ALTBalaji will break even this fiscal: Nachiket Pantvaidya, ALTBalaji
Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms shares his growth plan.

ALTBalaji will break even this fiscal: Nachiket Pantvaidya, ALTBalaji

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms shares his growth plan.
  • As ALTBalaji completes three years of its existence, we look back at its journey, talk about some key highlights that helped it become the first OTT player in India on its way to profitability.
  • Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms further shares his growth plan and says the focus now will be to help ALTBalaji dominate the Hindi-speaking markets.
While the lockdown has brought video production to a standstill, that hasn’t deterred ALTBalaji’s spirit. It had announced to launch 30 originals earlier this year and is still on track to achieve its goal.

Apart from that, Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms is also confident that the demand for content will continue to rise even after we resume normalcy and on the back of that, he is hoping to break even in FY21.

ALTBalaji currently has 1.7 million active direct subscribers and as we all continue to be house arrested and binge-watching content on OTT platforms, it is also witnessing a 60% growth in subscriptions with an average of 17,000 subscriptions added per day post lockdown vs an average of 10,600 in March 2020 pre-lockdown.

After completing three years on building a strong content library with 60 originals, Pantvaidya’s focus now will be to help ALTBalaji dominate the Hindi speaking markets.

He further shared with us some key highlights the platform has seen in the past three years, what sets it apart from other players and his vision to take ALTBalaji to the next level.

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms:

Q) Can you walk me through some of the key highlights that ALTBalaji has seen in its three-year-journey?

Having set milestones and breaking new grounds for over three years, our journey has been fairly business-positive and will continue to do so. Since its inception, ALTBalaji has been on top of the consumer mind for its unique narratives and clutter-breaking original Hindi content and we have aggressively grown on the back of innovative business strategies. Moving from strength to strength, we’ve today become a major player in the Indian OTT industry and gained further encouragement by the massive increase in subscriber base. With a substantial bouquet of original content across genres that keeps viewers engaged, our app has consistently ranked amongst the top 3 Grossing Video Streaming Apps in the country across the app store (Source: App Annie).

With content being ALTBalaji’s biggest differentiator, the platform has reached out to all kinds of audiences across the length and breadth of the country through a healthy mix of thriller, drama, romance, teenage drama, horror, comedy among others. ALTBalaji has also been a pioneer in starting the trend of original soundtracks in the web-series space. Laying impetus towards growing its regional subscriber base, we have a host of our Hindi offerings dubbed in Indian and International languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bahasa, Arabic, etc. amongst others. In their endeavour to engage the audience and offer them an immersive viewing experience, ALTBalaji is also working towards strengthening its UI/UX by focusing on aspects like language interface, voice search, targeted retention strategies, tailored recommendations, quick onboarding, and convenient payment gateways.

Q) What does your current content library look like? How many originals have you launched thus far?

Owing to our resounding mass appeal, we have emerged as the fastest-growing homegrown platform with more than 60 originals and we intend to leave no stone unturned in curating more in the coming future. With a plethora of diverse content spanning across multiple genres, our programming has something for everyone. While our recently-launched popular shows like ‘Mentalhood’, ‘Code M’, Mission Over Mars, ‘Class of 2020’, ‘Ragini MMS 2’, ‘Broken 2’, ‘Hum Tum and Them’ etc. have been loved by the audience, there is still a demand for the shows like ‘Haq Se’, ‘Apharan’, ‘Bose Dead/Alive’, ‘The Test Case’, ‘The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family’, ‘Home’ which were launched more than a year back.

Q) What kind of growth have you seen in your subscriber base after the lockdown? Since audience retention is a challenge, how will you make sure that you continue seeing this growth after we resume normalcy?

ALTBalaji is witnessing a strong uptake of digital subscriptions with an average of 17,000 subscriptions added per day post lockdown vs an average of 10,600 in March 2020 pre lockdown, a growth of 60%. As of date, the platform has over 1.7m active direct subscribers.

OTT content consumption has witnessed steady growth throughout, and it will continue to do so, on its own. This situation, though an anomaly, will introduce a wider set of audiences to OTT, who we believe will continue the consumption, however, our focus remains on our long-term plan of creating unique narratives. It’s an obvious expression that once the pandemic is over, people will be juggling between work, social and personal commitments. Having said that, we are confident that having sampled our portfolio of exciting, original web series, to a wider audience that has a higher propensity and capacity to subscribe, we will continue as one of the top OTT platforms.

Q) Your plan was to launch 30 originals this year. Do you still see that happening?

So far, we are on track in terms of the show launches. We recently launched the highly-awaited web-series ‘Mentalhood’ that featured a stellar cast in the form of Karisma Kapoor, Dino Morea, Sandhya Mridul and Sanjay Suri, among others. The web-series has not only won accolades from critics but is also being consumed extensively by the audience. Apart from that, we also launched a very Delhi style comedy-drama ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ featuring Rahul Dev and YouTuber Harsh Beniwal. Other big shows in the pipeline include ‘Baarish Season 2’, which features Sharman Joshi and Asha Negi in lead roles along with a cameo by legendary actor Jeetendra. Additionally, after two successful seasons, our show ‘Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain has Season 3’ on the cards along with ‘Beebaakee’ featuring Kushal Tandon, Karan Jotwani, Suchitra Pillai among others.

Q) Where do you see your next set of subscribers coming from? How many do you aim to add to your kitty by the end of this year?

India has become more digital-savvy with more and more people coming on the internet. According to a market research firm techARC, India had 502.2 million smartphone users as of December 2019. The time spent on phones has substantially increased especially during this phase. According to KPMG’s recent report titled ‘COVID-19: The many shades of a crisis’, the penetration of subscription-based digital models is set to accelerate. From a content segmentation and a subscription acquisition point of view, one needs to start looking at these newer people to acquire. What works for us is to concentrate on consumer segmentation behaviour, understanding how to retain the customers better and working on onboarding the new segment who have just been acquainted with the internet.

Q) What are your revenue goals for this fiscal?

Given the national lockdown, all content production has come to a standstill, we continue to monitor the situation closely. We are very confident that the demand for content will increase once the situation returns to normal and are well prepared to resume business and ramp up content sales once the lockdown is over.

ALTBalaji has been working towards its goals and is the first OTT platform already on the road to profitability. With our costs getting controlled in the first half of fiscal 2020 and the loss margin further reducing at the end of the current fiscal, we are aiming to break even in 2020-2021.

Q) What do you believe is ALTBalaji’s strength in the market?

Our mindset towards reading the market early on and taking action at the earliest has helped us stay ahead of the industry curve. This can probably only happen when the organization is tight, sharp and quick to react. With content being our biggest differentiator, we have been catering to all kinds of audiences through our diverse content offerings spanning multiple languages. Additionally, with Indian originals picking up the pace as audiences are on the lookout for local relatable content, we have the biggest Hindi content library of originals and are creating desi shows across genres.

Q) What will be your focus this year? Where do you see ALTBalaji growing from here?

We, at ALTBalaji, are currently focusing on ensuring that we dominate the Hindi speaking markets and then move ahead. If you look at the geography and demography of the country, 70% of the content consumed is Hindi. As a platform, it makes sense to focus your efforts in one direction and win over the Hindi-speaking population. Hence, this year we are first going to focus on ensuring that we dominate the Hindi space.

We will gradually move towards other regional markets as well in the coming years. A host of our Hindi offerings have also been dubbed in Indian and International languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bhasa, Arabic, etc. amongst others. We shall continue to focus on expanding our language content library in the coming years.