Online services remain the key product in e-commerce in India today, but the buying and selling of virtual goods has globally become a key driver for online transactions. In such a scenario then, why is so little digital content being sold in India? A number of players have kept away from India and other developing countries because of the prevalence of piracy. When the majority of customers are just downloading your songs and movies for free, why even spend the money to set up your own e-store?
This attitude is undergoing a shift now though, helped in part by Indians who are operating outside the country, who have seen the opportunity to change ground realities and are making a play for things. One such example is Vin Bhat, Co-founder and CEO of Saavn.com. The company has been instrumental in packing, distributing and promoting Bollywood entertainment for cable, Internet, mobile and video-on-demand services, and along with a powerful distribution network, is also involved in streaming music from Indian movies on the Internet.
Bhat said, “We have done a lot of research and spent a lot of money to have the best technology in place, to serve the audience which is interested in music on the digital platform. The end user is not concerned about how he gets the product, just that he gets what he wants, and when he wants it. People go to pirating sites, which are often cluttered and hard to navigate because that’s how those guys are trying to make a quick buck, gets inferior service, and ends up with an experience which is not very satisfying.”
Satisfaction, Bhat felt, was the key value proposition that a digital service could offer, that beat piracy. He said, “We ensure that the end user gets a high value experience, and at the same time, for brands this represents an engagement point. The experience for the user is free so there is no advantage that pirates can offer to the audience. But the site is uncluttered, well designed, and offers excellent content serving, which is our unique value proposition. For advertisers, this is good because they can reach out to their target audience without having to engage with sites that are promoting piracy. That isn’t legal in some parts, and it’s bad for the brand image as well.”
He added, “We’re going to revolutionise the way people consume music at Saavn, and in the process, help stop piracy and help brands engage consumers that are passionate about Bollywood. Several brands have made investments in major stars endorsing their products and services, and Saavn.com is a compelling means to further leverage that investment.”
It isn’t just free services that are seeing the value in online distribution and paid digital downloads. Many are starting to realise that piracy was caused partly by unrealistic prices, and partly by lack of access. Dippesh Jain, Business Development Manager, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, talked to exchange4media about the company’s plan to enter into the digital distribution space in India.
He said, “We are creating an e-commerce site for Sony Pictures, which will open in February. It will function on two levels – first, there is the e-commerce, where we are selling our DVDs and Blu-Ray movies. They can surf the site, select their collector’s copy, and have it delivered anywhere in India.” The company also has a second, more innovative plan, “We are also working on offering downloads of movies. Initially we will be offering it as part of strategic brand tie-ins, bundling movies as free downloads. Once people are familiar with the e-store, we will look to expand this facet of the operation as well, but not right away.”
The company hopes that a discounted price, along with the convenience and reach online will be a key driver. As for the downloads, Jain said that they would be fully DRM protected and copy proof, so while a person would download a copy they would own and could watch as often as they wanted, it would not help piracy and illegal file sharing.
He said, “Both these platforms are focused at the consumers who normally download films illegally. The reason they do this is for convenience, not just price, so with the discount and the convenience being legally there, with a guarantee of a good print of the movie, and risk free transactions, where you aren’t worrying about viruses or any such thing, we believe we offer a strong reason to switch to legal downloads.”