In the series of interviews with market leaders, change-makers, and innovators, we bring our next interview with a market leader and visionary, Ms. Divya Dixit, Senior Vice-President (SVP)- Marketing, Analytics & Direct Revenue, ALTBalaji.
Currently heading global marketing operations under the ALTBalaji umbrella, Divya brings with her 20 years of experience in marketing and brand building across industries — digital, broadcast, telecom, and music. She has an impeccable record in launching brands in the sector of broadcast, telecom, music, and OTT; rejuvenation of brands, consumer lifetime value journeys, creating revenue opportunities, product designing, and designing sales currencies through consumer insights across her earlier stints. AT Zee Group, she managed OZEE and Ditto marketing and subscriber base and was part of the leadership team that launched ZEE5 and stabilized the business. At Percept, she has grown the digital base 100% YOY and Onground attendance 125% growth YOY via various marketing and ticketing opportunities.
Let’s hear it from her about the insights of OTT Space and how digital space is shaping in India.
- What has been the effect of COVID on ALTBalaji and the OTT industry in general?
COVID 19 has given us a huge spike in the subscription. Earlier to COVID, we were gaining 10 to 11K subscribers per day and now after COVID, we are recording 17- 18K subscribers daily.
This phase will make India and the whole world more digital-savvy. On OTT both long-form and short-form content are thriving. But the problem is that advertising has dried up as apart from a few FMCG, pharma and digital players nobody is advertising. OTT platforms are doing fine as Television also doesn’t have new content and consumers are looking for alternative content. This will lead to the overall discovery of OTT & digital content across the globe.
Everything is evolving and going online from education to entertainment to groceries.
- Apart from the Indian market, How is ALTBalaji performing in the global market and where are the subscriber bases?
We have seen an increase in our international traffic. It has increased from 6-8 percent to 18-20 percent. It has been possible due to two reasons-
- Adding more content to the library. Now ALTBalaji has almost 65 Hindi originals and it has captured Hindi speaking audiences across the globe. Most of our global audience is from South East Asia, Middle East Asia, the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and as far as the Fiji Islands.
- Ekta is a big name in Content Industry and ALTBalaji has it’s own brand name and people are attracted to it. We have a bigger global footprint now as compared a few years back.
We have our partners across the globe where we dub our content in different languages for better understanding. As of now, we have positioned ourselves as a Hindi-speaking original platform and we are targeting the Hindi speaking market as it is dominant in India as well as a big diaspora onboard.
Making a show in Spanish or French doesn’t make any sense until you’re strongly positioned in your native market. Dubbing the shows for the audience in such markets makes more sense.
- How important is the role of vernacular content in reaching diverse audiences of India?
It is very important. 9 out of 10 people search for content in their language but out of those 9, 5 are looking for content in Hindi and rest 4 splits in other languages. We all know the consumption of Hindi content is most. As a platform, you need to have a unique positioning in the market and among audiences. We follow this philosophy at ALTBalaji and we decided to create Hindi originals. Since Hindi is the most dominant in the market and we will conquer Hindi.
We believe, this year will cement our leadership in the Hindi-speaking market and then we will focus on languages apart from Hindi. We have made shows in the past in different languages but not focussed on it.
- ALTBalaji recently partnered with Zee5. What benefits this partnership has given you?
It is a co-production deal. We co-create shows. We leverage the width and depth of the audience of Zee5 for our content. In this partnership, we come together and deliver the best content to both of the platform audience.
Earlier, We were in partnership with Jio, Vodafone, Airtel and now we have ended multiple partnerships. This deal helped in creating our direct subscription base which has became healthy in the past 2 years as we are one of the top-grossing apps on play store.
- What are the main challenges you face as an OTT platform in India in terms of content and marketing?
The very first challenge for OTT platforms in India is the customer mindset which says ‘I don’t want to pay for the content’ while you’re paying the cable operators for television channels. After the TRAI ruling for broadcast, the Channels have become expensive. ALTBalaji has always kept the prices very penetrative from 100 Rs per quarter to 300 Rs per year and it’s the lowest in OTT space. Although this mindset is changing. When I started my journey such platforms had 6-8 percent share and now it has moved to 25% in the SVOD space which shows the shift in a consumer mindset that people are willing to pay for content on such platforms.
