Ray Newal, 35, CEO and President, Jigsee, sees his video streaming venture as an opportunity to help half of India’s population catch up on media and entertainment that they have historically missed out on due to lack of PCs, broadband connection and television. Ray’s years of work experience at companies such as DoubleClick and Microsoft’s MSN, will surely help in overcoming user adoption challenges while running Jigsee. The idea which germinated in his mind during a backpacking trip to India in 2007 consolidated when Ray met Areef Reza in 2009. With a strong team in place, they launched Jigsee a few months ago. Jubin Mehta from YourStory.in caught up with Ray Nehwal to know more about Jigsee.
Give us a brief about the Jigsee video app.
Jigsee is a full service platform that offers premium mobile video content. Earlier, a good quality video streaming experience was possible only on expensive mobile phones. Jigsee now brings a smartphone-like continuous video streaming experience to basic mobile phones even on slow wireless networks.
What technology has been used to build Jigsee?
Our strength lies in network optimization. The engineers that developed the core of our technology, come from companies in the telecom equipment and semi-conductor space. As a team we understand how to make information flow through a constrained network in the most efficient manner possible. This core competency in network data flow forms the underlying thread of Jigsee’s technology.
Jigsee’s platform is designed to make the most of the network that’s available. People sometimes don’t understand that the five signal bars are not really a reflection of data-rate. The actual data rate or bandwidth changes like the wind, even when standing still. It changes dramatically if you’re in a moving vehicle. And in both instances your phone may display 5 bars of signal strength. Most typical streaming solutions are built on variants of RTS protocol, a state-full video streaming protocol that requires a constant connection, and that struggles to keep up in dynamic wireless environments.
The Jigsee client adds a bit of intelligence to the device side but leverages as much of the native capability of the device as possible. By adding intelligence, we in effect enable the device to communicate with our server to provide an indication of the network condition that exists at any given point in time. That and a combination of algorithms, which work together to maximize data flow through the network – one of them is called ‘sweet spot’ – allow us to keep a video stream playing continuously using standard http – a state-less protocol. In congested, dynamic environments that cause frequent connection drops and volatility in data rate, our solution provides a better experience than most.
Where does Jigsee source its content from? How big is the video pool?
Jigsee has partnerships with over 20 top tier content owners including 1take media, Gypsy Videos, Mukta Arts, Point Zero, Speed Records, Spice Digital, Soor Mandir, Manorama, Mayura, UTV, UTV Bindaas, Wave Music (Vee Gee) and Yuki. Jigsee has also partnered with AFP and IANS for global news content and cricket news respectively. Content genres available on Jigsee include trailers, scenes, songs, news and events related to entertainment, short films, kids content, animation, education, etc. Besides these, there is also devotional content and content on fashion, lifestyle, cookery and yoga. We launched Jigsee Beta in mid August 2011 and already have almost 2,50,000 minutes of content.
What are the unique features of your service?
Some of the unique features of Jigsee are:
Smooth Streaming: Jigsee offers smooth and continuous delivery of video streams. There are little or no pauses once you start watching a video even in environments with slow data connections.
Compatibility with Java enabled phones makes reliable streaming possible for some of the most used phones in the Indian sub-continent, including many phones that are unsupported by popular video streaming services such as YouTube.
Auto-bookmarking makes watching long-format content on a mobile easier. Examples: If cut off mid stream due to a drop in network signal, or if the phone battery dies, Jigsee automatically remembers where the stream stopped and provides a simple option to resume watching the next time the application is opened.
Magic Queue allows every video to continue into subsequent videos that Jigsee plays.
On-the-fly Video Quality Maximizer The speed of wireless networks change all the time. Jigsee streams automatically adjust on-the-fly to provide the highest quality possible, without stopping the show.
Works on any network Jigsee works over 2G (GPRS), 3G, 4G and WiFi. On phones that support automatic switching between networks (ex. GPRS to 3G), Jigsee streams will play continuously without stopping.
How long did it take to develop Jigsee?
I started Jigsee in 2007. At the core of Jigsee’s products lie specialized technologies which allow video and other forms of rich media content to be delivered in a continuous and resilient manner to basic mobile devices, over low-bandwidth networks.
With 6 patents pending and more than 4 years of testing over GPRS networks in countries such as India and Bangladesh, Jigsee has deep and substantive expertise in bandwidth-efficient rich media delivery.
When was the app launched and how many downloads have you received so far?
Since its launch two months ago 250,000 mobile phone users have downloaded the Jigsee application. Provided minimum data rates of 30 to 40 Kbps, videos of any length flow through Jigsee’s platform flow in a continuous stream, even on inexpensive phones and the content is free of cost (though internet connection is charged as per the operators’ plans).
Do you plan to monetize the service anytime soon?
Yes, we will be monetizing Jigsee service in the next 9-12 months but before that we have bigger tasks cut out for ourselves. We view Jigsee as a channel for information, entertainment, and education to get to people who have historically been hard-pressed to receive such content in an affordable and easily accessible manner. Our focus at Jigsee is to bring a great and affordable video streaming experience to a segment of the audience that is restricted to basic devices and low bandwidth networks.
What are the basic features a phone needs to have for Jigsee to work? What is the most basic phone it has been tried on?
At this time, any device that supports J2ME applications, has a GPRS (or better) connection and is capable of playing video should be able to support Jigsee from manufacturers such as Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, MicroMax and others that have video playback capability.
The most basic device (currently available in the market) among our list of supported devices is the Nokia C1-01 [also works on Nokia 2690 and Nokia 3110c, which the C1-01 has replaced in the market]. This is a under Rs. 2000 small-screen Series 40 phone.
A full list of our supported devices is available on our website.
What convinced investors like IAN and Sequoia to fund Jigsee?
Prior to our Series A, Jigsee was self-funded, in addition to a number of private investors in Canada and the USA. Our Series A round was raised through the Indian Angel Network, which included participation from Sequoia Capital.
Investors looked at a number of factors including the people, the technology, and the market opportunity. I think there is a firm belief among our investors that the mobile video market is under-penetrated in countries like India, and they see our approach as one that may have a chance at expanding that market in a substantial and expedited manner.