An industry valued at nearly Rs1.26 trillion and yet making up less than 1% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), a country that churns out by far the largest number of films in the world annually and yet is valued less than the box office earnings of a single Hollywood blockbuster and an ecosystem that houses nearly 30 over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms but doesn’t have a sustainable revenue model—these were the few challenges attributed to the Indian media and entertainment industry at the opening ceremony of the annual Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) event, Ficci Frames in Mumbai on Sunday evening.
“The answer to such challenges lies in digital India and personalization of content," said Union minister of information and broadcasting Smriti Irani in a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Karan Johar.
There is no need for India, Irani said, to look towards countries like China who boast of far higher screen count and box office earnings. The greater opportunity lies in going beyond challenges of theatrical exhibition to create enhanced viewing experiences for the consumer on his/her mobile phone. Johar had emphasized that India has only eight screens per million people while the US boasts of 125.
“We should define our strengths differently. The idea right now should be to sit down with mobile manufacturers and come up with technological solutions to aid the content viewing experience," she said.
While addressing the concerns raised by industry members, Irani said the government plans to build an umbrella organization to bring all shooting-related functionalities under one roof, create some sort of a single-window clearance across the country’s locations and lessen the distance between new emerging filmmakers and the corridors of power. Industry leaders like producer Siddharth Roy Kapur and Prasoon Joshi, chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, have been invited to be part of the proposed organization.
In their keynote speeches at Ficci Frames, experts like Kapur and Sanjay Gupta, managing director, Star India Pvt. Ltd pointed to the unrealised potential of the Indian media and entertainment industries, ones that provide employment to not just about 700,000 people in various capacities around the country but also to ancillary industries like tourism, merchandising and gaming, among others.
“The film industry needs to come together to tell the government of say, the specific unexplored locations that are conducive from a shooting perspective so we can expand tourism opportunities and also invite foreign production houses to come and film," Irani said pointing to the need for better and more conclusive data on things like the size of the industry and the number of people it employs.
To be sure, a lot of way forward is about going digital.
“Digital is about unleashing the power of new screens, better connectivity, low cost data and affordable smartphones," Gupta said in his address adding that India will reach a total screen count of 67 crore in 2018. “The ambition of every stakeholder (in the media and entertainment industry) needs to change, stories need to be reimagined and investments, business models and the way we use technology need to be rethought."