The online movie ticket booking market in India has been a virtual monopoly for BookMyShow since the last few years, but that could change with digital wallet player Paytm’s foray into the space. With R 3,000 crore spent annually on tickets for Hindi films alone and 25-30% of this coming from online sales, the prize on offer is substantial.
To appreciate the size — and the potential still untapped — of the Indian market, ponder over this: India’s internet user base (350 million) is more than the entire population of the United States, but three out of four Indians still remain unconnected. Access to the internet is all set for a quantum jump and one can understand, therefore, the rationale behind Paytm’s online ticketing vertical. But as a new entrant in a market that has a well-entrenched and dominant player, it will obviously have to sweeten the deal for consumers with cashbacks and freebies. Such competition is great news not only for the end consumers but also for the film trade — producers, distributors and exhibitors will only be happy to have these two players slugging it out to sell more tickets.
The big question, of course, is how long can these financial inducements sustain? Here, one would think that BookMyShow may have a more sustainable model as it has successfully attracted a host of third parties like multiplex chains, debit and credit cards, banks, digital wallets, mobile companies and telecom operators on to its platform to offer discounts and rewards to its consumers while it seems that Paytm’s offers are self-funded and hence cut directly into its bottom line.
This is something we have seen in the Indian e-commerce space too. If bargain hunting and lack of platform loyalty plague the e-commerce market, the challenge is more acute in the online ticketing space where it doesn’t matter whether you book your ticket through Portal A or Portal B, or the cinema owner’s own website or even physically at the ticket window; you are going to watch the same film in the same property and on the same chosen seat. Moreover, with the product being uniform and delivery of the digital ticket being a simple SMS or email away, the ticket aggregators cannot make a differentiation out of assuring a genuine product or a quicker delivery the way e-commerce sites can.
So essentially, the fate of the battle between BookMyShow and Paytm will boil down to two factors. One, who offers the consumer the most comprehensive portfolio of theatres from India’s current count of over 550 multiplex properties run by almost 90 chains and 2,500 single screen properties. And two, who offers a better deal to consumers. To further queer the pitch, multiplex owners are ramping up their online sales operations too and as the owners of the seats being sold, they obviously have far greater leeway over their own pricing than a third party can have. However, that advantage is nullified somewhat by the aggregators’ ability to offer far greater choice of properties.
All in all, interesting days lie ahead in the online ticketing space and the Hindi film industry isn’t complaining!
The author is Nitin Tej Ahuja, publisher, Box Office India