Anil Pallala is exuberant in spirit and demure in demeanour. A man of few words, Anil is perennially hungry to take one business leap to another. When we met him over a cup of coffee, his grace, gravity and graciousness left us impressed. A self made man, Anil has come a long way since his audio engineering days.
Founder of SillyMonks, one of the most successful media company in India, Anil, in a candid with IWMBuzz, shares his journey so far, his future goals and of course, the rise of web entertainment. Excerpts:
So to begin with, what is the core business philosophy at Silly Monks…any differentiating factor?
Well, to put it simply, grow and let grow is our philosophy (smiles). Talking about the differentiating factor, we are an entertainment “content creation” and “content marketing” company in the digital world and the consumer is always a click away. So, we have to deliver new always. We always believe in growing hand in hand, be it a creator, be it a content partner, be it an employee. In a way SillyMonks is a learning centre for many youngsters. We always prefer hiring non domain guys and make them experts in digital. This is a cost effective proposition and a new experience to the employee.
As you know, five years back we were a small start up with a very narrow funds flow, and we still behave like the same even after going public.
It is not about saving money by hiring beginners. It is about the kick that we get when we are creating an opportunity for a candidate by giving them exposure in whole new domain. Example: One of our video editors is an assistant content head today. Every position has a set limit of payout, unless the employee stretches his limits, he won’t be able to see heights. SillyMonks is an “open opportunity” company. Everybody has access to all departments to learn and explore, all they need to do is take a step.
Tell us a bit about your journey so far…
(thinks) How and where do I start… With a lot of passion for music, as a 19yr old boy, I went from a small town called Proddatur in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai to pursue my dreams. Did my Diploma in Audio Engineering from SAE in 1999-2000 and flew to Hyderabad in Dec’2000 to put in action what I have learnt. It wasn’t a cakewalk at all. Being an independent personality, without taking any help from home, I had my share of hiccups and started my career as an Audio Engineer in a studio owned by a popular music director Sashi Preetam, for a salary of Rs. 1000. From there I hopped in a lot of studios and finally got an opportunity to work with 92.7 Big FM in 2006 as an Audio Engineer. I said “finally” because I thought I was settled. I didn’t know what’s in store for me later.
(sips water and returns to the conversation, almost nostalgic)
After a couple of years, keeping the improvisation in the work aside, my work had become routine. It was like a machine working from 9-5. As a kid I grew up watching my grandfather, Mr. Gadde Anjaneyulu who won a lot of awards including Nandi Award (in SME segment) and diamond medal in Trade Fair, Delhi. He always used to talk to us the difference between an employee and an employer. As an employee one could get to work for himself but an employer can create opportunities for a lot. That struck me somewhere and an entrepreneur bug started shaping up in my head and it saw the light with Whacked Out Media Pvt Ltd (Mango) in 2009. At that point I knew digital entertainment is going to be the next big thing. After taking Whacked Out to a certain position in the market I had to leave the company because of various factors. That company will always have my good wishes. Later, I gathered all the shattered pieces and started to rebuild my dream and then happened “the kalpa vruksha”, Silly Monks Entertainment, with Mr. T. Sanjay Reddy – Managing Director & Sai Korrapati (Angel Investor). We grew from five members crew to 100+ employees. We grew from one account to 700+ accounts. We grew from a small single room to a 5000 Sft space and multiple branches spread in India. We broke even in the 1st year itself and thought we are no more a start up. From managing single company Silly Monks, we took it to group of companies. (Dream Boat, Inani Media, Play Monks, Monkstar, Event Monk) and a lot more…a lot more ups & downs, we are taking this journey ahead with high hopes.
Today, we are a Public Company which got 17 times over subscriptions during IPO time, which was extremely over whelming. For all the people who believed in us & our vision, soon we are going to prove all the share holders that their investment is right.
How did you conceive the idea of forming Silly Monks?
Silly Monks is my second digital entertainment venture and as I have mentioned above, I have gathered all the shattered pieces of my dream and rebuilt it again. My vision 10 years back brought me here today.
What are your plans for originals?
YouTube publishing business is our bread in the overall cake. Creating originals and syndicating them is the icing on our cake. We have employed the best from the market and started producing. One of those is Gangstars which is the 1st Telugu original on Amazon Prime Video. Our 1st original on web was with Pink Elephant Pictures, Muddapappu Avakai starring Niharika Konidela. This was made in 2015 when nobody has even thought of making a web series in a regional language. That one web original made entire national media look at it with a “WOW”.
Originals are going to be our primary focus. There are two parts to it. a) We produce in-house and publish on various platforms on a period based licensing. b) We produce originals for OTT platforms which are funded by them. We have been producing short films & mini originals for YouTube and the same has been syndicated with various OTT platforms and satellite channels too. We have lined up over 50+ scripts for all the OTT platforms like Prime Video, Netflix, Viu, Zee5, Times Internet etc. We have closed few scripts which are a real large scale productions. Well, can’t disclose at this point of time.
Talking about the web entertainment space… the sudden mushrooming of OTT players…is it a temporary bubble or a long sustained medium?
If web originals are the larger game, private viewing is the key to it. Neither a consumer nor a platform can afford to miss it. OTT is the future and it is going to be part of life for everyone who uses Internet. There might be a few changes in revenue models based on the regions but yes, OTT is the future. OTT creates your own personal space and it’s a VOD. It’s been more than a year, my mom has left TV. She is always on YouTube, Amazon & Netflix.
Imagine with just 35-40% of internet penetration in India we could do so much, what is it going to be if it reaches 100%? Nothing less to phenomenal.
According to you, what is the difference between TV and web process of content creation?
Content is same, treatment is different. That makes web content always stand out. Youngsters who come with a lot of passion are the ones who mostly do web content. For them content is content, they treat every small piece of content as larger than life cinema that hits silver screen.TV is a public viewing platform and the makers don’t have that extra liberty. Since web content is more of private viewing, there is no censor which helps the creators to liberate their views.
What about censorship in web given unnecessary usage of sex and cuss many times?
Repeating what I have pointed earlier, since it is a private viewing space, a little extra room given to a maker to liberate his views is no harm. Content on OTT is a choice given to the user. It is up to him/her about what to consume and what not to. If somebody says what is youth going to learn from all these things, my answer is, just because a girl walks on a road in a mini skirt doesn’t mean it is an opportunity given to a guy to go and rape her. As far as I know any art form reflects the society but doesn’t dictate it.
What is the ultimate revenue model in the web entertainment space?
Secrets can’t be revealed (chuckles). There are multiple ways to make money on web entertainment and all the existing revenue models are ultimate. It is about mapping the right model to right content.
What is the future of web content? Diversity or niche?
Will web eventually take over television and theater medium of content consumption?
Every pie has its own set of viewership, but no wonder digital viewership surpasses television. I am already personally witnessing the same.
How do you intend to stay ahead of your competition?
Be new, as change is the only constant.
Any final thoughts for readers…
Content is the king, always. If you think you can make great content, pertaining to the ever changing consumer mind set, this place is for you.