‘We started with entertainment but we will also have non-Bollywood content on our site’ – Rajjat Barjatya

What prompted Rajshri to venture into the space of New Media?

Since 1947, Rajshri has been a traditional entertainment company focused on film entertainment dealing with film production, distribution, exhibition and export. Last year, we took the decision of making a show for the mobile platform, which will be distributed by telecom networks and internet. We also want to make fiction and non-fiction shows for the broadband portal.


That’s when we decided to set up Rajshri Media as a separate entity looking at digital entertainment. Rajshri Media is essentially doing three activities – content creation, content aggregation and content distribution.  


One always thinks of Rajshri as a traditional family business set up. So it’s surprising to hear of this unconventional venture.

We have always been very progressive as a family. We were the first film company to launch a website on 1 December, 1996; the first to launch four track stereos, which is now digital; the first ones to come up with cinemascope; and the first to do movie merchandising with Hum Apke Hain Kaun.


All these years, we let our work speak and we have not spoken. But now Sooraj and I are more available to the media than our elders ever were. That’s the reason a lot more is being written and spoken about us. But we were always innovative and will continue to be, because we are completely focused in our work.  


Vivah was the first film in India to premier on the internet on the same day as its theatrical release…

Yes, Vivah is available for download on our portal at a price of $9.99. The film is available in three versions- Hindi theatrical, Hindi theatrical version with English sub titles and a Telegu version called Parinayam.  


This is a radical step we have taken and I must admit it is an experiment. There will be hurdles along the way, because we don’t come from a technological background.


With networks and devices evolving very rapidly into personal multimedia entertainment devices, content owners like us have another touch point and channel of distribution with the audience. Online portal is another medium of distribution for rich content which was earlier done only on 35 mm cinemas, satellite television, DVDs and VCDs.


What prompted you to premiere the film on your portal? Was it revenue oriented?

All Rajshri films are available on the portal for free. First, we want to get the audience on our portal and want them to experience it. Our content is available for free for streaming and will remain free for the same.


NRIs have a deep desire to connect to their homeland, which they are able to do through Bollywood. Twenty five million Indians worldwide are increasingly lapping up Bollywood content. At times, we may not be able to reach them effectively through cinema, so the internet is the best medium to reach them. Fifty one per cent of them have online access on a daily basis.


I can never replicate the cinema experience. Services at Rajshri media are not competitive; they are complimentary. If you visit the portal, the show starts as soon as you press the click button. You can watch the movie non-stop via streaming or downloading by paying a price provided you have at least 256 kbps.    


In the next 8-10 days, we will introduce downloads for many more movies as well, which will be at a price of $2.99 to $4.99 depending on the quality of the movie.


How different will the experience of watching a film on the computer be compared to viewing it on television or a DVD player?

You can watch Phir Hera Pheri on a TV channel and you can also buy a DVD. But we are both. If you log on to the Rajshri site, you can watch it whenever you want to, anywhere in the world and not when the broadcaster wants to show it to you. At the same time, you also get a DVD quality.


The download will also offer an option to rip it to an iPod or DVD. So we offer you a DVD quality without the retailer and wholesaler margins, without the fancy boxes but at a competitive price.


We are into digital entertainment; we will not get involved in physical entertainment. I am not selling you a DVD; I am selling you a download, which is DVD quality.


Since majority of the content on your site is available for free, what will be the source for revenue generation?

Advertisements and transactions are going to be our source of revenue. We already have significant interest from advertisers. We are not opening our doors to advertisers yet; we want to first build the site and ensure the service is stable. We want to ensure we have the widest and richest video content and then we will give the advertiser bank for his buck. My aim is to give my advertiser the highest ROI (Return on Investment) on my site than he gets anywhere else.


As of now, I have only one source of revenue- Vivah. When the viewer watches HAHK for three hours on my site, I have to bear the expense, which tomorrow the advertiser will subsidize. Bulk of my deals is on revenue sharing basis.


Apart from films, what other content will be available on your site for downloads?

We already have 1,000 hours of video content on the portal for downloads. Only 10 per cent of the content on my portal is Rajshri content; the remaining has been aggregated from various sources like TV, music videos, short films, documentaries, yoga, cookery shows etcetera.


We have a lot of entertainment-based content, which is Indian in nature. We have started with entertainment because that is more compelling, but going forward I see a huge amount of non-Bollywood content on our site as well.


Why outsource when Rajshri has enough content itself?

Seventy-five of our own movies are available on the site. The idea is not to restrict ourselves to Rajshri content. Why would anybody come to my site if I were offering only Rajshri content? Rajshri media is a platform. I am a digital entrepreneur and not a producer.


Rajshri is also generating content for the mobile phone. Can you elaborate?

While the parent company thinks in the format of three hours and thirty minutes, we are thinking in smaller formats of three minutes. I don’t think you will watch a 23 – minute serial on your mobile, because you will get calls and SMSes that you can’t avoid. You will consume mobile content while you are on the go, and not when you are at home, sitting in front of your plasma TV. Today, if people are listening to FM and iPods, then why not use the phone for original entertainment content, made originally for the phone.


At the moment, we have alliances with all leading mobile networks in the country. We are supplying in-house content and aggregated content.


When a popular serial is introduced on the mobile, it already comes with credibility. But what will be the credibility factor for your original content?

Credibility is built. When television started with Hum Log and Paying Guest, these serials didn’t have stars and credibility. It was developed, based on the strength of the content. So ultimately, it is all about the content and its creativity. Today, I put myself in place of the guy who made the first TV programme.    


What is the genre of content that you plan to build for the mobile?

We are at the experimenting stage now. We have a lot of content available for download, and as per our research, humour is the most sought after.


We also have exclusive rights to Baba Ramdev and Osho. B R Chopra’s Mahabharat will also be launched soon. We have also done recordings with Raju Srivastav and Navneet Hullad specifically for the mobile. So we’ve already begun experimenting with what will work and what will not.


Do you plan to restrict the mobile content to India alone or do you plan to make it available to a worldwide audience?

In India, we will have 300 million mobile users by 2008. It a huge number of people and a bulk of them will have GPRS and multimedia enabled phones.  In the future, I see the mobile being a much bigger touch point than the PC.

Rohini Bhandari

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