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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



FICCI conference: Digital content economy poised to see exponential growth

FICCI conference: Digital content economy poised to see exponential growth

Digital content specialists outlined the future of India’s digital economy at a conference, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, FICCI, in association with the Los Angeles India Film Council (LAIFC), last week, at the Taj Land’s End Hotel, Mumbai. 

Fast Track India: Bolstering Growth in the Digital Content Economy, a Knowledge Series forum by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI), assessed the extent to which screen content acts as a key driver of the digital economy in India. Creative industry executives assessed the current regulatory and infrastructural challenges, reviewed future growth trends and underlined innovative ways of monetising digital content to stimulate growth in India’s digital economy.

Senior executives from the India’s motion picture and digital industries concluded that accessibility, affordability, quality content and online content protection will be the key drivers to sustain growth in India’s digital economy.

At the opening of the forum, noted filmmaker and Co-chair, FICCI, Entertainment division, Mr. Ramesh Sippy, who directed the box-office dynamite and technical milestone, Sholay, among other films, highlighted that increased connectivity, technological innovation and new content delivery platforms all combine to spur growth. The role of the Government is pivotal to enabling legitimate content delivery platforms to protect and monetise their content in order to achieve their full potential in a rapidly changing marketplace, Mr Sippy said. In a reflective moment, he reminded the audience that e had made the transition from 35 mm to 70 mm celluloid films, and from film to TV, during his almost 50 year career. So, he was keen on foraying into digital content as well.

It was highlighted during the conference that India is the second largest Internet user market in the world, with an accelerating 40% Internet growth rate. Further, Digital India has the potential to create opportunities for businesses, promote innovation and create jobs. Currently, the Indian M&E sector is at the tipping point for online businesses to provide for a multitude of options to consumers. However online content theft, varying levels of broadband access and affordability in terms of data tariffs, continue to present challenges for providers to deliver value to consumers. These factors will have a significant impact on how digital media evolves in the future.

The first panel, Making Sense of the Economics of Digital Media, featured a keynote presentation by KPMG India’s Mr. Girish Menon, Director- Transaction Services said, “The advent of the Over The Top (OTT) services and on-the-go content, aided with competitive tariffs and falling average retail price of smart-phones has helped to drive video consumption in India. However, profitability still continues to be a major challenge coupled with infrastructure and affordability of data tariffs and payments models. It is imperative for the OTT players to address these concerns through innovative means to achieve the medium’s full potential.”

Speaking about the future of OTT content services, Mr. Ajay Chako, Co-Founder & CEO, Arre, said, “As in the case of broadcast TV in India, the relatively infant digital content economy is showing signs of secular, organic growth, driven by an increasingly young India. We already have more than 120 million consumers of digital content. As with every paradigm shift, audience shifts will be followed by a shift in advertiser preferences and, finally, consumer monetisation. So, I am quite hopeful that the digital content economy will see the exponential growth that has been witnessed in the 2000-2010 decade in TV, in the next 3-5 years. I am happy that FICCI and the LA India Film Council have identified this important shift in paradigm in the new content economy.”

At the second panel, on Regulatory and Infrastructural Challenges for Digital Media, Mr. Abhishek Joshi, Head--Marketing & Analytics, Digital Business, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India said, “The OTT industry has graduated from the innovators stage to the early adopters stage within the innovation diffusion curve, based on distinguished product strategies by players in the market. However, to cross the chasm to gain the majority market, policy-makers will have to play a very big role. Infrastructure and regulatory policies are going to be the biggest differentiators for industry growth for the next 18 months.”

Ms. Archana Anand, Business Head, Ditto TV, said, “In light of the accelerated digital media consumption across the country, it is wonderful that FICCI and the LA India Film Council provides this much needed platform to discuss the market potential of this space and the innovations and challenges thereof.” She illustrated how simplicity in an advertising campaign, bereft of any jargon whatsoever, had proven effective in drawing large numbers of subscribers to her mobile-phone based service.

At the third panel, on Building a Robust Enforcement Model to Protect Content in a Digital Economy, Mr. Oliver Walsh, Regional Director, Online Content Protection, Motion Picture Association (MPA) said, “The Indian film and TV industry supports 1.8 million jobs, which are at risk because of rising online content theft. The future of legitimate content delivery platforms depends on effective enforcement measures supported by Indian State Governments. The Telangana (India’s recently carved state, which was hitherto part of Andhra Pradesh) Intellectual Property Crime Unit (TIPCU) is a great example of a dedicated law enforcement unit to tackle organised online film piracy and will set a gold standard approach to significantly reduce online infringement of films and television shows. I hope it is the first of many such enforcement units across India.”

Mr. Rajkumar Akella, Honorary Chairman, Governing Council, Anti Video Piracy Cell, Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce said, “As we have seen innovation diffusion curve, based on distinguished product strategies by players in the market. However to gain a majority market share, policy-makers will have to play a very big role. Infrastructure and regulatory policies are going to be the biggest differentiators for industry growth for the next 18 months.”

 Sharing his thoughts on the future of India’s burgeoning digital market, Mr. Biren Ghose, in his valedictory remarks, said, “Content is assuming new life in the emerging digital economy. Technology enables innovations in imagery that could hitherto neither be produced nor consumed. FICCI and LA India Film Council need to be complimented on encouraging the conversation for the Indian agenda in this space.” Panelists concluded that a combination of government and private initiatives would need to be rolled out to achieve the ambitious goal of a truly Digital India.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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