Shotformats, a mobile VAS player that plans to bring feature films to cellphones

Value-added-service or mobile VAS is a big deal in India. IAMAI has pegged the market to be in the region of Rs 29,900 crore at the end of 2013 and it is mostly Bollywood content that dominates the space. While most VAS is distributed through internet downloads, Shotformats Digital Productions, a digital entertainment and VAS company, has adopted an innovative approach. Shotformats recently released Hindi movie, ‘Ram Leela’, on its offline app store Biscoot App Bazaar.

RLBiscoot App Bazaar is a chain of offline stores that helps distribute content for media houses, telecom firms, film companies, label and content providers among others. The Biscoot App Bazaar stocks movies, music, apps and games. In case of ‘Ram Leela’, the songs, video clips and even the full length movie was available on Biscoot Bazaar. There are 400 Biscoot stores in Mumbai and 10,000 retail outlets across India. Customers can buy the content from these stores by paying anything between Rs 5 to Rs 2,500.

Shotformats is the brainchild of Niyati Shah, who decided to startup when her son Prithvi was born. “His little fingers, tiny head and the heart beat on the sonography machine made me feel exhilarated, happy and content. That’s when I decided that I will not leave my baby alone ever, especially in the days when the baby needs the mother the most,” says Niyati. She discussed her thoughts with her friend and former human resource professional Rachna Puri and they both joined hands to start Shotformats.

Shotformats Digital Productions Private Limited is the name of the company and Biscoot is the brand name of their direct to consumer initiative. The content for Biscoot Bazaar is sourced from music labels, production houses, publishers, writers, apps, games developers. They also have in-house production capabilities to generate content and have created sizable library of content across genres and languages, says Niyati. Exclusive partnership with film studios, music labels, publishers and developers is another source for generating content, says Niyati. Shotformats also distributes content of independent artists, besides Bollywood.

Since starting in 2008, Niyati says they have grown 100% YOY and today have a customer base of five million across all services. Customers can walk into any of the Biscoot stores and purchase the content they like.

(L-R) Rachna Puri, Niyati Shah

(L-R) Rachna Puri, Niyati Shah

Where Shotformats distributes content through a telecom operator, they make money on a revenue sharing model, while in case of direct-to-customer, it is the normal mark ups on selling price. At present, all advertising for the company is concentrated heavily on the point-of-purchase at retail outlets, and Niyati says they will use ATL once they have an all-India presence.

Started with her personal savings of Rs 2 million, Shotformats recently got an investment from Matrix Partners. The company has grown from a small team of five people to a workforce of 275 over the last five years. Niyati says she prefers hiring people from different industries and premium B-Schools. The average age of team members at Shotformats is 28 to 29 years, and the recruitment policy is to look for “happy, focused and aggressive individuals,” to be part of the team.

Shotformats is today among the top three players in VAS in India and this ranking has been achieved in the short span of five years. Niyati now has her sight fixed on becoming the biggest distribution network for VAS in India. Looking back at the journey so far, Niyati says, “Moving out of a high profile corporate job and ending in a situation where even sourcing a plumber for the office was part of my job description was quite a challenge.” The fact that they were late entrants in the VAS business, to stand out and get noticed was another challenge. But being product driven, and a complete focus on getting a good product out has helped them live up to the expectations of their partners, employees and investors.

Also read: Techzone, another mobile VAS player who has the first mover advantage


Preethi Chamikutty

Preethi Chamikutty

Preethi Chamikutty is a left-brain thinker, with a very intrusive right-brain. She enjoys many things typically girly. But mostly keeps her right-brain under wraps to focus on the strengths of her left brain. Preethi likes writing on a variety of subjects. Branding, marketing , advertising and personal technology are her forte. Follow her on Twitter @PCtalks