Guest Column: India's greatest export to the world is its entertainment: Gaurav Gandhi

IndiaCast's Gaurav Gandhi on how Indian media and entertainment industry has created ripples over the world with its powerful content and unique flavours

e4m by Gaurav Gandhi
Published: Feb 20, 2015 8:09 AM  | 5 min read
Guest Column: India's greatest export to the world is its entertainment: Gaurav Gandhi

“India may not take over the world with its army or politics, but will take over the world with its ‘soft power’ - the attraction to our culture, music, dance, yoga, cuisine and most of all, our entertainment…” The former Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information at the United Nations, Dr Shahi Tharoor’s words ring true as we enter a vibrant new age of the Indian media and entertainment industry. The sheer size is testament.

One of the World’s Largest

The Indian entertainment and media industry clocked in about 25 Billion USD on last record. It is a well-documented fact that TV makes up a large chuck of the industry revenue. With 600 + TV Channels reaching over 150 mn TV homes in India alone, the medium is witness to over 400 hours of TV content produced each week. To top this, we also boast of the largest film Industry in the world, producing over a thousand films every year, several routing back to the TV for the masses. Considering content syndication is a growing revenue generator, Indian Television also boasts of an international footprint of 150+ countries, earning over $300 mn from these markets. The icing on the cake is that the Indian media & entertainment industry attracts the biggest foreign investment in Asia.

Exporting Indian Entertainment to the World

Ever since liberalization and the entrance of international programming in India, a reverse trend was also born. Homegrown formats and Indian entertainment brands began to cross the seas to vast nostalgic Indian communities in US, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia and the South East Asian region.

The trend saw a shift within the first decade of the new millennium wherein even non-diaspora markets lapped up Indian TV content. All of North America, most part of Asia and Australia as well as many more markets in Africa now consumed Indian content irrespective of whether Indians resided in those regions.

In the present times, distribution caters to a wide demand for Indian fiction content by dubbing or providing subtitles to an audience that extends to a sizeable audience in South America and most parts of Europe as well.

Today, Indian celebrities are not only known but also command a roaring fan following of their own on foreign shores. Whether it is Aishwarya Rai on the Cannes red carpet; Indian films dubbed into Russian, Japanese, or Spanish; mega stars Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan on the cover of Time Magazine – Indian film celebrities are everywhere!

And while our filmdom expands, why should TV lag behind?

Indian TV content has established some unusual social norms in the unlikeliest of regions? For example, you can’t call an Afghan at 8:30 pm. A huge possibility, he or she is getting his daily dose of Indian soap opera and disturbing them is the last thing you want to do! In fact, the series Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi hypnotized the whole country. Indian soaps with subtitles are popular at salons in Bosnia and are dubbed for local audiences in Eastern-Europe.

Clearly, India’s greatest export to the world is its entertainment!

Inspiration, Aspiration

Whether it is Lata Mangeshkar’s “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai” in Truth Hurts’ Addictive, or "Ye Mera Dil Yaar Ka Diwana" from Don featuring in The Black Eyed Peas' Grammy Award winning 2005 song "Don't Phunk with My Heart", Bollywood has always succeeded in making its way into international hearts with its melodies. Now, the likes of Priyanka Chopra also record international tracks establishing the global nature of our entertainment. Our colour, energy and variety of costumes have been vastly popularized across the globe through our entertainment. This phenomenon has even witnessed international artists adapting and integrating Indian elements into their dance, theatre and music.

The Dil-Se-Indian Opportunity

The population of Indian diaspora exceeds 26 million globally, making it the second largest. Aside of food and a familiar face, entertainment is the only thing that provides a feeling of a home away from home. The enormity of viewership is the most obvious source of demand for the Indian entertainment business. The emotional connect that these audiences experience adds a significant layer of opportunity for producers to supply quality content to these markets. Over and above the ‘people’ factor, several of these markets offer attractive economic benefits to entertainers – making the prospect of supplying Indian entertainment to the world most lucrative.

The India Fascination

Foreigners associate a distinct set of values to India because of their varied exposure to Indian entertainment – magnitude, family, emotional, culturally colourful. Global audiences also relate to the international formats, especially non-fiction programming, that Indian TV channels adopt. Some homegrown formats also enjoy immense demand among international viewers.

With Indian films raking in substantial revenues from international markets, and international entertainment giants partnering Indian media companies, the road ahead will unfold the truth of Mr Tharoor’s prophesy rather poignantly!

The author is Group Chief Operating officer of IndiaCast Media Distribution

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