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We are here for the long term: Vuclip’s Arun Prakash

The platform, Viu, offers content in 25 different languages for Indian audiences and has forged partnerships with production houses and content owners to localize the content

We are here for the long term: Vuclip’s Arun Prakash

The platform, Viu, offers content in 25 different languages for Indian audiences and has forged partnerships with production houses and content owners to localize the content

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | May 6, 2016

Arun-Prakash Arun Prakash

Vuclip has recently launched its new over-the-top (OTT) video-on-demand (VOD) service, Viu, in India. The service aims to localize content and provide lifetime free service. The platform offers about 17,000 hours of content in more than 25 languages and has forged a partnership with top production houses and content owners.

Arun Prakash, COO, Vuclip Inc., took time off to chat with on the company’s journey so far and plans in India. Excerpts:

Why is the ‘freemium’ model important?

India is a strong emerging market and one of the concepts of these markets is that a consumer needs to try before they buy. To bring this amazing content on Viu, we have incurred a lot of expense. The importance of free accessibility increases as digital content consumption is free through piracy, which is our biggest competition. So, we provide that free experience to the consumer and hope to engage them to such an extent that they enter the premium model.

How do you plan to make up for this expense?

We would place advertisements but in a very non-disruptive way to the consumer. Consumers who need an ad-free experience can subscribe to a premium model where the consumer won’t get any advertisements. So it’s free and premium, hence ‘freemium’.

When do you expect to reach breakeven point?

We are in India for the long term. Over-the-top is in the very early stages as India is still a mainstream TV consumption market. We also believe the market cannot sustain 24-25 different OTT players because this is a business that needs serious amount of investment and has to be a paid service in the longer term.

Netflix and you share a common ground in the US. How different is your strategy?

There are many OTT players developing rapidly in India and globally. Yes, I will explain the difference. Netflix has a very simple strategy which is taking US content and original content worldwide. They focus on the top three to five per cent of premium consumers. Their pricing philosophy is also a one-pricing philosophy across all the markets and it works excellently for them.

However, Viu believes in bringing local content to customers, along with localized operations, localized experiences for the consumers, with a pricing strategy aimed to entertain consumers in the entire country. So, that’s how we have a completely separate content line-up for Malaysia and India. We are giving content in 25 different languages for Indian audiences. It’s not a one-content offering, it’s not one size fits all.

Can you please explain the content strategy for India in detail?

For the Indian subcontinent, apart from tying up with big names, we have tied up with some content providers in the South. We work with 270 content studios around the world and a large number of them are from India because India has highly fragmented content. The partnership is a very long-standing partnership. Our focus is on showing English shows, Bollywood movies and Hindi/local music.

Our first original series in India is a cricket chat show ? ‘What the Duck’. The show has been produced and co-created with Viu by CA Media Digital’s Fluence. The series is hosted by cricket humourist Vikram Sathaye and will feature cricketing legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. Each episode runs for 13 minutes and the show premiered on the platform on March 3, 2016.

How has the response been so far?

The response has been overwhelming! We got about one lakh android downloads till date. That adds to the existing nine million subscribers across 12 countries.

Will exclusive content like ‘What the Duck’ be available for free?

The reason we did ‘What the Duck’ with Vikram is simple. While India does have a lot of languages and religions, cricket is something that unites the entire country. What we know, moreover, is that the Indian consumer has a ‘first on humour’ with cricketers. They get insights of the cricketer; get to know things a cricketer would never say publicly. So, the Indian consumer has that quest for that kind of humour and we wanted to offer a bite of this favourite content for free. It’s not just any slapstick humour. There is certain content that you’ll get after paying, while the majority of the content is free.

What are your expansion plans beyond India?

We will be covering most of the emerging markets ? the Indian subcontinent, South-East Asia, and Middle East to start with. We want to be in all the usual markets in South Asia – Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – by the end of this year.

Who exactly are you targeting in India and how?

We expect a lot of young eyeballs, more social media consumers. We want to meaningfully reach out to the consumers and we do not believe much in above the line (ATL) advertising. It is great for giving a shout-out. So we will engage our consumers through community, through social media, through direct outreach programmes, and we do a lot of university tours and things like that. We’re very different that way and are not afraid to try and fail at times.

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