Sidharth Iyer- Redchillies.vfx: I find it difficult to see how SVOD driven services will survive the harsh conditions in India

According to Sidharth Iyer, Lead Digital Strategist at redchillies.vfx, the OTT industry is still at a very nascent stage in India. The only way for emerging OTT platforms to make headway is to bring about a differentiated content offering and a richer user experience to attract viewers. Also, he states that pricing acts as the most detrimental factor when it comes to a long-term association with any consumer in India.

    • Q. Since its creation in 2006, how have the activities of the company evolved?
    • A. Redchillies.VFX was set-up by Bollywood Superstar Shahrukh Khan, chief operating officer Keitan Yadav and chief creative officer Harry Hingorani, with the sole vision of bringing uncompromising creativity and a commitment to developing innovative technology for Indian cinema, and the studio has carved a niche for itself in the visual effects arena.Having worked on groundbreaking visual effects for movies like ‘Ra.One’, ‘Krrish 3’ and last year’s release ‘FAN’, the company continues to push the envelope with each project and cement its reputation for cutting edge visual effects with its repertoire of work.And now with the commencement of its Color Grading facility – Redchillies.Color; in addition to its enhanced visual effects capabilities, the studio is loaded with state of the art technology ammunition to deliver a complete digital imaging suite of services, with an aim to give our partners a brand-new color grading experience with accurate color & consistency across all visual mediums.

    • Q. What are the strategies used by Redchillies.VFX to get closer to its audience?
    • A. Being one of the leading premium post productions facilities in the Indian sub-continent, we take immense pride in the work that we do and work alongside our amazing partners who entrust us with their dream projects. Having served the Indian film industry for well over a decade; bringing our creative and technical prowess to the big screen has been our mission.That said we are lucky to have a very loyal and growing base of followers. Primarily catering to the services needs of leading film production houses in what could be called as a B2B marketplace, we have still managed to create awareness and also build a connect with a diverse audience. These include the movie viewers, film students, students who are pursuing courses in animation and visual effects, media industry professionals as well as the person who just wishes to see and understand how visual effects enables movie makers to dream big and how it helps to facilitate their storytelling abilities seamlessly on the celluloid.We constantly interact with our followers through our social media presence across platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and Instagram) and also educate them of how the visual effects are added to the projects we work on via VFX Breakdown showreels uploaded on our YouTube Channel that showcase the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ versions of the shots and sequences that go unseen in the movies.In the last year, we also explored various international markets to build on our global presence. We visited effects MTL in Montreal, Canada in June ’16 followed by VIEW Conference in Turin, Italy in October ’16 and recently were at Paris Images Digital Summit in January ’17. We showcased our visual effects work carried out in ‘FAN’ sharing stage with other global VFX studios. Watch the ‘FAN VFX Breakdown’ here:

    • Q. What are your views on the evolution of the OTT industry?
    • A. The OTT industry is still at a very nascent stage in the country. While there are numerous hurdles that can be seen in the current scenario, it also presents equal opportunities for those who wish to take a plunge in this arena at this time. The preference of the Indian consumers towards vernacular and regional language content is constantly on the upswing; while mass content will evolve to suit the new market needs, aided by the increase in individual content consumption, and the ability to unicast content.We can also expect to see increased niches being created and the focus move from only mass products, to mass and niche communities. All said and done companies and content providers on OTT platforms will need to focus on developing much richer relationships with their audiences. Players will also need to invest in the technologies that will enable them to analyze audience data, deliver deeper engagement with advertising and prove incremental value to brands. Further, easier digital payments mechanisms together with sharp analytics will enable an on-impulse transaction ecosystem for entertainment content consumption.With the pace of OTT’s growth, investment in marketing by the players is only going to get bigger. New players will continue to enter and create some disruption, while existing players will need to get aggressive to maintain the early advantage. Therefore, this space will be a large segment for marketing spends for brands and agencies going forward.

    • Q. What about the emerging OTT platform like Yupp TV, Hooq, Eros Now?
    • A. The only way for emerging OTT platforms to make headway is to bring about a differentiated content offering and a richer user experience to attract eyeballs. Once they have the eyeballs, the most important thing then is how sticky is their content; so, in the end it all boils down to whether it’s the longer versions of stories that are of episodic nature or be it the shorter byte size content can engage the viewer and make him/her come back for more.As I had mentioned previously, pricing acts as the most detrimental factor when it comes to a long-term association with any consumer in India. Many players experiment with the initial strategy to give a month’s worth of subscription free to get early signups and more importantly create a customer database, but once they begin the billing nearly half the audience drops out. Without a freemium or the option to watch the one-off movie or TV show for free, I find it difficult to see how SVOD driven services will survive the ‘harsh conditions’ in India.

    • Q. How do you see the arrival of international players like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, are they going to represent a threat to local players?
    • A. I believe Netflix is finding it a little difficult to acclimatize to the Indian sub-continent marketplace, and it will probably last till the time the team explores content partnerships with more and more domestic content creators. They have already began working towards the plan with the recent announcement of partnering with Red Chillies Entertainment, where Netflix subscribers will have access to more than 30 Red Chillies library titles and any new film produced by the company in the next three years.
      According to media reports Amazon has already struck content deals with Bollywood studios – Dharma Productions, T-Series and Vishesh Films; whereas apart from a few mainstream blockbusters, Netflix is largely focused on acquiring films from the festival circuit.
      As for factoring in the threat quotient, well everyone is a threat when you are in the numbers game. But, what I feel should be the driving force for each player is its plethora of content offering and the quality of the narrative and coherence with what each of them stand for as their brand’s vision.

    • Q. Has there been a change in the content ecosystem in India?
    • A. When we talk about the content ecosystem, we also need to understand the audience that we are talking about. While television continues to be the standard platform for carriage and delivery of content across the demography of the nation, digital content consumption is slowly but steadily picking up. Another trend that’s been seen is of short form and snackable content primarily driving the growth in consumption of digital media, and is very popular with the millennial audience.
      In terms of the popular genres which work for short form consumption they include: comedy, drama, parody, animation, reviews and highlights packages of live matches or events. As I see it, the content ecosystem is going to explore branded content vigorously as it not only allows content creators to tell their stories with a higher production quality, but also enables the brands that they work with to deliver their brand messaging to the audience in a way that blends seamlessly with the heart of the story and also strikes a chord with the viewer’s heart.

  • Q. Any projects for Redchillies.VFX in the near future?
  • A. Oh Yes! We are currently very excited with our current project ‘Phillauri’ – starring Anushka Sharma and Diljit Dosanjh in the lead roles. Redchillies.VFX is looking after the visual effects of the project and Redchillies.Color is working on the color grading of the project to leave the audience awestruck with the stunning visuals of the movie. Apart from ‘Phillauri’, we have a very busy calendar ahead with many interesting projects; stay tuned to our social media platforms and website for all the latest updates!