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Experts debate what is stopping Indian creative economy from growing

Speaking at FICCI Frames 2019, leaders from various sectors discussed why Indian content is not popular overseas, how to monetise it and what legal help and regulation is needed to scale it up

There is a need for creative business in India to achieve scale and get specialised to reach more consumers and remain export competitive in global markets, said experts in a panel discussion at FICCI Frames 2019 in Mumbai. They also said the Indian M&E space is transiting.

In a discussion moderated by Vivan Sharan, Partner, Koan Advisory Group, panellists from various sectors debated why Indian content is not popular in the overseas market, how to monetise it and what all sorts of legal frame working and regulation is required to protect it. They discussed what drives entrepreneurship in the M&E sector.

“There is a lack of authenticity and originality in our content. Global audience watches our content out of curiosity and not because we are compelling story tellers, and we are still producing content for us and the Indian diaspora outside,” said Arun Thappar, Executive Vice-President and Head, Content, AETN18, on why Indian content isn’t being exported overseas.

Shreyas Srinivasan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Insider.in, said, “Mass-produced content used to work earlier, now it is authentic content that works. Right now, there can be very innovative new small businesses and also large businesses. The only difference is ambition.”

Dinraj Shetty, Director, Syndication and Licensing, Sony Music India, said it is about the habit formation which has to be changed in the form of payment gateways in order to achieve global standards to sell quality content.

The population of India and its diaspora outside is the potential market, and there is a need to address the content to those. The essence of the content company is to create content, market it well and monetise it. M&E has to capitalise on the emerging technology, advised Shetty.

Quoting the example of K-pop culture of South Korea and how NARCOS has become a global phenomenon, he said we need to have content that is acceptable at large.

OTT platforms are being challenged by technology, particularly in India, because of technology innovation regulations and there is a need to keep re-inventing time to time. Is it specialisation versus scale or we need to add verticals in specialisation in order to achieve that scale? Every platform is changing scales.

Echoing this view, Shohini Sengupta, Fellow, Esya Centre, said, “The key thing to remember is that technology is emerging. In capacity of laws and legal framework, we won’t be able to catch up with this. Regulation laws need to be more principal-based, it has to be more responsive and it cannot be prescriptive.  There are already questions about ownership and licensing for social media platforms. In case of death of a person, what happens to the ownership? We don’t have clear picture in laws, especially A.I laws.”

She said regulatory scale and specialisation will only happen when there is a work with culture cooperation, co-regulation and self-regulation. Regulation can work bottom-up as well.

What role banks have to play in order to monetise content?

Karan Ahuluwalia, Senior President and Country Head, Yes Bank, said, for banks every entity is a bankable opportunity. RBI started by saying that the final release of the film isn’t possible until the payments are made and as per its guidelines, banks cannot fund more than 50% of the cost of the production. So those initiatives were very positive for the industry. He added, “We can broaden the ways where capital can come in for financing. Capital is the tool; it is debt and equity. Our true growth is the geographies, language divide that we have. For us, each of those pieces like Spotify is a bankable opportunity provided there is a ROI and cash flows.”

On a question what will drive entrepreneurship in the M&E sector, Thappar said there is a lack of basic infrastructure in India today.  “We need standardisation, process excellence, IPs creation, and training in order to achieve a scale of global standards. We need a mindset to create authentic content that is driven by ambition of creating something big.”   

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