After YashRaj Films and IndiaCast, Singaporean Video Streaming Startup Spuul partners with Micromax

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Michael Smith, Chief Product Officer of Singapore based Indian content streaming and products startup Spuul about how the startup came about, their product strategy and learnings. 

Low penetration of smartphones and tablets, low internet and mobile data speeds, rampant piracy and easy access to torrent sites - these are some of the reasons you might think of on why streaming movies online may not work in India. But Singapore headquartered Indian content streaming service Spuul gets a big chunk of its users from India and most of them consume the content on their smartphones and tablets. I caught up with Michael Smith, Chief Product Officer at Spuul on the sidelines of Echelon 2013 in Singapore. One of the things I learnt from him was that India is their top market and a majority of their consumers in India consume the content on their mobile devices.

After signing content partnerships with IndiaCast – a joint venture between TV18 and Viacom18, and YashRaj films, Spuul has partnered with Indian phone maker Micromax.

How the team came about

The founders are close friends and one of them, S Mohan has founded a few tech related companies - BuUuk and Accellion, and the other, Sudesh Iyer has been around the Indian movie business for a long time as the founder of SET (Sony Entertainment Television). They concurred that the future of Indian entertainment for consumer consumption would be an over the top (OTT) service focused on streaming the best of Indian video on demand and on many different devices.

Michael knew Mohan for a few years having been in the Singapore scene working for Yahoo. Michael was thinking of leaving Yahoo and was interested in the online video space. Michael and Mohan met one night for beers and the team was born. He joined in Feb 12 to get the site launched and to take on the role of running product at Spuul.

Spuul is not just a content streaming company – they have their own products

Spuul is focused on delivering premium Indian video to anyone who wants it, when they want, where they want it (global) and on what device they use. They started by launching a website, then the IOS app, then the Facebook app and lastly the android app. They plan to examine other devices and ecosystems capable of streaming video and pick the ones that will serve a big market.

“We obviously can’t and won't build for every device on the planet but we have a lot more work to do. I think Spuul is an entertainment company and we will use technology to entertain our users. So as a company we focus on all aspects of the business from ingesting/ encoding movies, to streaming them, the apps/sites that consume the streams and the tools we have like online marketing and community for reaching and supporting our users. As a young company we know it is all about the users - if we delight users we will keep growing. So we take customer support very seriously and we love hearing from and interacting with our users. We have lots more planned - new site, new apps and lots of partnerships to help us expand our market base. And of course - we continually add new content almost every week,” added Michael.

Geographies and reach

As a global company headquartered in Singapore they are already addressing a global user base. They have large user bases in India, UK, Pakistan, USA, Middle East, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Canada and Malaysia.

“The global reach is something that a lot of folks probably didn’t expect. So we already believe there is global demand for a service such as Spuul and that people are willing to pay for the content, quality and convenience,” adds Michael.

Some of the learnings since they started

Michael answers: “We are learning that global mobile video streaming at scale is hard but doable. Customer service is important and gives us a competitive edge. There is serious growth to be had in mobile markets and we think this demand is insatiable, but that the web and TV are also a big driver of consumption so we have lots of plans on growing our consumptive devices and evolving our website.”

Content and Distribution

Prakash Ramchandani, CEO Spuul India: We focus on premium offering to our consumers. Spuul is the only online destination where you will find recent blockbusters and that too consistently. Our tie ups are with all key studios in India. Current focus has been movies and soon one would be able to watch current TV content. The idea is to do it right and not be all over the place with content. It’s about depth and quality.

Going forward , Spuul has plans to get into various genres to serve the Indian consumer. We'll get into lifestyle, devotional , kids etc but as I mentioned at the right time with the most sorted and researched content - not that is available everywhere.

Spuul is the ultimate convenient destination for Independent producers to distribute their content overseas to a segmented audience. Distribution cost overseas are quite high. Most importantly, Spuul is a legitimate platform that helps the content industry to combat piracy. At least 20% if not more of the initial revenues get lost due to piracy. Spuul is a better proposition for the content producers to showcase their films in a transparent manner to avoid loss of revenues as well as at the highest quality available online.

“Given our aspirations to dominate the Indian market we feel that distributing the spuul app to as many users as possible makes good sense for us,” added Michael on the recent partnership with Micromax.

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