IWMBuzz gets into a candid chat with Nikhil Gandhi

Suavity and sensibility define Nikhil Gandhi, the bossman at Times Network. Leaner, most definitely, but not lenient in his ambition, Mr Gandhi is upbeat about his originals and content plans at Zoom and has his boxing gloves on, to knock the competition out of the park.

He has already earned the respect and reverence of the industry for his stupendous body of work in Disney and UTV.

A man of charisma and camaraderie, experienced Mr Gandhi approaches business with entrepreneurial spirit and cuts through the communication clutter to reach on point with utmost precision.

“All well, want some coffee?,” Mr Gandhi was at his courteous best as we began to converse in detail about Zoom and its future business plans.

“I am good. Shall we begin?”

“Let’s do it,” smiled he.

(Here’s encapsulating the tête-à-tête)

To begin with, what is the core content philosophy at Zoom…any differentiating factor?

Let me begin by stating that the brand Zoom is synonymous with Bollywood. Bollywood means glamour, style, fashion, aspiration et al. Zoom encapsulates all these as a brand. Our content uplifts the viewers. We touch many lives via our wide reach. We connect via web, TV, ground events etc. Zoom as a brand is neither super niche nor absolute mass, we are an interesting mix, which I call authentic magnetism. Thus, we keep our audience interest in mind and create content accordingly. It’s aspirational yet immensely relatable.

How has the response been to Zoom Originals released till now?

(sips water) It’s been phenomenal. This is the first time that we have entered into the fiction web series space under the division called Zoom Studios. The channel is on YouTube and has clocked over 300k subscribers and is growing in strength. Our originals this year have collectively got over 60 million views. The differentiator is that our shows are available everywhere. They’re on YouTube, Facebook, on our zoom website and we also beam them on our channel. Thus, I am capturing audience at a larger spectrum, which, most definitely, gives us an edge over other players.  

What are Zoom’s content plans: fiction, non-fiction, short formats?

We have an interesting mix. Let me explain in detail, which will make things clear for your readers and also those who intend to work with us. We, at Zoom, have basically classified our content into three large categories. First is hygiene content, for which viewers come to us regularly. Our news and entertainment space is super successful and we will further innovate on it. The second layer is where we are looking at a lot of inspiration and how to content shows across lifestyle, fashion, fitness, glamour, reality based stories, which will also give opportunity to young talent. It’s all about variety. 

Our originals on Zoom have clocked over 60 million views: Nikhil Gandhi, President, Times Network 2

Continues…

Next is my hero content and by that I mean high-end storytelling, which would include web-series and large format shows. This year we have green-lit six shows and four are already up for viewing, the latest being Imperfect. The other two will beam and stream by March 2019. And post that, we are definitely looking at a minimum launch of ten shows as part of Zoom Originals. Overall, it’s an interesting line-up.

Interesting. What are your thoughts on the sudden mushrooming of OTT players in India?

Things are at a nascent stage and we are seeing an entire new level of content consumption. I wouldn’t say TV will die, the two mediums will co-exist. The small screen will have a big impact as content availability will be immense, giving audience ample choices. The clutter breaker will be quality of content, something that I personally believe in. One has to make legacy content with a larger shelf life. Secondly, I see a lot of consolidation happening at the platform level. Moreover, there are two dimensions to the business, one is AVOD (ad based) and the other is SVOD (subscription based). Like many others, I am hopeful that the SVOD model will grow in leaps and bounds; that is where the real money should be. Having said that, knowing the Indian consumer consumption habits, it is challenging and one has to constantly serve quality content to bite into it. I believe that with larger data availability and the ever increasing mobile revolution, the AVOD model will definitely grow because that’s where brands will migrate to a larger extent. Branded content is the way ahead, for me.

You are an industry veteran…what is the difference between TV and web process of content creation?

In the initial days, it was perceived to be different, but now the lines are blurring. Our originals are on TV and web both, which has its own share of audience. Formats or duration can be different, based on platform or apps. You have large format series, to digital films to even Tik Tok videos. They all tell a story, possibilities are galore. Furthermore, the fact that avenues are more gives more flight to a content creator’s imagination, which is definitely more promising than TV. 

Our originals on Zoom have clocked over 60 million views: Nikhil Gandhi, President, Times Network 3

Talking about imagination, sometimes it does cross boundaries. Time for web censorship? 

(smiles) Well, yes and no to the question. We should keep an eye on our storytelling. Web censorship should be at the self-regulation level. I feel, no third party regulator or government body should come into the lives of content creators. As responsible leaders, we should be sensible enough to filter at our level.  Creativity is very subjective, what is good for you may be bad for me. Still, we can fathom where to draw the lines. Self-regulation yes, web censorship no.

With MX Player (Times Internet) coming in, will you withdraw your content from YouTube or continue to use it as a platform?

MX Player has its own large expansion plans and I am not privy to those. But like I mentioned earlier, we have an edge as we are available on multiple platforms. Ours is a largely advertiser based model, hence, you will see our content being available across platforms. There will be no either, or.

Our originals on Zoom have clocked over 60 million views: Nikhil Gandhi, President, Times Network 4

How do you intend to stay ahead of your competition?

Zoom has carved a very strong niche for itself. Our core audience is in the age bracket of 18 to 30 year. Mention Bollywood, and we come first to everyone’s mind. We will further capitalize and grow our core. We are way ahead of our competition. Having said that, we are focusing on originals a lot. We want to create a massive content library for our viewers across strata. So, strengthening our core plus our originals is where we will step the gas on.

Any final thoughts for readers…

It’s a popular saying that Content is King and its real sense we are witnessing now. They also say distribution is God and content is king. Slowly, content will become God and distribution will be king.

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