Is improving bandwidth a challenge?
When Reliance Jio came, it changed the picture. Everybody can access the internet. We tracked two factors – there is no barrier to users, and access is cheap. But there are bundles of quality; so the signal may be full but the connection is slow. The core requirement of Indian users is they want to discover, consume and share content – no matter whether there is connection or not. So in January 2018, we decided on a new SHAREit (previously we were reliant on offline consumption and social networks). Now, we are focussed on both online and offline consumption. We want to be both, the generator and distributor of content. That is why we acquired FastFilmz (an OTT that specialises non-Hindi language films) in May this year. We are not an OTT for the Metro users, but for the next billion users. People in Coimbatore or Patna have different needs. We have the user base and the technology, and we play the middle man between content generators and consumers.
We realised that the market is changing, users are changing. FastFilmz is the number one OTT in south India, they deliver a similar functionality where users could download the app and watch movies. Their team is very important to us; they are masters of south India. It is very difficult to get a team that understands Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada markets.
How do you make your money?
Subscription cannot work for now. And advertising CPMs (cost per mille or thousand) are very low in India. There is no need to sacrifice consumer experience for such a small income. Therefore, we are waiting for the big wave. There is no efficient way for advertisers to reach audiences through digital. No internet app can provide the same efficiency as a soap opera (on TV).
We may sacrifice revenue in the next 3-5 years because we firmly believe income from India will rise as users rise.
You are distributing content, offering it on a sharing app, and now own a content platform, too. So, what is SHAREit?
We don’t want to be a media company or a tech company. We are building a platform to improve the efficiency of distributing content. Our target is not running a shop but a mall. So we are self-owning the shop to make the mall attractive.
Are you on the lookout for acquisitions?
Yes. For example, if a site helps us understand how people in Tamil Nadu buy, then it should come to us. But, we don’t want to be a Network18 or a Viacom18. We are happy to make the ecosystem.