Jaman To Open Mumbai Office; To Launch Ad-Supported Video Streaming

I met Gaurav Dhillon, Founder and CEO of Jaman, on the sidelines of FICCI Frames last month. Jaman (named after an Indian fruit) is a community site around World Cinema content, and I was rather surprised to learn that, for Jaman, India ranks second in terms of traffic. I also spoke to Dhillon about how the environment here has changed since he was here a couple of years ago:

What do you attribute the traffic from India to? Any marketing effort?
I think there’s a large unmet need for world cinema in India – for independent films or blockbuster films. Even within the overall pantheon of cinema in India, there is a shortage of readily available “Indian Cinema” titles, as opposed to Bollywood titles. For example, we’ve partnered with NFDC films, with films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Mirch Masala; you can find Bollywood, but sometimes Indian Cinema is hard to find on a world scale. In terms of marketing, it’s a combination of – Internet marketing, organic and viral stuff – it’s a third each, that’s getting in people.
Are Indian consumers on Jaman primarily viewing Indian content?
No they’re viewing more independent than Indian, but it’s a healthy mix. Indian content does very well in the UK, Canada, and Middle East, and mostly in the former commonwealth, with large populations of NRIs.
So what plans do you have for India?
We plan to open an office here in the summer. It’s mostly likely to be in Mumbai since a lot of the media and entertainment is based there.
Are you looking at India primarily for sourcing content?
The traffic is from here, so we’re also looking at it as a market for Jaman products and services, as well as for sourcing content
So..the Internet is the land of the free – where everything is available for free. So how do you monetize the content?
(laughs) Yeah, the glorious Internet. As of now, ours is a simple Video on Demand model. To encourage people to try films, we offer the first two films for free. Some public service films, diploma shorts are also for free. There are paid films as well. That said, in the next couple of months you’ll see us roll out an ad-supported model which will give free and quality access to the large Indian population.
How will the ad-supported model work in a download scenario? Pre-rolls and mid-rolls?
The ad-supported model will be streaming only initially. We have explored some way to have ads downloaded and cached etc, but we don’t want to make the user interface more complicated. So you download it, it’s high definition, you watch it, it’s standard definition with video ads. It will be like a TV experience. I’m amazed at how much advertising is shown in films on TV in India.
You’re aggregating a fragmented audience across the globe, but how do you convince advertisers who look for large numbers in specific segments?
In aggregates and the relevancy of the Internet, ti’s not an unsurmountable problem. You’ve got brands like Nokia (NYSE: NOK), Motorola (NYSE: MOT) and Toyota which are global brands -they’re large advertisers in India, and large advertisers in Europe. But even in case of more local markets, we can provide relevancy by gender, age and location.

More on deals, TV content, DRM in the extended text.

How is India currently doing for you in terms of revenues?
Downloads are pretty healthy, and we don’t give a breakup by geography, but in terms of the ratio of the amount of traffic and downloads it’s the number two destination. But still, it’s 20 odd percent and there’s a big world out there, and we have other parts of the commonwealth that make large contributions as well.
How do you go about sourcing content in India? Are these deals based on minimum guarantee (MG)?
We license content. We’ve done deals with NDFC, deals with various parties in the UK, licensing with Shemaroo, and are in touch with emerging studios here in Mumbai, who have great content with clearly demarcated rights. For a certain quality of library, we’re not shy of putting an MG on the table. But frankly, our larger expense is not the MG, but the Internet marketing that we do. We do promotions, send newsletters and some homepage promotions.
Have you noticed any change among filmmakers or labels here to the Internet since your last visit?
I’ve come back here after two years, and it’s a totally different attitude. I think it’s because of the rise of snacky destinations like YouTube. The Internet is not just a geeky destination. The change has come where people no longer see it as a threat but as an opportunity. The aspect of that is that though Indian cinema is vibrant and content is consumed internally, there’s awareness that there’s an opportunity to provide content all over the world.
Are you looking at going beyond films to TV shows for content?
Yes, we will be looking at that. It’s another area that is not an engineering issue, but a content acquisition and then promoting to our users issue. We’ll probably look at things that have universal appeal first.
What component of your costs is DRM? What would happen to Jaman in a DRM-free world?
We’ve spent around 8-10 percent of our global R&D dollars on DRM. Well, that would certainly solve the problem of portability. DRM-Free has happened on the music front, but the strong message we’re getting from large studios is that there is not a DRM-free vision for quality entertainment be it TV or film.