At FICCI FRAMES 2018, the three-day global conference covering media and entertainment in India, Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director of Star India, delivered remarks about the opportunity for innovation and bigger ambitions for the country’s storytellers and creators. Sanjay challenged the audience to lift their standards of quality, change the way they use technology and increase its investments to bring India’s stories to more consumers around the world.
Read Sanjay’s full address at FICCI FRAMES below:
My regards to the Honorable Minister, Smt. Smriti Irani ji, Mr. Rasesh Shah, Mr. Siddharth Roy Kapur, Mr. Baru, my friends Ekta and Karan, and all my colleagues of the media and entertainment industry. A very good evening to you all!
These are truly exciting times for our industry. It is amongst the fastest growing sectors in the country and has crossed the Rs. 147 thousand crore mark.
These are just figures. Like all of you here, what really motivates me to come to work every single day is the opportunity to play such a central role in the lives of a billion people. A billion people who look to watch an exciting movie either in a theatre or on their TV screen or on a mobile phone, read the newspaper in their local language or listen to their favourite radio station — for information, for entertainment, and above all, for inspiration.
At its very core, we celebrate the art of storytelling. It’s an art with the power to inspire change, to create aspirations, to make people believe in the possibilities and to spark imaginations.
And in my mind, there is no better time for us than now. There is a revolution happening all around us, one that promises to, and in fact, has already started to redefine the future of media and entertainment.
You all know what I am talking about. Digital. It is unleashing the power of new screens. Ours is a country that has always been constrained by screens. There are only 9,000 theatres in the country. Then came television which over the last three decades has grown phenomenally. Today there are 16 crore TV screens and we add more than one crore new screens every year.
But with the power of connectivity and low cost of data, in almost a click, over 35 crore more screens across the country have been lit up. And this journey has just begun. With more and more affordable smartphones coming to the market, we are adding more than one crore new smart screens every month. By the end of 2018, we would have added another 16 crore screens. This means that we will have 51 crore new screens on which us Indians will be engaging with all kinds of stories be it drama or sports, films or news. In a short period of 24 months, we have moved up from 16 crore TV screens and 9,000 cinema halls to 67 crore screens. This is set to explode how we engage with stories – the time we spend, what we like, how deeply we follow them, and above all, how to have a two-way conversation with both stories and storytellers.
This kind of movement for any industry is unprecedented, anywhere in the world. And for us, this truly is an opportunity of a lifetime.
And we have a great starting point — we produce over 60,000 hours of original television drama content every year. This is over 12 times what America produces, which is widely regarded as the front-runner in this space. We release close to 2,000 movies every year across languages, while Hollywood releases just around 700. And we are a creative powerhouse with a pool of over 4 million people engaged in telling these exciting stories.
We are one of the global leaders in technology – across graphics, animation, VFX – that is completely revamping the contours of storytelling. In fact, our technology is powering the world! The dragons in “Game of Thrones” were created by an animation studio at a stone’s throw distance from here. Even nine years back, the visual effects for “Avatar” were powered by an Indian firm.
What is even more exciting is that the stories we create are the stories we watch as India. One of the most talked about shows in the world, “Game of Thrones,” is not what engages this country. Ninety-nine percent of the stories that India loves and engages with have been created by us. When you read the sports pages of our newspapers, it seems that the English Premier League is the biggest football event followed in India. However, the reality is that our very own Indian Super League is 20 times bigger than EPL in viewership.
In my mind, there can’t be a more compelling “Make in India” story for this country than the media and entertainment industry.
But are we setting our sights high enough? Are we really taking note of the opportunity in front of us? Are we looking to set the global standards for creativity and quality?
Despite creating so many movies, the biggest movies that we create do a business of less than $100 million. Contrast this with a big Hollywood movie that goes on to deliver a business of more than $1 billion. Despite being one of the largest television content ecosystems in the world, we need to import almost all formats for reality television. We are not exporting our stories or our ideas to the world – not getting them to talk about “Yeh Hain Mohabatein,” not getting them to follow ISL!
Even though there are 51 crore new screens that have lit up in our country, we continue to slice them as only young or only urban or only male or any such narrow definition. Digital is not equal to youth and urbane. 51 crore is roughly the number of people who voted in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2014. They come from large cities to the smallest of villages, they reside in Kashmir to KanyaKumari, they have amongst them the young to the very old, both men and women. All of them, given power of connectivity, have access to not just our stories but content from across the globe.
And to compete well with the world, we need to set new standards of storytelling, we need to reimagine our stories. We cannot allow our legacy to shape our creativity. With digital, we have the license to break away from all the trappings of traditional media. We need to challenge where we release our films first, in a theatre or on a mobile screen. We need to challenge the concept of a radio station. Is it the radio station as delivered today or a digitally delivered station which adapts itself for each person uniquely? We need to challenge the constraints of 8 p.m. prime time, daily and hourly news formats and 22-minute episode lengths. There is no need to follow any templates in content — no longer does a scorecard need to appear at the bottom of the screen in every cricket match. No longer does the viewing of sports need to involve only watching. It could be and should be “Watch & Play”!
Our ambition, the ambition of every stakeholder in this room and beyond, needs to change dramatically.
Our standards of quality need to change. The way we use technology needs to change. The magnitude of our investments needs to change. We need to rethink business models from the ground up.
Centuries ago, stories from India traveled across countries and continents, without conquer or conquest, without any technology. These were stories like Ramayana & Mahabharata or the tales of Gautam Buddha. If they could capture the imagination of the world just on the power of their ideas and characters, what excuse do we have today?
The time is now.
We have so much to offer to the world – our technological prowess, our creativity and the power of Indian stories.
The time is now — to not only ‘make in India’ but “Light up the World”!