Pocket Aces Pvt. raises $14.7 million, aims to shake up Bollywood

Pocket Aces Pvt. raises $14.7 million, aims to shake up Bollywood

Written by Saurav Bhagat
[email protected] | Noida | Published on: July-30-2019 02:29 PM
  • Pocket Aces Pvt. that has raised $14.7 million from Sequoia Capital, DSP Group, 3one4 Capital and others.
  • Pocket Aces utilizes AI and machine learning to test pilots’ genres, performers, and plotlines.
  • Co-founders Anirudh Pandita and Ashwin Suresh created the company from dorm-room discussions.

In the world’s most prolific film industry, a small digital studio is making a name for itself, gaining financing from a Silicon Valley brand investor right after nailing a deal to stream their most famous Netflix show. We are talking about Mumbai-based Pocket Aces Pvt. that has raised $14.7 million from Sequoia Capital, DSP Group, 3one4 Capital and others to bankroll content aimed at pushing Indian shows beyond hackneyed Bollywood formulas- like “saas-bahu” or mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law dramas.


The co-founders- Anirudh Pandita Aditi Shrivastava and Ashwin Suresh

India has become a battlefield- from Netflix Inc. to Amazon.com Inc. and Walt Disney Co. owned Hotstar for worldwide streaming giants. They are attracted by a market that could reach 829 million smartphone consumers by 2022, compared to about half a billion now, according to projections by Cisco Systems Inc., many of them consume entertainment via their mobile phones for the first time.

Netflix raised the stakes last week, announcing one of the cheapest streaming subscriptions in the world: an Indian mobile-only under-$3 monthly plan. Two of its major homegrown streaming competitors — ALTBalaji and ZEE5 — announced on Monday that they were joining forces to produce more than 60 initial shows, share insights from the crowd and develop subscriptions.

Pocket Aces uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning:

The 145-person Mumbai-based Pocket Aces utilizes AI and machine learning to test pilots ‘ genres, performers, and plotlines before spinning them into longer streaming platforms, social media channels, and their own applications.

Our shows gain 500 million opinions a month and we aim to reach 1 billion monthly opinions by 2020,” co-founder Aditi Shrivastava said.

Co-founders Anirudh Pandita, 34, and Ashwin Suresh, 35, created the company from dorm-room discussions. The couple went on to work on Wall Street before beginning their business in 2014 from engineering undergraduates at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

They were joined later by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. alum Shrivastava, now married to Suresh. Pocket Aces’ first show was launched in 2015.

The Young Team at Pocket Aces Office:

Pocket Aces focuses on mobile customers and syndicates content to a multitude of businesses, from Emirates Airline to ride-hailing service Ola and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Youku Tudou video streaming service, unlike studios linked to traditional distribution channels. It has several originals lined up in India for Amazon and Hotstar and lately signed a worldwide agreement to produce multiple Netflix shows. To generate content, it negotiates with various Hollywood production companies. The average age of the employee is 23.


The happy faces at Pocket Aces office! (picture by yourstory)

Pranav Pai, the funding partner at the 3one4 Capital venture backer, calls the startup strategy a “data-driven, ongoing feedback loop” which helps enhance stories and manufacturing.

This has enabled Pocket Aces to steer clear of the clubby Bollywood scene where the descendants and families of established performers, manufacturers and managers are living. Pocket Aces crunches information to gage actors ‘ popularity and then cast them into larger shows.

We don’t have individuals sitting in a room deciding,” added Pandita.

Indian Youth Wants Fresh Content:

The content of Pocket Aces tends to avoid the hero-always-win happy-endings favored by Bollywood big-budget movies or the slower-moving plots of the family dramas of Indian television.

Young individuals are moving on,” said Suresh.

Little Things, which follows an unmarried couple as they navigate emotional upheavals, career trauma and private ambitions in fast-paced Mumbai, is the most effective show for the startup. It began as a brief video but became a multi-episode series and is now streaming from Turkey to Latin America globally on Netflix.

Ananya Ivaturi is an ardent supporter, a graduate student at Vancouver University of British Columbia.

It’s a contemporary approach to a nice relationship,” Ivaturi, 19, said. “The majority of the television family dramas are exaggerated and meaningless to the younger audience. They have regressive portrayals of females. “

Pocket Aces subtly delves into topics like homosexuality, living together outside marriage and divorce. In a series called What the Folks, the protagonists— a young couple — discuss on-screen whether or not to have unheard-of kids in most Indian households. In Adulting, about two young women traversing relationship and financial crises, the characters discuss what lines can be crossed in an office romance.

The hunger of viewers for good content keeps the industry alive,” Pandita says.

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About the author


Saurav Bhagat

A chai-lover who loves to travel and learn new things.
Have a story to tell? I can be your pen :)

9654178839 | A-73, Hackerspace, Noida sector- 2 Noida UP 201301

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