What is the best thing you have done as a movie buff? Watched movies on TV back-to-back, splurged all your pocket money on Friday releases, or collected that original DVD of a now disappeared-from-shelf movie? All that is good, but co-founders of Humaramovie started up…well…Humaramovie to take their passion for movies to an all new level. Preety Ali, Pallavi Rohatgi and Vinay Mishra – the cofounders of the venture come from varied backgrounds, and have been brought together by their love for movies.
Preety has the most experience -- and has been in the area of TV & film production for 16 years before turning entrepreneur. She started her career with Sony TV and has been a part of shows like CID, Surabhi on Doordarshan and Good Food Guide on Star Plus. Her film experience includes Black Friday and Namaste London. She has also directed many popular ad films for brands like Cadbury and Coca-Cola among others. Her partner Pallavi, on the other hand was a corporate lawyer, who specialized in private equity debt finance. After practicing for five years, Pallavi took a break and studied film making at New York University(NYU). The third partner, Vinay Mishra is a serial entrepreneur who has been following his heart for the last 15 years. He was a founding member of Intercept Technologies, the first firm to be funded by Westbridge Capital Partners (later Sequoia), that was into setting up Internet advertising. Next he co-founded Marketics that became the largest marketing analytics company and was subsequently acquired by WNS Global in 2008. He also did a course in film making at NYU, before he came back to India to startup yet again.
Preety runs the creative process at HumaraMovie and handles the feature film division, Pallavi takes care of marketing, international sales efforts and production support and Vinay leads strategy, operations and alliances for HumaraMovie. Apart from the three, they have an edit and support team that assists in the execution stages. They work with many filmmakers on discreet projects as well.
The idea for the venture came about for the trio, when during the course of their interactions with various large production houses, directors etc., they realized there is no platform for young filmmakers to reach out to their audiences unless they were really well connected in the film fraternity. The challenges young filmmakers faced were lack of financial support, infrastructural support and mostly a dedicated platform to showcase their work. This was the genesis of Humaramovie.
They initially started with being focused on short content, but over the course of the 100-plus shorts that they helped produce, they realized they had the potential and the talent pool to try and take some of this talent to the next step with a feature film. “We have produced one indie feature ‘Greater Elephant’, directed by Srinivas Sunderrajan and are now in the process of trying to take some of these young talented filmmakers and help them make their next feature,” says Pallavi.
Humaramovie.com, says Pallavi, realizes the importance of content, and the talent who make create the content. “Filmmakers and the talent come first at humaramovie.com, this site is specially created for them so that they can interact and showcase their content to the viewers. Also, to ensure that the talent gets its due, Humaramovie, share revenues in perpetuity with the creative team in a transparent manner,” she says.
Pallavi says their reason for creating Humaramovie was not all emotional, but there is a strong business case for it as well. She is referring to the increasing broadband penetration in India, 3G and 4G on mobile, and a general trend of moving towards individual choice based media consumption – which presents exciting opportunities for the growth of video-on-demand. “Lack of accessible content for consumers in India was one of the major reasons to start a channel that caters to the need of the audience,” explains Pallavi. She is bullish that Humaramovie with its diverse and prolific short form content is well prepared to ride the growth wave. Presently, Humaramovie co-produces as well as acquires existing content from independent filmmakers. The core idea of the venture remains to promote and support short films and to provide alternate content to the consumers.
The Content Conundrum
Started in April 2012, within a year, the venture has managed to upload around 90 short films and Pallavi claims they have 100 more in their library ready for upload. Content for the channel is created on a monthly basis. The content for the channel is majorly sourced by young aspiring film makers from in and around Mumbai, viz Bhopal, Delhi, Kolkata in the form of short films which is co-produced by HumaraMovie. Apart from short films, HumaraMovie is also associated with directors such as Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap, Anurag Basu, Vikramaditya Motwane and Rajat Kapoor who provide them content for the channel.
The largest number of viewers for their content are men, while the content on GEC is highly female oriented. HumaraMovie is targeting both males and females between the age group of 20 to 35 among all demography.
1take Media is another player who has been in the short film space for a while; however they do not produce content like HumaraMovie.
Currently awareness for the venture is being spread through occasions such as art festivals, where short films are screened for the first time and then uploaded to the channel. They also conduct competitions across media colleges for entries which are then judged by famous panelist and subsequently these films are uploaded on the channel. “Our engagement with consumers are on two fronts - people who are just consumers of entertainment content, and people who participate in the creation of this content. We interact with all our audiences in the social media space,” explains Pallavi. They have over 3,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel, another 1,000 subscribers on their website and an additional 12,000 Facebook fans. Most of these numbers are growing organically, says Pallavi.
The co-founders were also recently in the US to market the venture to the large 25 million Indian diaspora there. “We are in the US to discuss with potential partners the possibility of creating a video on demand service for the Indian diaspora here. We are in conversations with 3-4 such initiatives, though they are in the early stages. US is the most mature market for on-demand content, with Netflix, Hulu, HBO etc. being extremely popular,” says Pallavi.
The venture is self-funded and currently has a viewer based of more than million viewers per month. Brands advertising on the channel are their current source of revenues, however eventually they will also start subscription services.
Currently all content on Humaramovie is available free to consumers. Once the films are released on their site, customers can start viewing it immediately on the site and also on their YouTube channel. However viewers are not allowed to download movies from the site and movies are streamed live. Pallavi says there is no cap on the number of viewers who can watch a movie simultaneously on HumaraMovie.
Their short term target is to procure 5 million monthly visitors by December 2013 and reach out to other regions beyond Mumbai. Their mid-term target is to start making quality episodic content, genre specific offerings, they will be starting a comedy channel soon and make a few feature films as well and in the process want to showcase new talent, and hopefully great stories. “Long term target of course is to create a platform for consumers to engage with alternate Indian content,” says Pallavi.
For this ambitious venture, the future looks promising only if these challenges are taken care of.
- Lack of really unique stories. Filmmakers are way too influenced by the traditional Bollywood story telling space.
- Lack of bandwidth and it being extremely expensive.
- Moving out of Mumbai to tap more talented filmmakers/ story tellers outside the mainstream. “We need to democratize and disseminate their endeavors,” says Pallavi assertively.