Starting from a small flat in Delhi, this duo has reached international film festivals with their video content
Watching videos on social media sites is a favourite pastime of people. There are varieties of video content available on the internet and we as the audience make these videos go ‘viral’ by our interaction. Yourstory’s Brands of India 2019 winner Paper Weight Media Entertainment is among one such production houses which runs on ‘virality’.
Founded by Harsh Vardhan Singh and Noreen Sodhi in November 2014, Paper Weight Entertainment is a film production house and advertising firm that creates video content with a virality quotient, targeting mass audience. The company works with clients all across India for running their brand campaigns and has around 42,000 followers on their YouTube channel.
Born into Army families, Harsh and Noreen are childhood friends. Harsh was preparing for his civil services exam and Noreen was already into a cancer research programme when they set up Paper Weight Entertainment.
In an interview with SMB Story, Noreen shares how their life paths totally changed as they found they want to do something that creates an impact on society, something that people can connect to.
Harsh dropped from his MBA from IIM Indore to pursue his passion for film-making and joined R. Balki at Lowe Lintas, Indian advertising marketing communications company. He worked as a copywriter for movies like English Vinglish and I am Kalam.
Noreen, on the other hand, holds a Biotech Hons degree and was working with Anton Paar, a lab instrument manufacturer, for marketing and research, but that didn’t please her. She wanted to do something creative. She says,
I was into marketing and knew the insights of digital marketing, and somehow that excited me. I always knew Harsh’s passion for film creation and had told him to contact me whenever he wanted to open his venture, and it happened. He contacted me one day and from there our journey together as entrepreneurs begun.”
Paper Weight was initially set up in Noreen’s flat in South Delhi. They invested Rs 50,000 from their savings to get things going.
Why the video business
"There are different kinds of videos existing in the digital business which are powerful enough to bring out the beauty of the content. We wanted to reveal the stories of India and nothing could have done better than the video business," says Noreen.
The duo creates around 15 viral videos every year getting more than nine million views overall.
The first video which Harsh and Noreen broadcasted under Paper Weight Entertainment was ‘Sylvester bhaiya’ which depicts the journey of Sylvester Peters, who dedicated his life to transform the lives of slum children through football.
Paper Weight also launched their web series ‘Faceless' , to highlight issues faced by certain vulnerable communities, without revealing people's identities. Featuring the Indian Army, acid attack survivors, LGBT to street artists; the episodes brought out the expectations and views of people from these communities.
They also worked with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kailash Satyarthi to bring out the stories and the efforts that are put in by child activists while working in the field.
Their other web series is ‘Undefeated: Soldiers of Courage’ which is a dedication to their fathers.
Appreciations in the film festival
Noreen says their first documentary ‘Sylvester bhaiya’ was a winner in Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival as the best Edudoc and was also the best documentary at Stories Lived Film Festival in the US.
Their documentary ‘Cinderellas of India’ which is based on Indian Women Ice Hockey Team, co-produced by The Logical Indian garnered acclaim and was the winner at Kenya International Sports Film Festival. It was also screened at BRICS Film Festival & Russian TV Broadcast 2017.
Recently, they premiered a documentary ‘Rakshak-e-Hind’ at Military Literature Festival, which is piloted by the current Army Chief.
Our media campaign #SayNoToCrackers with the brand Dogsee Chew had 3.9 million reach," Noreen says, adding that Forbes had released a study on how a simple video can help a brand getting 50-percent increase in the sales,” says Noreen.
Market and revenue
Paper Weight Entertainment has recorded an annual turnover of Rs 35 lakhs. The company has worked with brands across India including Sprigfit, Xolo smartphones (having won the award for Best CSR campaigns), Petfed, Dogsee chew and has Sony LIV, TOI, The Logical Indian, The Quint, Witty Feed, and TATA Sky as its outreach partners.
The competition and challenges
The video market is huge and so there is intense competition. On their differentiator, Noreen says, “When it comes to the content, instead of using humour stint like other YouTube channels, we focus on uncovering the inside stories of our nation. Though there are humour pieces created, those are aimed to leave a mark on the person’s mind.”
On challenge, she adds,
The major challenge is to make brands understand the value of video content, as not many understand the concept of video content strategy. Most people don't understand that creating a video is a huge creative effort. They pay you for the camera, sound, and the other stuff, but never ready to pay for your effort.”
On the company's future plans, Noreen says they hope to create videos that resonate with every person. She says that as the video content is a perception management tool, they may work with the retail industry so that brands can reach out to their targets audience.
They are currently handling three projects with the Indian Army and are planning to launch ‘Undefeated’ Season 2 soon.