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Hungama to go global, launch HTML5 site [Interview]

Hungama.com is all set to expand its frontiers and enter the markets of UAE and Singapore with Indian movies, both regional and Bollywood flicks. One of the largest on-demand storefront caters to around 1.5 billion South Asian’s globally and enters the prestigious market with 5000+ HD and DVD movies; and television titles for a monthly subscription starting at AED 6.99.
Hungama's Siddhartha Roy
We caught up with Siddhartha Roy (SR), COO, Consumer Business & Allied Services, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd and spoke to him about the international launch, Hungama’s upcoming initiatives in India and the strategy behind DRM protected content.

Pi: Internet speeds in India was 1Mbps in the Jan-March quarter, a growth of 16% quarter-over-quarter. Though the country has registered an increase in average speed, it still ranks 112th globally. Given this fact what is the potential for online streaming in India?

SR: India is the 3rdlargest Internet market in the world. Internet connections are expected to reach 443 Mn by 2016 with a growth rate of an average of 40% per year. In terms of mobile connectivity also, total mobile connections to reach to 1365 Mn by 2016 and GPRS base to mobile connections to grow from 32% in 2012 to 45% by 2016. Currently, the reach of the medium is very high. Having said that, we do agree that the quality of streaming continues to be a hindrance due to bandwidth constraints and hence we at Hungama.com, provide both download and streaming options for our consumers. (for Music)

Pi: What are the challenges that India needs to overcome technologically to go to that level. Also what are the Government policies and hindrances that act as a bottleneck?

SR: Seamless connectivity is still a huge gap in India. The government has committed to building this connectivity with the last mile project, which is still a work in progress. However but we are optimistic that internet connectivity, especially broadband will be used by a large set of people by 2015.

I cannot comment on what the government can do to expedite this process, but in the meantime, we are steadily moving towards better connectivity in India. With ISPs and Telcos reducing the tariff on 3G and the launch of 4G and LTE in India, data services will become far more accessible and faster.

Pi: The use of technology as in streaming movies downloads both on mobiles and computers is growing steadily in rural markets. What is Hungama doing to capture the potential market?

SR: We already have a significant customer base in Tier 2 & 3 cities for Hungama.com music and movies services. Our relationship with BSNL, India’s largest Internet Service Provider  and all the telecom subscribers in India has ensured that Hungama.com is available to each and every digitally connected consumer- should he choose to consume our service. Simultaneously work is underway to eliminate bandwidth charges in these sectors.

However via our retail strategy, we further enable the end customer to get legitimate content from kiosks, mobiles and many more connected devices seamlessly. We are the only storefront that is available across web, mobile, DTH, smart TV’s and tablets. We will ensure that the end customer in these markets can access content through anyone of the access points mentioned.

Pi: What are the new initiatives in pipeline from Hungama?

SR: We are launching version 2 of Hungama.com on HTML 5 with a Freemium model. The new site will have streaming and download options, and a very cool new feature to discover new music.

Version 2 will be live in the next 2 weeks. In the new version, one would also be able to listen and stream on all iOS platforms like iPhone, iPad and iPod, Android and the Windows 8 platforms, and download on the Android and Windows 8 platforms. The service already exists on Blackberry and Symbian Platform. The new version will have more social connect besides our existing Hungama My Play application, consumers will be able to sign on through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and get social feeds as well. We will offer a freemium model with streaming options with more focus on applications and music on cloud as some of the key features.

Pi: With regards to content Hungama is partial DRM protected and partial is free. What is the strategy behind such a model?

SR: Depending on the subscription pack one chooses, the content provided is either DRM protected or DRM free. We have an unlimited plan for INR 99 which has DRM protected content however the INR 99 for 99 pack gives you each piece of content for Re. 1, which is DRM free. This is thought out to suit every user’s consumption pattern and pocket size.

Pi: Flipkart’s Flyte also offer DRM free content. Why would one want to come to you?

SR: Hungama.com gives consumers DRM protected as well as DRM free content. Our storefront caters to every kind of digital entertainment, music being only one part of the overall offering. The storefront has over 2 and half million pieces of content across genres and languages, in the form of music tracks, movies, music videos & dialogues and mobile content such as ringtones & wallpapers.

A unique feature on Hungama.com is that consumers can access and download the services either on the web or on their mobile through one single sign up, and carry their music wherever they go. Close to 90% of our content consumption is through mobile devices, through our partnerships with telcos and our convenient WAP offering m.hungama.com. This is the biggest opportunity with close to 700 million active mobile subscribers in India. Besides as mentioned earlier, we are the ONLY store front available through various access points like web, mobile, smart TV’s, tablets and all connected devices.

Pi: Other players Gaana, Saavn, Dhingana etc have been around for a while, and are fairly popular. What is your go-to-market strategy, differentiators?

SR: If we look at business models for digital content distribution the world over, the most successful businesses have been built on the ‘download to own’ model; iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc are all great examples. Streaming models have been fairly successfully, but they rely on advertising. With a high cost on licensing fees and bandwidth, in the long run these do not give returns like a digital storefront. In India specifically bandwidth and connectivity continues to a huge challenge.

Pi: Hungama has already established themselves in India and are doing pretty well. Why the jump to international markets of UAE and Singapore?

SR: Hungama.com music storefront is already available in UAE and Singapore. We are extending our offering of Hungama Movies in these markets. The habit of downloading or streaming movies and TV shows is gaining popularity and the trend is growing at a tremendous rate in India and worldwide. Keeping in mind, consumer needs and current trends we are venturing into newer markets that have a large base of South Asian diaspora, hungry for Indian content.

Pi: What is so distinctive that Hungama aims to do to rise above competition from Hulu and Netflix, who are already doing very well in international markets?

SR: Like we mentioned earlier, Hungama.com caters to the entertainment needs of 1.5 billion South Asians globally. Our key features include association with global technology leaders Intel® enabling streaming of premium high-definition movies from a PC or laptop; Hungama.com ‘s global presence and our content catalogue of over 5000 movies across Bollywood, Hollywood, Regional Indian languages and Television Series available in both HD and SD quality.

Pi: What has been the traction on the site so far? What is the kind of revenue that you aim to generate from international markets in the next 6-9 months? Also what are the numbers from India?

SR: Hungama.com have 20 million users via various touch points. Ever since its launch in India, Hungama Movies has a subscriber base of more than 50,000 paid users, projected to grow 3 times in the next 12 months. In the Middle Eastern Market specifically we hope to have 10,000 subscribers in the first phase.

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