Scalability is our No. 1 focus as this business is a people’s business: Rajiv Bakshi
Since 1988, Big Synergy has been at the helm of producing India’s most critically acclaimed television and OTT series and franchises. Over the last three decades, it has produced over 4,500 hours of original content across all genres for leading national and regional broadcasters, and in recent years with top international and domestic OTT platforms as well.
Over the years, Big Synergy has delivered both critically and commercially successful shows, including ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, ‘10 Ka Dum’, ‘India’s Got Talent’, ‘Sach Ka Saamna’, ‘India’s Child Genius’, ‘Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain’ and ‘Aap Ki Kachehri’. Some of popular web-series that it has produced include ‘Bose - Dead or Alive’ with ALTBalaji, ‘Yay Kay Hua Bro’ with Voot, ‘Kaushiki’ with VuClip. It also has multiple shows under development with premium international SVOD and TV platforms.
In conversation with Adgully, Rajiv Bakshi, CEO, Big Synergy Media Ltd, speaks at length about the content landscape in India, while scale up is important for Big Synergy, the road ahead and more. Excerpts:
What are the key changes at Big Synergy post your joining the organisation in December last year?
One big change is the progression from doing only non-fiction to broad based fiction – that is my core agenda. We will continue to work with both broadcasters and OTT players. We are also focussing on regional Original content in a big way across languages like Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada and many more. Over time, regional Originals will occupy one-third of our business. By the end of the year, we will be present in at least 4-5 regional languages actively other than Hindi.
Though we can do both formatted shows and Original non-fiction shows, our focus currently is on Original formats.
How is Big Synergy leveraging its associations with broadcasters and OTT players?
We share a good rapport and understanding with all the broadcasters and OTT players – both Indian and international. Every broadcaster – be it regional or national – and OTT player has their own USPs, positioning, strategies and business models. We aim to align with those as much as we can and customise the content for each client. For this, we have a talented team of creators, producers, writers and directors. Thus, we are equipped to do long seasons and series stretching into several episodes, we can also do finite series that ends in just 6-7 episodes. We can do an absolute classic one-hour unscripted show depending on the needs of the client and also the subject matter.
Today, we work across genres – Drama, Comedy, Horror and more. I have been championing the shift to bringing in more variety in content. Everyone looks for variety these days, there is no one particular type of programming that will continue. However, when you look at non-fiction, it has got limited variety, compare to fiction, where the narration and the lens are very different and the same story can be put up in different ways. This is the most exciting part for us as content makers; we can approach each subject through diverse lenses and it keeps us on our toes and engaged to be precise.
What is your vision for Big Synergy?
We are in the phase of scaling up. We have very strong creative and production teams, we have a very robust commercial team, and it’s my vision to have a fair presentation of the country because we are working with everybody around the country. Stories are happening for the urban markets, regional markets, Tier 2, 3 and 4 markets, therefore, our presentation and in-house talent should also be representative, with people from different parts of the country. So, our creative team is also well dispersed in that sense, with people from different backgrounds. This enables us to create stories that can come from anywhere, and not just Mumbai or Delhi alone.
I believe that we should keep scaling up and expand beyond genres as well as bring in more diversity in-house, so that we can offer the same thing outside in terms of diversity in our stories that viewers can relate to.
What about niche content?
We call it specialised content. Today, every platform has a variety of documentaries, docu-dramas, unscripted shows and chat shows. All that will find a place everywhere. There are great stories to be told – both factual fiction and non-fiction – in various durations. It is not necessary that something which is of one-hour duration is specialised, while shows which have hundreds of episodes are mass; both could be specialised, depending on the subject matter.
What about branded content?
That is another pocket of growth that we will be working on with our clients directly. To me, it’s just like an unorganised market and there are opportunities to work with clients from various sectors like Auto, FMCG, Jewellery, Real Estate, etc., to present their stories through a media format. Nowadays, it has become imperative to have a video presentation to your brand story for it to be a success; a 20-second ad is not the solution. By and large most clients have accepted this and we would love to be the solution providers to that and work and align with clients to create their messaging – be it in the form of an event, a launch, or a typical brand kind of storytelling.
In terms of division of content, how much of your focus will be on OTT and short format content?
For us, the business will be equally divided between broadcast and OTT. My focus is clearly on dividing them equally and allowing both the formats to grow eventually.
What about getting into the OTT space yourself?
Right now our focus is to work for our partners and create great content. We do have a lot of IPs and we are planning to acquire more. Among all production houses, we have the maximum number of IPs and that is what we are offering to our clients and leveraging it. At the end of the day, our USP is working with clients and we offer them our teams, our scale, and whatever in terms of background IPs or experiences that we bring to the table. Getting into the digital space is not our first focus.
Beyond the small screen, do we see you getting into the big screen space by 2020?
I would say why not! Yes, of course. Then there is the area of digital-only films. So, all that is of interest to me. There is potential there as well. Is that an immediate focus now? No. But eventually it will happen.
Could you encapsulate the three focus areas for you currently?
Scalability is the No. 1 focus as this business is a people’s business and it’s the most important one. The second focus is to create a great library of content offering, because eventually that’s the truth of the day. Then eventually engage as many clients across platforms until you have locked some associations with them.
To understand the business model of a platform, you need to do much more for your clients so that they are interested to work with you. You understand them and their needs thoroughly. It’s not just about producing a show, it’s also about producing a successful impactful show, and not everybody can do that. It’s certainly our kind of proposition and we are extremely proud of that.