Broadcaster Star India Pvt Ltd has hired Varun Narang, a former executive from US online video service Hulu, to head the product and technology division at Hotstar in a bid to scale up operations at its digital and mobile platform.

Narang joined Hotstar last week and has shifted base from the US to Star India’s Mumbai office. He will lead the team to build mobile solutions for the app and help innovate content discovery, quality of video playbacks as well as build native advertising platforms for the app. Star India is building its product and technology team around Narang and investing heavily in it.

The move comes at a time when India’s most valuable e-commerce companies such as Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola are paying top salaries to recruit product experts from the US as they try to catch up with international rivals, including Amazon and Uber, on building quality products and strong technology infrastructure.

The company’s digital head Ajit Mohan confirmed Narang’s appointment. “We are scaling up (Hotstar) dramatically. After its successful launch we are now trying to find mobile solutions across devices, monetization models, ways to improve quality and discovery of content among others. Varun’s expertise is in terms of how to create an outstanding content experience in online video. Given his background, he will drive serious innovation on all mobile- based solutions," said Mohan.

Narang has over 20 years of experience in product design and technology, having worked across companies like Hulu, Amazon and Xerox while in the US.

GroupM, the media buying and planning agency of the WPP group, in its biannual report ‘This Year, Next Year’ has predicted a 37% increase in digital ad revenue to 4,661 crore in 2015.

With the emergence of a large number of mobile devices, particularly in markets like India, there is an explosion of personalized content on mobile, said Ankit Rawal, general manager (India) for mobile advertising technology firm, Inmobi.

“For Star, the timing seems to be right. More and more audiences have a device in hand, which allows them to access content. There is also both demand and supply for niche content creators, such as The Viral Fever, to create content. The only glitch is lack of consistent measurement for online video, compared to television measurement metrics," said Rawal.

Mobile app Hotstar was launched on 1 February. With 25 million downloads so far, it has over 100 advertisers on the platform. Hotstar offers more than 35,000 hours of content in 7 different languages, promising viewers a large choice of movies, television shows and even live sports (cricket, football, tennis and kabaddi).

Viewers can download the Hotstar app, available across all platforms including Android and iOS, or access the content from the Hotstar website free of cost.

With over 200 million views, Hotstar notched up a threefold jump in viewership for the eighth edition of the Indian Premier League from 61 million views in the previous season. The mobile streaming app also drew 340 million views for all 49 matches of the ICC Cricket World Cup, as the 50-over tournament’s 2015 edition became the largest sporting event on digital media.

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