A digital makeover and professionals at the helm are steering the ship of Balaji Telefilms towards calmer seas
Young Ekta Kapoor and her mother Shobha Kapoor entered the television content world when India was at the cusp of a satellite television revolution. They set up Balaji Telefilms in 1994, with an archetypal start-up story of a car garage doubling up as the production company’s office. As Shobha Kapoor, MD, Balaji Telefilms, sees it, “What you are seeing now is very sophisticated; back then it was chaotic. But it was fun.”
It was the dynamic working equation between the two that made Balaji synonymous with the daily soap opera culture in the years that followed. However, it was also the same single-handed creative control of the business that saw Balaji Telefilms go through tough times post-2008. How Ekta and Shobha brought in the business fundamentals to institutionalise Balaji, and reworked its various business verticals is what makes for Balaji 2.0.
The group is now readying for its foray into the digital space with ALT Balaji, stabilising its movie business and enhancing its television content vertical, besides having smaller entities like a live event vertical, a fashion label and increasing regional presence, among other initiatives.
It all started in 2013, when after a long struggling period, Ekta Kapoor finally realised that a single-handed creative control was doing the company no good and she needed to bring in professionalism.
Ekta went to Harvard University for a three-week-long management programme and came back with new learning that included institutionalising Balaji Telefilms in order to recoup. “My learnings from Harvard have stood me in good stead,” says Ekta Kapoor, joint MD, Balaji Telefilms.
Consulting agency Avalon Consulting helped Balaji arrive at the next phase of growth, which included an OTT, SVOD platform, creating original and premium content. Work commenced on ALT Balaji from January 2015. “The scalable part of our future is not movies, and TV has a limitation on how much it can grow,” says Sameer Nair, group CEO of Balaji Telefilms.
“We believe there is an audience that is under-served by TV, which comprises people who want individual viewing, most of it being male,” states Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALT Balaji.
Balaji believes FY17 is key, as it is a year full of movies alongside ALT Balaji’s launch in June-July. The movie line-up includes Great Grand Masti, Azhar, A Flying Jatt, Half Girlfriend, Udta Punjab and more.
Furthermore, last year Balaji launched a fashion
label, Brand EK. The label was another brainwave from Ekta on how people would like to buy celebrity clothes at a reasonable price. Led by Devika Mehra, the label presently has
exclusive deals with Best Deal TV and Snapdeal. At the moment, the label includes sarees and plans to expand into suits and kurtas as well.
With all of its businesses well aligned and a professional atmosphere in place, all seems smooth now. But Shobha Kapoor is not satisfied. “I want to be Yash Raj in movies, Balaji in TV and make ALT like Netflix in digital,” she concludes wishfully.