On 20 September 2017, SVF Entertainment Pvt. Ltd launched its OTT platform Hoichoi. Stepping confidently into its fourth year, its founder and also executive director, SVF, Vishnu Mohta, spoke to Team Cinemaazi about what the future has in store.
For an enterprise that’s only three years old, in an environment that has changed beyond recognition in just a few months, Hoichoi has grand ambitions that belie its age. Unveiling the trajectory going forward, the OTT platform announced a slew of measures over the course of its annual birthday gala titled Hoichoi Season 4, held online in the light of the pandemic that is ravaging the world. A proud Vishnu Mohta says, ‘Three years back, we had promised that every single week we will have some exciting content on the platform. I think we have managed to do that. If you see the line-up of the upcoming shows, it’s quite phenomenal.’
The OTT player has doubled its revenue every year, with a cumulative subscriber base of 13 million, 40 per cent of its revenue coming from international customers. Focusing on what it calls its three pillars – tech, distribution and content – Hoichoi is all set to revolutionize the OTT sphere in the time to come. ‘To keep that excitement up every week, keeping people engaged every week, has been something that we definitely planned to do, and I think it turned out great. I am happy that there has been so much content already. We are working with some great creators now, people we have always wanted to work with,’ says Vishnu.
A proud Vishnu Mohta says, ‘Three years back, we had promised that every single week we will have some exciting content on the platform. I think we have managed to do that. If you see the line-up of the upcoming shows, it’s quite phenomenal.’
The lockdown has played havoc with the market. Towards this end the effort in Season 4, as Vishnu Mohta puts it, ‘will be to up our game, make the customer experience better from a content and technology standpoint. We have had some key partnerships from the beginning. And the team has come up with some innovative billing modules like subscription bundling and carrier billing – an affordable way to consume Hoichoi in the form of sache pricing – to buy a subscription for a week or a month by paying with their mobile balance.
The lockdown has been a learning time. ‘During the lockdown we couldn’t produce our regular shows, so we concentrated on some lockdown shows like Breakup Stories
. But it allowed us a lot of time conceptualizing and writing and begin pre-production of shows we wanted to create. It was a time of reflection too. West Bengal allowed shoots to start two months back. We have already produced 7 or 8 out of the 25 we plan. So, despite the disruption, we made good use of the lockdown. But the road ahead is tough and it will take all our resourcefulness to address the issues arising out of the pandemic.’
The OTT player has doubled its revenue every year, with a cumulative subscriber base of 13 million, 40 per cent of its revenue coming from international customers.
While technology and subscription are being addressed for the smoothest possible viewing experience, it’s the content that is sure to generate a lot of excitement among viewers. It’s a veritable feast on offer with 25 Originals and 2 First Day First Show films from the who’s who of the industry in Bengal – including with new creators like Srijit Mukherji, Dhrubo Banerjee, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Anirban Bhattacharya, Kamaleswar Mukherjee among others. Then there are established Hoichoi hands like Debaloy Bhattacharya, Sahana Dutta, Mainak Bhaumik, Soumik Halder, Sourav Chakraborty who return with new shows and seasons of existing popular shows.
While old favourites like Debaloy Bhattacharya’s Charitraheen
and Soumik Halder’s Byomkesh
return with new seasons, some of the new projects on the anvil could well be worth the wait. These include Mainak Bhaumik’s Lolita,
given the film-maker’s penchant for creating captivating relationships on-screen. There’s Srijit’s first web series for Hoichoi based on a famous Bangladeshi novel, the intriguingly titled Robindronath Ekhane Kawkhono Khete Aashenni
(about a detective who reaches the famed restaurant of the same name to uncover the truth behind its mysterious owner) and Q’s Thakurmar Jhuli
(Q adapting this perennial Bengali favourite can only make your lips smack in anticipation).
Hoichoi is also coming up with its ‘world classics’ series, adaptations of classic plays and stories from around the world. This hugely exciting series kicks off with Mandaar
, based on Macbeth, marking Anirban Bhattacharya’s first series as a creator. While Debaloy Bhattacharya has a star cast to die for – Arjun, Raima and Madhumita – in Devdas O Ekti Khuner Golpo
(a delicious title if ever: is it a love story, is it a murder mystery – either way, with a title like that, it’s intriguing to say the least), Rudranil Ghosh’s take on drug trading, Ganga
, stars the legend Soumitra Chatterjee as the gang lord. And in his web debut, Ritwick Chakraborty plays a ‘defective detective’ Gora, in Sahana Dutta’s series of the same name.
While technology and subscription are being addressed for the smoothest possible viewing experience, it’s the content that is sure to generate a lot of excitement among viewers. It’s a veritable feast on offer with 25 Originals and 2 First Day First Show films from the who’s who of the industry in Bengal – including with new creators like Srijit Mukherji, Dhrubo Banerjee, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Anirban Bhattacharya, Kamaleswar Mukherjee among others.
Well-known film-maker and actor Parambrata Chattopadhay creates Hoichoi’s next first day first show, Kolkata Underground
, a heady concoction of the city’s underground music scene. In his maiden direct-to-digital release, the director of the immensely successful Guptodhon
series, Dhrubo Banerjee returns with Tiktiki
, an adaptation of the cult classic 1970 play by Anthony Shaffer.
All in all, a treasure trove of visual delights awaits the audience as Hoichoi, in its fourth year, gives up baby steps for giant strides. Vishnu Mohta wraps us, ‘I think we are still scratching the surface of what is possible in terms of the customer base. It applies for every OTT in the country. I don’t see us running out of people to cater to in the next ten years. We’d like to achieve television scale as far as reach is concerned. We have got big international markets to cater to, we’ve got Bangladesh as an entire country where we can become a leader. I think the challenge is to keep innovating and evolving every week, every day. Be it with the content, with the technology, keep up with what customer expectations are, supporting them and making sure their queries and issues are handled at a fast pace. I feel the challenge is internal, in avoiding complacency. We have managed to address the disruption of the pandemic and the lockdown – so there’s no reason not to look to the future with hope as long as we do not drop our guard.’