If a media and entertainment company in India doesn't have a regional presence, growth could be limited. After all, 75 per cent Indians speak at least one regional language, and are happy to consume vernacular content. For most broadcast networks regional is more profitable; film studios too find regional films more profitable. The Indian OTT or digital video content industry is also latching on to the regional mode.
From Hotstar to Amazon Prime, Alt Balaji, Arre, and Culture Machine, all of them are actively chalking out their regional strategy. "I want to take Arre to five regional markets - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi and I want to do it in two years. Each of these markets should have about 10-15 fictional shows by the end of three years," says B. Sai Kumar, Co-Founder, Arre.
Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO, and Co-Founder, Culture Machine, believes that if one doesn't have regional content to offer then scaling-up would be a challenge. His company already has Put Chutney, a Tamil web channel, and the idea is to offer content in other vernacular languages too.
In fact, SVF, one of Bengal's leading entertainment companies, which recently launched a Bengali OTT platform, Hoichoi, plans to launching digital content platforms, not in Hindi but other regional languages.
Neeraj Shrimali, Vice-President at Avendus Capital, however, suggests a bit of caution with regional-only OTT platforms. "My issue with regional content players is - how large they can become? Will they be a $200-$300 million company in the next five years? Only then investors would be interested."
Shrimali says with all the biggest players looking at regional content so aggressively, life will be difficult for regional only players. "It makes more sense for them to give their content to Amazon or Netflix."
The next round of OTT growth in India will surely come from the regional markets, and in all probability, it will be the global 'Big Daddies' who will fight it out in the regional battleground too.