Strict regulations not way forward for OTT, says Vibhu Agarwal of Ullu App

In a conversation with, Agarwal, CEO, Ullu App, talks about the platform's growth and its content strategy. He spoke how regulation could affect the OTT industry

Nisha Qureshi
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Strict regulations not way forward for OTT, says Vibhu Agarwal of Ullu App

Vibhu Agarwal

The Covid-19 lockdown has led to a tremendous demand for content and OTT platforms have witnessed unprecedented growth during the last few months. This growth in viewership has led to OTT platforms getting aggressive in terms of offerings as well as marketing, says Vibhu Agarwal, CEO, Ullu App.

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“The response during the last few months has been more than what we could have expected. The records that could have taken us four years to achieve have been achieved in this lockdown. The mileage in the last few months has been overwhelming,” he said.

Launched in December 2018, Ullu App has managed to lure the audiences through its low pricing and content. Their monthly plan is available at Rs 36 and the yearly plan at Rs 99, making it one of the most affordable OTT platforms. When asked about the reason behind the pricing, Agarwal said they wanted to target the masses. He said the Indian audience is price-conscious. “YouTube is a success story because it is absolutely free,” he said.

Asked if the low pricing affects business, he said, “Yes our prices are very low and it does get difficult considering the infrastructure involved. But it’s totally a volume-based business. Gradually as volumes come in, we are hopeful we will achieve profits. An average person earning Rs 15-20,000 will not spend 1,000 on content. Obviously, we are not short-term players and businesses always look at profits after a year or two years. We are in the second year right now but in an excellent position.”

Agarwal said the OTT content space in India is in a good space from a content point of view. “When we started, a lot of people warned us about the amount of competition. However, we don’t think of any player as a competition. I believe that if I work hard and with honesty, it will eventually lead to success. Every player has his or her own recipe for success and play on their unique USPs. The audience is smart today, and will easily recognise it if you adopt another player’s strategy. The audience knows what to expect from the different OTT platforms that exist and I don’t think those USPs should be dissolved,” he said.

Apart from the subscriptions, Agarwal said they are planning to provide some of their content for free on AVOD basis soon. He said they are backed strongly by the Jaypeeco group, their other business.

Agarwal spoke about how regulation could affect the OTT environment. “Currently OTT platforms are not regulated. But if introduced for OTT players in India, it will have a great impact. Everyone will have to follow the regulations and will then build the platforms accordingly. Now it remains to be seen at what level the regulations come in.”

“In the current situation, with the amount of content being created, it is difficult to censor everything. If strict regulations are imposed, it could lead to the audience resorting to other ways of consuming content. For eg: if cigarettes are banned, would people stop consuming them?” he said.

Usually perceived as an adult or a semi-porn platform, Agarwal said they are working to making it safe for all age groups. He said they have redesigned the app in a way that gives them the option to stream censored as well as uncensored versions. “For the past 5-6 months, we are noticing a lot of people come to us because they are attracted to the name ‘Ullu’ and our pricing. We have redesigned our app where we are giving the audience to choose from ‘censored’ and ‘uncensored’ versions of the content. You can go to your settings and select the ‘censored’ option, which would completely change the content as well as the posters on the homepage and can watch it with family,” he said.

Agarwal said their recent offerings like ‘Smartphone’ and their future offerings would be available in both the versions.

Vibhu Agarwal OTT industry Ullu app