandish entertainment and a global audience spread over 140 countries across the globe, the industry is competent to reap the rewards of globalization. Digital technologies are set to quicken the quality upgrade of Bollywood and even the regional cinema to the best in class global benchmarks. Already high budget and high-tech movies from India are making waves globally. The future can only be brighter. Digital technologies, notably internet and satellite communications, are enabling simultaneous “wide release” delivery of movies across thousands of screens globally. The ability to ensure security, extended reach and speedy monetization are increasing the viability of films, especially the big budget offerings. It is not uncommon to see collections grossing over Rs. 200-300 Crores within a couple of months of release of a movie. A far cry from the long and uncertain wait for distributors in the not so distant past. True, with time-to-market and competitiveness improved manifold, the dynamics of box-office success has become smarter too.

No discussion on digital content can be complete without highlighting the two critical components of the pack, namely gaming (online and offline) and advertising. Both segments are riding the digitalization wave with high-octane creativity and unprecedented disruption. Gaming is finding application in education, training, entertainment and advertisement to name just a few of the areas where it is being effectively deployed.

Advertisement is undergoing an overhaul with personalization, visual effects and cost-effective delivery being the strategic focus. Cost and reach are driving advertisement from the print to the online media. Social media advertisement has opened up tremendous opportunities to design and deliver targeted promotion. Analytics tools help in quickly assessing the impact and effectiveness of advertisement. It enables review and repositioning of advertisements to improve the return on investment with near real-time alacrity.

The Government has liberalized the FDI norms for telecom, media and entertainment sectors to attract investment. 100% FDI is permitted in teleports, DTH, mobile TV and cable networks through automatic route. This step is likely to encourage technology upgrade and massive investment in M&E. If such breakthrough investments do materialize, the overall standards, scale and revenue size are bound to improve significantly and so will the talent development and professional upgrade of the industry.

Truly, India is well positioned to emerge as the global leader in Media and Entertainment Sector, a rightful position for the world’s largest democracy. A word of caution, however, is that if we have to realize global ambitions, there is no place for adhocism in policies, looseness of governance and bureaucratic indifference.

*Ravi Kumar Pillai is CEO and Principal Consultant at Cherrypick India, Trivandrum and can be reached at