Spuul wants to become Bollywood’s Netflix, thanks to a secret weapon: offline viewing

TV can be a great cure for being homesick – especially if you’re from a country with a vibrant movie industry. That’s why Spuul, a Singapore-based video service that specializes in Indian content, has been attracting users from around the world ever since it launched some 18 months ago.

Most of Spuul’s users come from India, said Spuul Chief Product Officer Michael Smith during an interview this week. But the U.S. is second in line, and Pakistan, Australia and the Arab Emirates also are amongst the top ten markets. “It has a global appeal,” said Smith about Indian content.

Spuul’s service can best be described as a mixture of Netflix (S NFLX) and Hulu: The site provides free, ad-supported videos as well as subscriptions, and even a few VOD titles. its catalog consists of close to 900 movies and 20 TV shows — certainly not huge, but Smith told me that the goal was to emphasize quality over quantity, and not license countless old TV show episodes that no one really wants to watch.

But while Spuul is looking to the big players in the U.S. for inspiration — Smith called Netflix “the Ford R&D for the over-the-top space” — it’s also looking to solve some challenges unique to its markets. For example, Spuul sees 80 to 85 percent of its viewing on mobile devices. However, users are confronted with slow mobile networks and potentially huge prepaid data bills.

Spuuls new Android app allows offline viewing - and lets users decide which file size their internet connection supports.

Spuuls new Android app allows offline viewing – and lets users decide which file size their internet connection supports.

That’s why Spuul rolled out offline viewing for Android devices Wednesday, allowing paying subscribers to download up to ten titles to their handset or tablet and then watch them without any internet connection. Users have to check in every 72 hours for titles to remain accessible, and can select the video quality for each download to find the best version for their bandwidth and screen size.

Smith told me that offline viewing will come to Spuul’s iOS app in the near future. The company is also working on bringing Spuul to additional screens. It already has a version of the app for Chromecast in the works, will add DLNA capabilities in the future and is also looking to port its app to smart TV platforms.

But just as important as technical development is education of the Indian film industry, which doesn’t have much experience with Netflix- or Hulu-like offerings that aggregate content from different studios. “This is new to all these guys,” Smith said.