We won’t launch an OTT app: Vikram Mehra, Managing Director, Saregama India

Published: August 30, 2019 1:22:17 AM

Saregama, Vikram Mehra, Saregama app, Carvaan, music IP, OTT platforms, netflix, hotstar, Yoodlee FilmsOur core offering has always been retro music for the 35+ age group, but now we are putting out peripheral content for the other members of the family.

By Devika Singh

The country’s oldest music label company is singing a different tune. From podcasts to a dedicated film production unit, Saregama is looking beyond music licensing to broaden its appeal. Vikram Mehra talks to Devika Singh about creating and monetising IPs, why the company will not launch a streaming app, and more.

Saregama has forayed into music devices, film production and even podcasts. Is this aimed at moving away from the core business?

At the core, we remain an intellectual property (IP) company. Going ahead, people will spend a lot of time listening to music or consuming video content, as the number of smart devices increase, data becomes cheaper and people spend more time commuting alone. That’s the way the society is moving, and we want to be at the centre by producing high-quality audio and video content. We are now finding the right ways to monetise our IPs.

Traditionally, the 35+ age group has been your primary TG. Is the launch of podcasts through Carvaan 2.0 an attempt to resonate with the millennial audience?

Our core offering has always been retro music for the 35+ age group, but now we are putting out peripheral content for the other members of the family. We are introducing stations dedicated to movie reviews, nursery rhymes, competitive examinations, career counselling, stock markets, mutual funds, home remedies, Gita on demand, etc. We launched Carvaan using our strength in music IP, and are now putting other content around the product to make it even more broad-based. We are transitioning from being a product to a platform.

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Podcasting caters to a niche audience. How will you popularise and then monetise it?

Podcasting is niche because the access is difficult. People don’t know which apps to download. On Carvaan, you can listen to Kishore Kumar by just moving the knob. Similarly, in Carvaan 2.0, users can move the knob further and listen to podcasts such as Dadi Maa Ke Nuskhe or Gita’s Teaching.

We have no plans to monetise it right now. Our focus currently is to keep adding better quality content. The beauty of these stations is that they open possibilities for potential advertising and subscription. A few brands in the confectionery, mutual funds and insurance categories have shown interest. We are also in the process of introducing third-party branded content.

What are your plans for the film studio business? Is a foray into OTT on the cards?

Yoodlee Films is 20 months old now and already has seven movies on Netflix. It is not easy to create content on tight budgets and still make it compelling. There is a lot of competition between OTT platforms, but they are all our potential partners. For instance, our next round of movies will be streamed on Hotstar. We plan to release 12-15 movies every year. However, we are IP creators; we will not launch our own app. This is a conscious call we have taken in both the music and film verticals. We are happy licensing our content to partners.

We are also going up the value chain and considering creating original series. We started with movies because there was nobody in that space and we wanted to take over. We have already made films in Hindi, English, Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam.

What are the challenges in creating regional language films? Is the business scalable?

We see a great play right now in the regional content space, both in the theatrical as well as the digital world. But can we make 500 films in a year? Creatively, it may be a little difficult, but we are targeting 100 films in five years and are on track. We will be releasing two regional films in theatres this year — a Tamil film called KD and a Marathi film called Habaddi.

However, the challenge is getting great quality stories; because depth is often lacking. Convincing theatres is another challenge, as they prefer films with bigger actors. On the revenue side, ensuring that films get their space without bowing to the commercial pressures of multiplexes is a challenge.

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