The second challenge in India is the lack of common currency for OTT platforms. TV has a BARC rating mechanism which helps you grow the revenue because as an advertiser I know which channels to focus upon and where to market my product. BARC is working on a digital measurement system but this challenge remains intact. Marketers don’t know how to measure this and it becomes perception-based that hinders revenue growth.
The third challenge is the high-speed connection as India still faces the buffering problem. 90% of China is digitally connected while India is still going through the phase of the digital revolution. We still have a long way to go in such terms.
The fourth Challenge is that Indian OTT apps are still learning the hygiene of innovation and tech. UI/UX of basic levels becomes redundant very soon and you need to move ahead. For example, we don’t have a voice search in any other language except English and Hindi while India is still struggling with many languages.
- We have seen many homegrown OTT platforms rising to fame such as Zee5, Voot, MX Player, and many more. With homegrown giants and international players such as Netflix & amazon, How is this competition shaping up?
Competition is good for any industry. When there is competition, we also grow as an entity and it helps everyone fight complacency. With competition, a whole new consumer base opens up for everyone as it will lead to more advertising and it will reach out to more consumers.
The latest report suggests by BARC, Close to 5 million Indians have gone off DTH and Cable TV. Because of these competitors, more original content coming up, Tier 2 & 3 towns are finding content relevant for them. International platforms are also launching Hindi originals to capture the same market.
In such a crowded space as a platform, you have to be unique and give a value proposition to your audience with reasonable pricing. It is beautifully shaping up in India and I am very happy about it. The competition also means there is everything for everyone and it helps the OTT space to grow also.
- You have worked earlier in DITTO TV (One of the earliest attempts towards OTT) and OZEE also. How much the customer sentiment has changed from then to now?
Consumer change has been significant. OZEE was an advertising-driven platform and Ditto was the SVOD Platform. OZEE & Ditto gave us experiences that allowed us to create ZEE5. The one important change is consumer went from ‘why should I pay?’ to ‘I am okay to pay’. Today, brands and agencies call us and they want to leverage our platform to reach out to consumers. This was not happening back then and those platforms didn’t get much attention.
From that time to now, We have become more digital-savvy. It has been a monumental shift in terms of footprint, numbers, sentiment, and activities.
- Do you see more creators and big movie names also moving towards OTT in the future? Will ALTBalaji venture into movies?
Big movie names and banners will take some time to release their movies on OTT platforms. It will happen in the future but not now.
Small budget movies are already getting released on OTT platforms as the producers don’t want to hold the movies for long and there are OTT platforms that are willing to pay money and get these movies on board in search of new content.
A big-budget film will wait for multiplexes as you can’t get a collection to the level of 300 cr via OTT yet.
Yes, If we have a good concept and create a strong IP, we will certainly produce movies and deliver them to our audience. But we don’t believe in acquiring movies at a monumental cost which is difficult to recover.
- Do you see more directors, writers, filmmakers moving to OTT as it grows at a rapid pace?
I don’t think any filmmaker will hesitate to come to the OTT platform. Digital and OTT space gives you a platform to address issues that you can’t do otherwise in the mainstream. OTT opens up a whole new canvas for such directors and filmmakers to explore. At ALT also we have worked with big directors, actors, and even launched filmstars on our platform. These lines are blurred and people are taking OTT seriously.
- Where do you see Digital Space in the nearby future?
Gaming is one industry that will explode and it has been rising at a rapid pace. News consumption is becoming digital as people prefer to read the news on go instead of sitting in front of the television. Music streaming is going digital. Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning will play a huge part in the digital space. Virtual reality will be the next big game changer in the digital space.
Digital space is going ways and it will become a new way where you can consume everything.
Team Next Big Brand extends heartiest wishes to Divya Dixit and the amazing team at ALTBalaji. Kudos to her for such an amazing and insightful interview.
You can check our other interviews here.