More Investment, Innovation Need of the Hour: Amit Khanna

By Pickle  February 14, 2018

Industry veteran Amit Khanna, in a freewheeling chat with Pickle, says the Indian M&E sector needs massive investments, innovative thinking and greater emphasis on skilled manpower to grow its clout in the global market

No Indian M&E business in the last 20 years has grown beyond Rs. 10,000 crore. It is a sad story. It reflects on the inability of the industry to reinvent itself and grow

The Indian Media and Entertainment industry needs $50 billion worth of investment in the next five years and the media leadership needs a complete mindset change to drive its growth on global scale, according to Amit Khanna, media veteran and former chairman of Reliance Entertainment.

“If you see the total investment in the last 10 years in the entire Indian media and entertainment industry, it would be less than what a Flipkart has invested. The reason why money is not coming in is because of the poor business model. People have been on an expansion mode without adequate planning,” said Khanna in an exclusive interview with Pickle.

The media veteran feels that the mindset among the top M&E players needs to change. “The media and entertainment industry is looking at the world with the wrong end of the binocular. Everything is far and looks unattainable. What you don’t realise is you need to inverse the binoculars.”

In terms of figures, only $20 billion is spent on the Indian media and entertainment sector, which is only 1 per cent of the country’s GDP. “Our share of the world market is less than 1 per cent in the $3 trillion global media and entertainment market,” Khanna explained, adding that India’s per capita media spend needs to go up drastically to ensure growth.

To increase the market share of India, there is a need of massive investment in trained professionals and innovation, which is not forthcoming.

Khanna, who is currently researching for his encyclopaedia on the history of media and entertainment in India, said that no Indian M&E business in the last 20 years has grown beyond Rs. 10,000 crore. “It is a sad story. It reflects on the inability of the industry to reinvent itself and grow,” he observed.

He also feels that the Indian M&E sector is at least 10 years behind the curve in technology.

“It requires drastic steps. The government should get out of business and businesses need to get into business.”

However, Khanna is optimistic about investment coming from Reliance Jio, Netflix, Amazon and many other companies like them. “This is already happening in India. We will see changes happen soon,” he said.

Khanna admitted that even Reliance Entertainment could not sustain itself. “I was involved with Reliance Entertainment. We invested $1 billion. That was not enough. Then we stopped. We needed investment to become a major player in all media verticals. We needed another $2 to $3 billion which we could not raise or invest. That’s why we failed,” Khanna said.

Only Star India and Zee and to some extent, Sony Entertainment Televison, have invested in the M&E business, according to him.

“Though Star India and Zee are there, they are not innovating enough. They do one innovative show and think they are doing great work. There is virtually zero innovation,” he noted.

Khanna maintained that India has not tapped the digital market sufficiently. “We keep talking about OTT. We should not talk about delivery or access technology. We should talk about what the audience will access in that. It cannot be repurposed content. Every broadcaster has started a digital platform and they are telecasting the same programme as on TV. The audience who are online are not interested in that content. Digital platform is not for repurposed content.

“ Interestingly, he predicted that mobile would become an access device in future. “Everybody is not going to see movies on the mobile phone. We will use the mobile to download the film or connect it to a home TV. Already projectors are getting launched which projects a normal image from a mobile phone onto the wall,” he said.

The Indian M&E industry should produce less and earn more, according to Khanna. “Last year, out of 1,200 feature films only 600 got released. The number of unreleased films is going to go up with only 300 to 400 films getting released in future. That’s the reality. Similarly, 850 TV channels are not viable,” he said.

The government cannot be blamed for everything. “The government’s role in this sector should be of benign interference. The government has no role in the industry except bringing out some broad legislations. The fact is there is lack of investment and trained professionals. In 30 years, we have come from untrained people to semi-trained people. We have plenty of halfskilled people. Fully-skilled people are very few,” the former chairman of Reliance Entertainment said.

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