‘India is seeing a sharp growth curve in live entertainment’ - BookMyShow’s Albert Almeida, on why the platform is betting big on non-movie biz
In a conversation with YourStory, Albert Almeida, COO - Non-Movies, BookMyShow, talks about his journey with the platform so far and the company’s ambitious plans to drive half its revenues from live events.
This June, Mumbai-based BookMyShow decided to venture beyond the silver screen, and shine the spotlight on non-movie business - a segment waiting in the wings for the online ticketing platform. With inflation and infrastructural limitations coming in play for movie ticketing, it made sense to do so, and the company brought Albert Almeida on board to help this strategy along. As COO, Non-Movies, Albert focuses on bringing in efficiency and agility within the organisation for stronger focus on each of the non-movie verticals.
And he is the man for the job, having accrued over 25 years of experience at various digital media, advertising and broadcast organisations. Prior to joining BookMyShow, Albert was the COO at Hungama Digital Media and led Hungama’s mobile domestic and international business. In the past, he has also been executive vice president of Sony Entertainment Television, leading the SET and MAX brands of the company. He has had a stint at JWT as well.
In a conversation with YourStory, Albert lays out BookMyShow’s game plan for going beyond movie ticketing--its bread and butter--and exploring international events by building relationships with existing and new partners.
YourStory: What are your key focus areas and push as COO, Non-Movies, BookMyShow?
Albert Almeida: The key focus is to actually drive this category through live entertainment and other experiences.
We have a stated ambition of delivering 50 percent of BookMyShow’s revenues from this category by 2020. So, we want to build this as the second pillar to the movies business that delivers not just a strong value to the company’s top line but also adds a significant community of users who have now come into this space and are willing to pay repeatedly for great live experiences that we will bring them.
YS: Why does venturing into non-movies, live entertainment and events make sense for BookMyShow?
AA: BookMyShow, as a platform, has become a ubiquitous destination for all forms of entertainment. Therefore, we have a community of millions of active users coming to us to find out what will entertain them in their downtime.
We believe that the live business has a significant role in driving not just growth of this universe but also drive repeat use by many more consumers. It could be a movie one day and a sporting event the next day, a theatrical the third day and a live music or a stand-up comic gig, and so on. Our whole attempt is to try and see how we can supply more and more properties that this audience can consume and, therefore, grow our average value from them, keep them engaged and habituated, and cement our position as the go-to destination for ticketing.
YS: How has it been working with partners across the board for BookMyShow?
AA: Partners in the form of marketers, brands, etc., play a critical part in us being able to put up a live show, an experienc, or a theatrical. We are operating in a market where the consumer is not as evolved because he has still not seen value in these experiences. There are certain disadvantages that we face, like high taxes (GST is at 28 percent) or because we don’t have quality venues and therefore the cost of production and delivering a great experience loads the cost side.
Therefore, ticketing revenue alone doesn’t cover the cost. So, to balance the books we look at partnerships to play a key role in making these properties viable in the long term. We are collaborating with brands and marketers for the long term and showing them great value not only on ground and through live experiences but also through our platform, which is extremely powerful and has a large active consumer base of over 35 million visitors on a monthly basis.
Besides Citibank and Paypal, various other financial service companies continue to collaborate with us because we have become very good allies for them for very valuable segments that they are looking at, to either acquire, retain or even reward.
Outside of this, thanks to the whole mobility journey that the Indian consumer is going through, mobility companies make very interesting allies and partners – brands like Jio, Vodafone, Google Pixel have been allies for a number of our events.
We also tie up with alcobev brands because they have got their constraints of reaching out to consumers through conventional advertising. Sampling at events becomes huge for them as there are people who match their brand profile.
Then, of course, we have partners like platforms or media organisations, which again help us because they drive marketing salience; they help us reduce costs and make the whole proposition viable.
YS: How has the segment of live entertainment grown?
AA: Over the years, we’ve seen the category do well because the supply side has grown phenomenally and, on the demand side, the number of tickets bought has also grown exponentially. So, we are seeing a healthy and sharp growth curve for live entertainment in India. If we were able to fix some of the other challenges like taxation and infrastructure I think we will be able to make the live entertainment market far more vibrant.
It will augur well for the consumer and the marketing ecosystem because there will be a lot more opportunities to actually interact with valuable segments through live experiences.
YS: From your Hungama days to now, what are the key shifts you have seen in the market and what do you predict we will see in the near future?
AA: I think what has really been enlightening is how the mobile ecosystem has driven consumer behaviour and, therefore, appetite for entertainment. Whether it is entertainment on devices, or entertainment through live experiences, I think the mobile ecosystem has been one of the largest influencers of changing behaviour. The access to data has made for a very vibrant content-consuming ecosystem.
The consumer is either consuming content on his mobile or learning what’s coming up in the live entertainment ecosystem. I think what’s really been exhilarating in this experience of the last 10 years is to have been up close with the telecom sector, see the way it has evolved in the country, and how we have connected over a billion people. It has really done a great service to the content and entertainment ecosystem.
YS: How do you decide on the kind of events BookMyShow should venture into?
AA: BookMyShow is not limiting itself in terms of the kind or scale or variety of experiences or events. It’s just what we supply to whom and who can afford what, and making all these models work. So, while we have Disney’s Aladdin on one hand and Cirque Du Soleil on the other, both of which are top-class international quality entertainment, we also have conversations with regional Marathi theatre groups who are talking about producing six theatricals of much lower budgets, but will run hundreds of shows and will travel all over the state of Maharashtra. As we all know, the Marathi theatre scene is very vibrant; people are engaged, and they come repeatedly to the theatre, tickets for which are priced between Rs 300 and Rs 500, or even lower.
And, therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for live entertainment - it’s many sizes for many segments and we continue to go down that path, providing relevant experiences and events to relevant segments.