‘Our low-priced strategy will curb piracy’ – Ultra MD Sushil Kumar Agrawal

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Ultra Distributors Pvt Ltd. has come out with an Ultra unique idea to curb piracy. By bringing down the MRPs of VCDs and DVDs for movies which form a part of its huge catalogue. Old classics will now be available at an affordable Rs 45 and Rs 69 each respectively. Blockbuster hits like Coolie No.1, Yash Raj’s Chandni, Meri Jung, Ram Avtaar, Kohinoor, Kranti, Purab Aur Paschim, Shor and Roti Kapda Aur Makaan are some of the titles that will become available at these new prices.

Ultra Distributors managing director Sushil Kumar Agrawal discusses with Businessofcinema.com correspondent B. Preshit his new move and how he through his company is trying to curb piracy and help the film industry. Excerpts:

What made you take such a large step?

Somebody had to bell the cat. It was a risky proposition and it was drastically reducing our profits five to six times more than our sales since we were reducing the prices of our DVDs and VCDs. It has become a volume game for us. More the volume less the margin. Everyone in the industry was saying that something had to be done but no one came forward with specific ideas. We took the initiative and decided to do it. Though we have lost a certain margin we have realized that we are not totally under loss and we are going ahead with the project.

Do you think this move will help curb piracy?

Definitely. I have made this move after a lot of discussions. Pirated CDs and DVDs are being sold on a very large scale and when I start bringing out original CDs at Rs 45 it will definitely make a difference. If they are selling 500 VCDs, only 100 of these maybe original; the rest are pirated versions. This has to be replaced.

Piracy is affecting new films more than the old films and your original CDs come out in the market after three days. Whereas the pirated version is out in the market before the films are released how will you curb this?

We are aware of it. I would like to make one thing clear. A new CD is available but has market value for three days and not more than that. Piracy is rampant with old films and they (sales of these CDs) are being largely affected. The percentage between old and new films is 35 to 40 percent. How many new films are being made in a year – hardly about 200 films. But the catalogue of old films is more than 1000. This has affected the royalty of the producers too.

Films are being aired through satellite too. Will this affect the piracy?

No, who will watch a satellite film? Only if the viewer is in mood to watch it or has the time to watch it, he will do it. Where as when VCDs and DVDs are available and he can watch the film according to his interest and that too without the disturbance of commercials. He will donate two hours for entertainment without any disturbance. You can’t request the satellite channel to air the film at your convenience can you? He could always watch a DVD at his own convenience and that too at a minimum price. Though satellite channels are free channels, DVDs offer more convenience.

Was there no other way of curbing piracy through raids etc?

We sell our product to distributors and there are so many of them. From there it goes to the wholesalers and the VCDs and DVDs are then pirated by these people who buy through the wholesalers.

Why isn’t the piracy curbed at the beginning through raids?

There are so many of them and pirates are spread on a vast scale not only in Mumbai but all over the country. We have a vast country, even if I employ 20 percent of the people to raid these places I can do it in the metros but what about the remote areas where piracy is rampant on a large scale. It is not an easy job. We have to go about it step by step. With our initiative awareness is increasing. We are sure it will work better in the future. We have taken a small step in the beginning I hope we meet with success in the long run. Producers are happy and are getting their royalty now.

What about the piracy of new releases?

We have just started. We are making plans to help curb the piracy of new films too. But it will take time. We are coming out with VCDs and DVDs of 36 China Town and we are negotiating for the price of these. We are judging the market for these films before fixing a price.