In an exclusive conversation with D. Girish, Content Head, Spuul wherein he talks about the ideas of the subscription-driven streaming service.

Spuul, a leading OTT player for Indian and regional content has been catering to the Indian masses, not just in India but also abroad. With the demand for regional content increasing rapidly, Spuul is working towards adding to the regional content to reach out to people who like watching content in their preferred language.

In an exclusive interaction with IWMBuzz.com, Spuul’s Content Head, D. Girish talks about the journey so far of Spuul, their immediate and long term goals.

Excerpts:

Tell us about Spuul, its initial days and journey so far…

Spuul was conceptualized around 2010 and it came into existence in 2011. It has been almost 8 years now. Spuul’s headquarters is in Singapore. Our founders are Singaporeans, with some being of Indian origin. One of our main Founders is Sudesh Iyer. There are many other investors backing our Company.

We started as a Subscription Service for NRIs, for the Indians staying across the globe. Initially, we concentrated on the NRI market, and catered to the services of the Indians staying outside India. Our main focus was to provide Indian web content that included movies, TV shows. But over the last 3-4 years, we have also started focussing in the Indian market. Today our subscription service is priced at 500/- a month outside of India, and within India it is available at multiple denominations of Rs. 30, Rs. 60, Rs. 90 and even Rs. 150. We are primarily a subscription driven service and offer video content in languages like Hindi, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Bengali and some Southern languages like Malayalam and Tamil.

Obviously, India is one of the major markets for us. The other major markets for us include Middle East, UK, Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., Singapore and Malaysia. So we are pretty much a global service for Indians staying across the globe. In the last 3 to 4 years, India has been a major market because of the exponential increase in consumption over the last two years. We have seen that the number of minutes consumed on our platform in India has multiplied by three to four times in the last two years. So it has been an interesting journey. We are now available on all devices like Android, IOS, Amazon Fire Stick etc.

Can you tell us about Spuul’s original plans in India?

This bubble was always expected in the Indian market where almost each and every platform is trying to produce its own original content. What is to understand is that there is an economics behind each content, and every platform has its own priorities. Some of the OTT providers are doing it as it directly contributes to the addition of subscribers for them. Some are doing it for PR, and it is just a matter of time before they wll stop pumping money. And some are really good at it; they have a track record pf producing good content. For some, it is just about selling data. Some are short term in nature; some are long term in nature. What we have learnt is that it is not only about acquiring content and uploading it and making it available. It is also about how you curate the content in the right way in each of the markets.

Coming to us, we don’t want to jump into the bandwagon straightaway. We see that there is a serious crunch in the market, for talent. Today we are investing in lot of content, and spending money into the digital market as well. The supply is much more than the consumer appetite is what we have seen. There are so many options available for the viewer to watch; but it is very important to understand what is working and what is not. Experimentation is happening in full swing. Some of the platforms have learnt that certain things don’t work and only certain things work.

In our case, we are working with certain production houses and certain stakeholders to come out with a plan. But we don’t want to do anything in haste. We are a profitable company and we are doing very well within our benchmark, and with respect to achieving our milestones. For us it is very important to note the money we invest and what we get in return. We don’t want to deviate from it and burn our resources just because someone else is also doing that. But yes, we will come in at some point of time. Also we are looking at the big change that will happen in terms of content.

What do you think will trigger this change? Will the change be triggered by people who watch the content or a regulation will be set up as it happens in other mediums?

I think some questions will be asked within the fraternity of whether the kind of money being pumped in is seeing significant returns for the platform. We would like to watch what content is working and what is not. We want to learn from others over a period of time.

Also, we have our own internal data and know what is working for Spuul. Today people come to us with very diverse ideas and concepts which can be execxuted at x budget or a budget of x multiplird by 10. It is veryimportant to understand how the market is reacting to all that is being thrown at them. One more factor is that everyone is launching something or the other every week. We are 100 percent sure that this pace of announcements will definitely slow down. I think it makes more sense to work out something at that particular time rather than now when everyone is trying to grab space.

So do you think everything will boil down to which player will be able to provide content on day to day basis?

Everyone will try to find their niche. Atleast they should try to do that. With respect original content, OTTplatforms need to understnd who are their users. Right now a lot of them are shooting in the dark. Some of them will work, while some have already worked. Also, some have flopped. Lot of trial and error is going on right now.

Spuul’s target audience according to you is…

Our target audience is the ones ranging from 18 to 55. Going forward, based on the content vertical which we decide to cater to, we will look at bringing in content to cater the younger audience. But for now, it is for ages of people from 18 to 55.

We are in an era where people prefer to watch 10-12 episodes crisp and engaging content on the web space. How much percentage of people according to Spuul research engage in watching regional film content online?

We expect digital content consumption to grow by a three digit percentage in the next couple of years. We are now at about 480 million internet users. The next 400 million that will come in are not going to be like the current lot. They are people who will speak all vernacular languages. We expect them to be from the interland of India or from different strata of society. They might not be having the affordability to subscribe to a Netflix of 600 – 800 Rs. These people will definitely trigger explosion of regional content consumption. The platforms which are presently investing to come up with vernacular language content will definitely be more prepared for this explosion. In the last few years at Spuul, we have seen that happen. Our Bhojpuri content viewership has multiplied. We have seen a lot more traction for movies than episodic content. We are no way saying that episodic formats will not work in future. But we Indians are by and large very movie-focussed content consumers. Based on our data analysis, the most consumption comes from movies and then television shows. Movies have been the drivers and we expect the consumption to increase.

What are the future initiatives of Spuul?

We have done really well in Punjabi content. We are one of the most prefered apps to watch Punjabi films and would like to expand on that. We would also like to maintain our strength in Bhojpuri, Punjabi content and also looking at Bengali and other regional languages. Apart from that we are also working to expand our Hindi language content. Showing independent cinema has really worked for us. We keep working with production houses. We are also looking at coming up with original content. It is in the radar for us.  It is only about time.

So will your Originals cater to the Hindi market or to the regional market?

Currently economies for producing original content are more profitable towards Hindi because of wider audience. Hindi wil drive the major consumption and but going forward, since production cost for regional content is only a fraction of what actually gets spent on Hindi, it will also see its emergence. It will be a mixture of Hindi and vernacular content.

How is the market down South been for you?

Telugu and Tamil are the most consumed regional content on internet today apart from Hindi. In fact, it is not a surprise as the Telugu and Tamil markets lead in the number of movies produced every year. I think these two languages are very critical for one to leverage on the regional front. In addition to this, Malayalam and Kannada are also hugely consumed content on the internet. Also the supply of movies in the Southern market is more. While Bollywood comes up with 600 movies, only 40 to 50 titles are worth being talked about. The success rate is much better in the South than Bollywood. I can say that the Southern market is getting more democratized with more capital coming in from other parts of the country. Their content supply is also huge and the quality and success rate is also better.

So when will Spuul come up with original content?

We are exploring different routes to get into this. I cannot commit to any timeline but what I say is that it is getting clear that we will want to do something in the space. We will come up at the right time.

All the best, Team Spuul!!

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