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New York: Reliance MediaWorks: Cracking International Markets.

While other large Western media conglomerates seem to have a hard time maintaining, their market shares, the Indian Reliance Industries Ltd through its numerous media subsidiaries provides a text book case of successful strategies. To begin with Reliance Industries is the biggest private sector company in India with a current estimated market value of about $83 billion. It has been ranked by Business Week as number 15 among the top 50 most innovative global companies. It is the only company achieving that rank because of its outstanding business model as distinct from products, customer experience or process with which the other companies scored. Reliance ranks ahead of European corporations, such as Volkswagen or BMW. Another indicator for the effectiveness of the Reliance Industry business approach is Harvard’s recent identification of the chairman of Reliance’ Mukesh D. Ambani as holding the fifth place among the financially most successful business leaders. Since he took over Reliance Industries in 2002, he has increased the market value of the company by $72 billion. It is noteworthy that George Soros has invested $100 million in Reliance.
As noted by Jaswahar Sharma head of Reliance Big Pictures at the 2009 berlinale the best strategy for international film marketing is to focus on growth globally while pursuing growth locally in markets which are expanding rapidly. With media saturation in advanced industrial or post industrial society generating low growth rates, the so-called emerging markets experience 8 – 14 % annual growth rates. By 2013 for example entertainment will be a 21 billion market in India. Reliance Industries novel approach is shown in the cell phone market. Though it has lost lately some market share to Tata, Reliance is still the second biggest Indian operator. It cracked the Indian market since the Reliance owner spent one billion USD to facilitate acquisition of cheap cell phones. Since the Indian middle class will soon amount to 400 million (out of a total population of more than 1.2 billion), Reliance has created a platform for that group which feature on a subscription basis video products presupposing that there is a steady supply of productions. Given the deep development and acquisition pockets of Reliance Industries these platforms will be technologically, much more sophisticated with respect to image and sound and variety of programming possibilities.
Reliance MediaWorks is India’s most rapidly expanding film and entertainment company and considered to be a fully integrated media movie company. As part of the of the Reliance ADA (Anil Dhirubhai Ambani) Group, it is making a significant contribution to the increased value of Reliance Industries. Reliance MediaWorks has been expanding its range of media acquisitions at an accelerated pace covering local and foreign production and distribution as well as all post product ion activities. MediaWorks coordinates functions closely with Reliance BIG Picture, the film brand of Reliance Big Entertainment, the television operation Big Synergy, and the BIG Cinemas Theater chain. Reliance Media Works has now 171 screens in the US playing Hindi and Tamil films as well as other US and foreign titles. BIG Cinemas is India’s largest chain with more than 300 screens in India, Malaysia and other countries.
There are three distinguishing characteristics in the Reliance strategy for domestic and foreign markets. First secure supply of productions and customize them, second ensure control of the distribution pipelines, and lastly gain proprietary access to the most advanced production and post production technologies.

As it is well known Reliance paid $325 million for an equity in Spielberg’s DreamWorks, and has spent close to 1 $billion thus far in expanding its entertainment divisions and engaging in international co-production deals, involving George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Nicolas Cage, Steven Spielberg, and others. It is currently bidding to purchase the otherwise moribund Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer studio to gain access to the MGM film library for eventual 3D conversion.
“3 IDIOTS” a three-hour parody of India’s college system, a Reliance BIG Pictures production is a good example. Produced for $10 million, it has raked in more than 100 million in box-office receipts after four weeks in release. In the US $6 million were recouped after four weeks, more than any other bollywood film scored in the United States. As distinct from SLUMDOG, which was distributed by a US studio and co-directed and scripted by Westerners, 3 IDIOTS is an Indian production, distributed in the US by an Indian company, Reliance BIG Pictures. More importantly a shorter version of the film may be released in the future, a strategy also planned for the forth coming KITES. Also under discussion is market customization for films under development, which amounts to the use of different sound tracks, length, and use of divergent music depending on whether the film is playing in India, the diaspora, or other foreign markets.
Distribution is controlled by establishing the BIG cinema theatre chain. These are theaters using the most advanced digital technologies, frequently digital multiplexes near concentration of South East Asian population groups. Several screens are devoted to Indian films, others for community or foreign feature film use. There is digital projection of films either by down loading the film on the hard drive of the theatre or by piping it directly into theaters from the Mumbai hub via submarine fiber optic cables which in turn area controlled by another reliance subsidiary, Reliance Communication. In the USA Reliance MediaWorks has already more than 30 digital projection screens in 12 locations. This set up, reflecting control of the data highway, evidently permits the direct transmission of events from India be it concerts or grams.
Equally important is the provision of proprietary services in the production and post-production phases, that is leveraging the possibilities of technology and connectivity services in the emerging digital world to niche customers and global movie and television markets. Whereas much of that has covered to date digital image enhancement, mastering and restauration services, most of the markets move today to the conversion to blue ray and high definition, sophisticated special effects, and transfer to 3D.

Acquired in early 2009, Lowry Digital, fully owned by Reliance MediaWorks, came with proprietary technologies transcending restauration and image enhancement. In December 2009 Reliance MediaWorks concluded a contract with the 2D/3D conversion company In-Three to create a Mumbai based facility using the In-Three patented ‘dimensionalisation’ technology to convert new productions and library titles to 3D. That facility commencing operations in February 2010 will eventually employ close to six hundred people and be operating with Reliance’ Mumbai based restauration and image processing unit. With more than 6000 3D theaters world wide, the rapid box office increases generated by 3D titles which accounted before Avatar already for 1.3 billion of the US $10 billion 2009 box office, and the forthcoming penetration of television by 3D productions, the market for MediaWork technical services will grow at a hitherto unknown rapid pace. One indicator for the success and rapid spread of 3D is AVATAR’s gross which had reached by the beginning of February 2010 global receipts of $2.1 billion.
After the customary discussion of distribution production and post-production, one wonders if creative content development is a problem. From a Reliance, thus Indian perspective, this does not seem to be an issue, given India’s complex multifaceted and multi layered culture providing unlimited sources for creative ideas. In the US pervaded by media consumption and parallel ersatz experiences, it may very well be a concern issue worthy of reflection

Claus Mueller
New York Correspondent


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