This pioneering regional OTT has turned profitable in 5 years – here’s how

This pioneering regional OTT has turned profitable in 5 years – here’s how
  • It has chosen to remain a premium player that provides original content.
  • Almost 40% of hoichoi’s revenues come from international subscriptions – US, UK, Australia, Canada, Middle East and Bangladesh are its key overseas markets.
  • It’s expanding its distribution globally with tie-ups with telecom players in Bahrain, Bangladesh and more.
  • The group’s television background helped them maintain the timelines and stick to budgets, which helped contain creative costs.
When Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF), a West Bengal-based film and TV production company, wanted to get into OTT in 2017 – they wanted to start small – launching five original shows across three genres under the brand name hoichoi, which means excitement.

Those were early days for vernacular shows – until then Indian original series across languages mostly premiered on YouTube and were short-form content. This was just before the launch of Netflix’s Sacred Games and Amazon Prime’s Inside Edge. Much like these shows, hoichoi’s bets took off too.
This pioneering regional OTT has turned profitable in 5 years – here’s how
Soumya Mukherjee, chief operating officer of Hoichoi

“We saw an initial uptick for our originals. Four out of the five shows we launched created a lot of buzz,” Soumya Mukherjee, chief operating officer of hoichoi told Business Insider India. Ever since, there has been no stopping this regional OTT platform, which now caters to over 250 million Bengalis worldwide.

The platform claims to be one of its kind with over 100 originals in a single language and more than 2,000 hours of content across web series, movies, shorts, docu-series and more. Moreover, it claims to have turned profitable within five years of its launch in spite of a large number of in-house productions of original films and shows.

The OTT player claims that its direct subscriptions grew 50%, with a 20% month-on-month increase in watch time, in the post-lockdown period.


“Along with this, hoichoi continues to have one of the highest refresh rates in India for a single language, with close to 5-7 titles, which includes original shows, world premiere movies and Hindi-dubbed originals releasing every month,” the company said. Turu love, Tansener Tanpura, Karagar and Kaiser are some of its top-rated shows on IMDB.

The secret, Mukherjee says, lies in its pricing strategy. “From the start, we positioned ourselves as a premium product with around ₹1,000 per annum. From day 1, we knew that content had to be protected and had never looked to diversify. We want to tell great stories with a good mix of movies and shows,” he said.

In the US, it charges around $10 per month - on par with what OTT giant Netflix charges in the market. The reason is the love for content in the mother tongue, Bengali, which is the second most-spoken Indian language, as per Mukherjee. “Bengalis are deeply rooted to their culture wherever they are,” he said.

In fact, almost 40% of hoichoi’s revenues come from international subscriptions, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Middle East and Bangladesh. The OTT claims that customer stickiness is high and almost 70-75% of their subscribers renew subscriptions annually. It premiers a new movie every month and that aids its renewals, it claims.

“While our monthly active users have increased by 40%, our international user base has also risen by 30%. Not only do these numbers make us ecstatic, but also motivate us to do even better, as we step into our sixth year,” said Vishnu Mohta, co-founder of hoichoi.

Content Refresh: 25 new shows announced
Hoichoi also claims to go the extra mile with its user experience. “To help some of our elderly subscribers, we send our people to visit personally and demonstrate as and when needed,” says Mukherjee.

As India’s first vernacular OTT enters its sixth year, it announced 25 new shows – four from Bangladesh and 21 from India – with top creators and across genres. For its latest series, it also roped in national award-winning creator Srijit Mukherji, who is creating a crime detective show Feluda.

Mukherjee attributes hoichoi’s success to Bengal’s wide talent pool of writers, producers, actors, technicians and directors, in addition to its legacy. “We imbibed the discipline of TV and the quality of films into the OTT venture,” he explains.

The group’s presence in television helped them maintain the timelines and stick to budgets, which helped contain creative costs. Their targeted marketing also helped contain marketing costs to 20% of the overall revenue — which Mukherjee claims is one of the lowest in the industry.

Over the years, hoichoi launched a lot of new faces, but is also now focusing on bringing in bigger actors into its fold. “Naturally production costs will increase but in terms of revenue growth we are doing ok,” he says.

Distribution strategy
Last year, the platform became a part of Prime Channels – where multiple OTTs can be subscribed to. While it is seeing traction for its Hindi-dubbed library on Prime Channels as well as on MX Player, it wants to remain rooted in Bengali. Its best-performing show on both these platforms was Charitraheen.

It has also partnered with Jio, Airtel XStream, Tata Play and Dish TV and is looking at deep integration within and outside India as well. It has tied up with Bangladeshi telecom players Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink and also Bahrain-based telco Batelco.

Also, the player is not too worried about password sharing, which is the blight of its business. “We do not see too many cases of password sharing. We only offer two simultaneous streaming across five devices,” Mukherjee says.

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