As COO of Shemaroo, Kranti Gada set up the company's mobile business and played a key role in its early adoption of digital platforms. More recently, she incubated the company's expansion into the DTH segment and established the company as a Mobile VAS player in the country.
Kranti joined the family business at Shemaroo in 2006 after a stint in marketing at PepsiCo. Established in 1962, Shemaroo is a Bollywood aggregation and production firm. The company distributes content for satellite channels, telecom operators, sells CDs, and streams content on digital mediums like mobile, internet, broadband, and DTH, among others.
The company reported Rs 112.7 crore in revenue during the third quarter of financial year 2017, which was up 11.6% YoY from Rs 10.1 crore. It’s new media revenue was Rs 23.5 crore for the same period, up 41.6% YoY from Rs 16.6 crore in the same quarter of the previous year.
A quintessential Mumbai girl, Kranti recalls her journey with Shemaroo in a chat with SMBStory.
Excerpts from the conversation.
SMBStory: How and why did you think of joining your family business?
Kranti Gada: Though technically I do belong to the family, but joining it was very much a professional decision. After spending two years in Delhi working at Pepsi, I came back to Mumbai. I got a call from my uncle saying why don’t you join Shemaroo. Though I was never a movie buff and did not know much about their business, at that time they were thinking of expanding and diversifying and the huge opportunity sounded just the right challenge to take up.
SMBS: What were the initial days and learning on the job like?
KG: After some strategic planning, we identified the growth area in the digital space, specifically mobile, animation, and gaming as the three verticals for the future. And I was entrusted with the mobile and gaming part of the business.
In 2007/2008, I set up a new production studio and had about 15 people developing mobile games. Simultaneously, we continued building relationships with broadcasters. Those days internet penetration was low and broadband connection was much to be desired. 3G was a far distant dream. In this scenario, we tried to make the most of it and decided to explore audio. Thanks to the Shemaroo brand, every operator welcomed us. We built up a good regional and devotional portfolio for syndication. What worked for us is that the telcos were looking to penetrate deeper into India and needed more than just Bollywood content and we were right there with our regional and devotional content. For example, Rajasthani, Gujarati, and Marathi tracks performed on par with Bollywood.
SMBS: It was around this time that YouTube happened for you, right?
KG: That’s right. Around 2009, YouTube happened. It was the first time that we got a visibility on monetisation. Earlier, a lot of players had approached us to provide us with streaming technology, but there was no strategy for monetisation. With YouTube, we not only got that but also so much of data and insights on how our content was being consumed and who was consuming it. We internally built a consensus that we will use YouTube videos to make our internet strategy sound. It gave us full control. We were one of the first 10 players in India to sign up with YouTube at that time.
Filmi Gaane has 10 million subscribers. We get 60 to 70 million views on a monthly basis. Today, we have 50 YouTube channels in different genres.
SMBS: How were all these changes impacting the such an old organisation at the human resource level?
KG: I’ll take the example of Filmi Gaane to tell you what was happening within the organisation. Our VCD/DVD business was at its peak in the early 2000. By 2006/07, there was a dip. It was less driven by digital and more by market forces.
The whole organisation was built around servicing that market. We conducted a lot of training and reskilling workshops for the staff to be relevant in the digital environment. In fact, the learning we had by serving the DVD consumer went a long way in the success we found in the digital platform. Most of the new digital companies had these youngsters trying to do something new, while we had a bunch of old people who had served the Bollywood consumer. They knew a lot about content and curating and were instrumental in Filmi Gaane’s success. It is the only retro content brand sitting right up there.
SMBS: You are in a very competitive space. What are your major challenges?
KG: For us, though the battle is often fought on ground, it is first fought in the head. What is our strategy? What business to enter, and so on. The biggest challenge for us is whether we are sitting on the right strategy and how to execute it. As an organisation, we do not just jump into a bandwagon. This is perhaps what has kept us away from a lot of losses. Keeping a company profitable and sustainable for 55 years is not easy.
SMBS: What’s your advice to those starting in this space or already in this business?
KG: This industry is sitting on a huge opportunity. If you look at the penetration of internet and smartphone today, it is mindblowing. The growing discretionary income of people means more spends on entertainment and travel.
Make sure that the need you are serving is big and not many others are fulfilling it. For example, the response we have got on our Islamic channel, Ibaadat, has been phenomenal. It was clearly an underserved market.
We have done a lot of consolidation. For example, we do everything in the devotional category, including puja services. We’ve set up a New Business Division where we incubate new business ideas and which is where the devotional category was incubated. We are happy to work with other businesses and startups in this space. For instance, we acquired a company in the in-flight entertainment segment, and now serve 60 to 70 airlines. We recently tied up with Ola and even IRCTC. We are present right from YouTube to Netflix.
MSMEs are the heart of entrepreneurship in India. And though most of them remain unsung, I would like to emphasise that some may be at risk if they do not innovate and are not given access to funding to scale.