Hoichoi forays into Bangladesh, UAE; announces 100+ hours of fresh content
Staying true to its meaning of ‘non-stop excitement’, Hoichoi, the world’s largest digital Bengali content platform, is out to take Bengali digital entertainment to newer heights.
Backed by SVF (formerly known as Shree Venkatesh Films), Hoichoi has announced 100+ hours of fresh original content with 30 original shows and 12 original Films. The OTT platform is also set to double the overall content library to approximately 2,800 hours in one year by acquiring 200 Bengali movies, 12 of which will be World Digital Premieres. The content will be available across genres, including Fantasy, Dark Comedy, Musical Thriller, Sitcom, Travelogue, Mystery, Paranormal Drama, Kids, Treasure Hunt, Psychological Horror, Detective Erotica, etc. Some of the original shows will be dubbed in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Arabic.
Hoichoi has also introduced the ‘Pay Per View’ model, a first in the Bengali digital entertainment space. The OTT platform has also introduced the Hoichoi Top Up Card, an industry first offline payment mechanism. This apart, the audience can also buy their favourite merchandise.
Announcing Hoichoi’s plans, its Co-founder Vishnu Mohta also revealed that the OTT platform is foraying into Bangladesh and the UAE markets to reach out to a wider audience. He said, “These are markets with a potential of more than 180 million customers. While the expansion into Bangladesh through local payment gateways is a natural decision to reach a wider audience, entry into the Middle East is aimed at connecting with the huge migrant Bengali population living in the Arabian Peninsula nation.”
Hoichoi will soon launch ‘Dhaka Metro’, its first web series for the Bangladesh audience, which will be directed by Amitabh Reza Chaudhuri, Bangladesh’s award winning director.
Mahendra Soni, Director and Co-Founder, Hoichoi, said, “With almost 40 per cent of our audience coming from non-urban areas, we decided to emulate the successful telecom model and introduced the Hoichoi Top Up cards to make it convenient for our customers to subscribe to Hoichoi. This offline payment mechanism is never heard of before in the OTT industry and will help us reach the masses in Tier 2 and 3 cities. One can simply purchase the Hoichoi Top Up Cards available for subscribing to our 3 months, 6 months and 12 months plans from the nearest retailer and access the content without having to do any online financial transaction.”
Shrikant Mohta, Director and Co-Founder of Hoichoi, added here, “At Hoichoi, we have consciously taken a decision to adopt the Ad-Free SVoD model, because we want to provide the best uninterrupted entertainment experience to our audience. In yet another first in the Bengali entertainment space, we are now introducing the ‘Pay Per View’ feature as part of the TVoD model. We will be releasing movies on Hoichoi very soon after their theatrical release and the viewers will have the option to pay for the content on a-la-carte basis.”
In conversation with Adgully, Vishnu Mohta, Co-founder, Hoichoi, sheds more light on Hoichoi’s content plans, growth strategy, dominance in the Bengali digital entertainment space and more. Excerpts:
How do you view Hoichoi’s journey in the last one year?
As an entrepreneur, it’s been a very eventful journey. I was personally involved in the Digital Cinema business, which was my first coming as an entrepreneur; Hoichoi is my second venture.
This one year has been extremely challenging as well as energising as there was so much to learn in this business. The business is so fast paced and there is no room for mistakes, you cannot afford to get complacent thinking you are the market leader for the past 22 years.
There is kind of a DNA change in SVF overall as a company. The current infusion of culture and energy has opened up a lot of doors and a complete new take on entrepreneurship for all of us in the company.
How has the Bengali OTT market grown?
There are around 250 million Bengalis in the world, and not all of them are on the Internet today. There are different people in different markets who are online. India has roughly about 45 per cent of the population that accesses the Internet today, in Bangladesh this number stands at 20-25 per cent, while internationally it is about 60 per cent. Now if you combine these numbers, that is, 90 million Bengali speaking population in India, about 170 million in Bangladesh and a balance of 2 million-2.5 million people globally who speak Bengali and top it with the percentage of people who are online and then you extrapolate, you realise that about 250 million people speak the language and are online. And this number is growing every year.
We have taken a 5-year view, and it is a big number to go after. If we are able to convert even a small percentage of these people to the OTT platform, then we are in business.
What about the competition?
To be honest nobody, there is no competition as of now; we have always been market leaders. As market leaders we have to be game changers by inventing newer categories and content. Also, we need to make sure that we are far ahead of the competition. Technology is all about leadership and the No. 1 player takes the cake. That is the way we want to be, we have done this with some of our businesses in SVF and we intend to do this in Hoichoi.
The digital ecosystem is quite nascent; I would love to see the ecosystem grow. In the next 3-4 years, the competition should grow and we feel that we have the first mover advantage in the regional space.
What is the idea behind dubbing the Bengali shows and films in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Arabic?
Apart from Bengali, these are the most spoken languages in India. One thing that we were very clear from day one was that we would not have dubbed content on our platform, however, we might dub our original content in other languages when the time was right. We still haven’t thought about distribution or how we are going to communicate this particular offering on the platform.
We are introducing these dubbed shows as an experimental, based on consumer feedback. We want to try it out for the next few months and see how it goes. It’s not like we are betting the business on this; we remain Bengali in our hearts.
With this experiment, are you looking beyond the Bengali market?
Currently, there is no strategic planning as to where we want this to be in the next 2 years. Earlier, we didn’t much content, but now we have 50 shows; not all content will be dubbed except for Hindi. There are no set parameters for this. This is also being done to tap the non-Bengali viewer in the UAE. The market there is very open to Indian content and several of our films have been dubbed in Arabic language. The stories high on emotions touched a chord with the viewers there. That made me think of dubbing our original content in other languages and we decided to go ahead with it.
Language is the biggest barrier when it comes to content. We all watch local content – with the occasional Hollywood film or sports – but we still love our RomCom in our language. As category leaders in Bengali, we have been able to offer a deep bench of content for any platform. For us, anybody speaking Bengali is the first categorisation and qualifier. We want to be the No. 1 brand when people think of Bengali content.
Will Hoichoi shift from SVOD to AVOD in the near future?
We are not thinking about it right now. If in the future we find an exciting partner and a good marriage with the content, then we will think about it. It’s not in our business model to do branded content, it has to be a natural fit which will dictate a lot of other things. For instance, for our film ‘Criss Cross’, we tied up with Anjali Jewellers because it was a perfect fit. Our DNA has always been movies and that’s how we think in Hoichoi as well.
What does the road ahead look like for the OTT space over the next 5 years in India?
OTT is expected to see the most creative and exponential growth in the digital ecosystem. We are firm believers of this and are betting big on this business. We are investing our time, energy, and resources to make this happen. We believe that digital is the way to go, and it holds true for any industry. Entertainment is also going through a tectonic shift on digital. We have been in the market for 22 years and we want to be here in the next 20 years as well.