It's been a busy 2007 for Eros International—the London AIM (Alternative Investment Market) has listed the Indian media and Entertainment Company. It released 30 films, of which ten were global launches and has included such hits as Om Shanti Om, Namastey London and Heyy Babyy.
However, in 2008, Kishore Lulla, chairman&CEO, Eros International, plans more global launches, focusing on content-creation and consolidation, upgrading its distribution channels across formats, and has releases lined up until 2010. He speaks with Sudipta Datta from London on Eros' long-term plans for India and why the 'Americanisation' of the Indian entertainment space spells good news for Bollywood. Excerpts:
What are your areas of focus in 2008?
The focus is on content and consolidation. We are updating our distribution channels by integrating content across all formats, cinema, television, home entertainment, pay TV and new media. In the home entertainment segment, for example, we are building up a library. We have 1,900 titles now, we are going to aggressively buy content. In the regional and Bollywood space, we have identified eight-10 targets—content Companies having libraries and future productions—for acquisitions: the acquisitions will be completed by the end of 2008.
What is the film making model that you follow, is it leaning towards Hollywood or Bollywood?
Well, the Eros model is exactly like a studio model except that we do not physically own a studio. In fact, most of the foreign studios are getting rid of their physical studios. Then, you can shoot anywhere in any location across the world.
You are paying a lot of attention to your special effects studio. Comment.
Oh yes. That's our second area of focus this year. We feel that as the Bollywood market expands and the 400 million middle class have more spending power, they will demand good quality entertainment. We want EyeQube Studios to do big visual effects out of India. The first one Alladin has already gone on the floors. We will also release Drona, for which EyeQube is handling the special effects. It's a Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones movie, if you will, but it's an original story.
What's the Eros calendar of films looking like this year?
We are going to release 20 films this year—all will be launched globally too. Last year, we released 30 films, but only 10 out of those were global releases. We have 55 projects across genres locked in for the next two-and-a-half years, which means there are releases lined up until 2010.
Is action also picking up on the Eros Music front?
We will step up activity and sign on new artists and promote their albums.
How easy is it now to do business in a corporatised Bollywood framework? Has the mindset changed?
It's a totally relationship-driven industry where money plays a part. No, the mindset has not changed. If we have been successful, it's because we have a 30-year experience in the business. We are a corporate house but we have a relationship with everyone in India. We are also going to set up distribution offices across India to bring transparency into the business.
You have tied up with a host of directors, haven't you?
Yes, we have tied up with various directors. We are now going to create a bank of screenplays.
Where's the growth, and revenues—going to come from for Eros?
The Indian market is growing in a big way. But the international dubbed Markets are growing too. In five years, we want 50% of our revenues to come from India and 50% from international Markets. At the moment, this ratio is more or less 65-35 (international/India).
Give us a perspective on Bollywood. Where is it headed in the next 5-10 years?
The Indian film industry now resembles what the Hollywood movie industry was between the 1940s and 1970s. But what Hollywood did in 50 years, we will do in 10 years. In the next five years, a lot of multiplexes will be built, people will spend more on entertainment, producers will spend more on quality of films, we are going to get Americanised and that"s a good thing for the business of entertainment.