Why Suniel Shetty and team built a Made in India talent app for entertainment and media industry
Suniel Shetty has been working as an actor in the film industry for around three decades. If there was one challenge he always struggled with, it was getting access to people. While Tinseltown has always been lauded as the land of dreams, many spend their entire lives hustling for job opportunities.
To create job opportunities for people who simply do not have the access, Suniel decided to build an app – FTC Talent. The app acts as a one-stop-shop for people in the entertainment and media space to aggregate, train, curate, and connect talent with producers.
“Be it movies, television, theatre, events, contests, digital or OTT content – everyone’s always looking for that extra special actor, director, writer, singer, or editor. And the talent pool is the same. At FTC Talent, we provide a larger pool that is global because every action can be through our app and website,” says Priya Shetty, CFO, FTCTalent.
Winning the Aatmanirbhar challenge
The app was declared as one of the winners of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge. In a conversation with YourStory Media, Suniel Shetty says,
“It was a great validation of the effort and hard work the team put in to win this challenge. Once the announcement was made, the team worked day and night to ensure that they build an app that is accessible by anyone at any time."
"It was our way of giving back to the industry and to ensure jobs are created even during the pandemic. People can record and send in their videos on the app, make multiple attempts, and send in the final file. We work on getting them the right access,” he adds.
All they have to do is register with Ftctalent.com and/or FTC Talent app and they’re ready to find work. Simultaneously, media and entertainment professionals and their casting teams can post projects and jobs, request and review several audition rounds, and recruit and pay online through the app and the portal.
Breaking into a fragmented market
Priya explains the industry currently follows an unorganised and ad-hoc talent discovery process. The auditioning process takes place through non-verified casting agents, and via personal visits and phone calls.
She adds that the initial idea was to eliminate the sleaze element out of the process and remove the in-between touts who exploit the talent. However, getting people on board the online casting process was a challenge. Another challenge was to grow the platform organically and getting work for the initial sign-ups.
“Fortunately, word spread and thanks to social media and fan goodwill, we grew fast in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa’s, Australia, New Zealand, and even Fiji. Our family is at 300,000+ strong and growing,” says Priya.
The team initially started with a content production office in 2016 in Mumbai’s Aram Nagar at Andheri West. In 2018, they created and launched an online FTC Talent platform, followed by an Android mobile app launched in July 2018, and an iOS app launched in August 2018.
The team and market
“Scaling is organic and exponential. And now that our app has won the AatmanirbharBharat App Innovation Challenge and got a pat on the back from the Hon. Prime Minister himself, the sky’s the limit,” says Priya.
The ideation process was driven primarily by Suniel and Co-founder Sujata Shetty-Hegde, along with the young stakeholders. At present, the total team size including consultants is around 40 people.
According to an IBEF report, the media and entertainment industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.5 percent during FY19-FY24. The report stated that the market is set to touch Rs 3.1 lakh crore by 2024.
There are several international talent casting apps like UpCast, TableRead, WeAudition, and BackStage Casting to name a few. However, FTC Talent works with an understanding of the Indian market and industry.
Focusing on Indian needs
Priya explains that FTC Talent is an end-to-end online solution where people can create detailed profiles, and apply for jobs/roles published by recruiters like production houses, directors, event managers, and casting directors.
Each talent profile carries dozens of attributes which capture the skills, talents, personality, physical appearance, interests, photo/audio/video/digital portfolio, experiences of past projects, and more.
The platform has an AI engine that automatically matches talents to each job/role that is published, which is useful to the talents as well as recruiters. Each talent application can be reviewed online by the recruiter. The recruiter can set up multiple projects and jobs, has the facility to set up and conduct multiple rounds of auditions online, and select/cast talents online.
“We have a robust and auto-scalable technology platform deployed on AWS Cloud in Mumbai, with a multi-zone database as a disaster recovery measure, including data integrity guarantee and limitless storage capacity,” explains Priya.
To ensure security, the team has implemented an information security policy that is layered with maker-checker and approval-based processes.
“Industry-specific due diligence is conducted for verification and approval of each recruiter is taken before onboarding the platform, as well as each project (with jobs/roles for TV serials, movies, events, pageants etc) before being published by a recruiter,” says Priya.
Revenue and future plans
The app currently follows a subscription model with value-added fees. The team is also looking at revenue from ads and sales, as well as franchising its partnerships to respected partners. The team is also looking at revenue from content production and brand sales.
FTC Talent is aiming to raise investment for future product development and move the platform to the next level.
“In the next few years, the platform aims to create a pool of over 10 million online talent base and a 100,000 online recruiter base that can be leveraged to create fresh new content-proprietary to the platform, and identify and curate the future talents,” says Priya.