Bollywood needs to learn marketing strategies from Hollywood

Chennai, Nov 15 (IANS) Indian producers lose out in the overseas market because they are unable to customise marketing strategies, unlike their Hollywood counterparts who dub their films in various Indian languages and release them in the interiors, says Shailja Gupta, US country head of production house Red Chillies Entertainment.

"Revenue generated by Indian films outside India is not enough for producers and distributors to come up with customised marketing strategy for each market. In the US, marketing strategy is very similar to what is followed here, but Hollywood has mastered localised promotional strategy," Gupta told IANS from New York in an e-mail interaction.

"They dub films like 'Spiderman' in 16 Indian languages, make posters in the local language, advertise on local websites and release in interiors and make tons of money," she added.

Gupta, who heads the US operations of the Shah Rukh Khan-headed company that has branched into other spheres such as special effects, gives an insight into the changing business of film promotions.

"Films seldom generate revenue from digital marketing, but it helps them to tie up with brands to create co-branded promotions, which in turn saves a lot of money for the producers and distributors," she said.

How do films make money through the digital medium?

"Films make money on licensing deals like digital licensing which includes ringtones, wallpapers, clips, games, merchandising, etc. We have a long way to go for percentages to be substantial for people to notice, but ringtones, clip rights, etc., have become a decent-sized market," said Shailja.

She was in charge of digital marketing and promotion for Shah Rukh's "Ra.One", which was reportedly made at a budget of over Rs.100 crore. SRK did tie-ups worth Rs.52 crore for the movie.

It had tie-ups with Champions League T20, UTV Indiagames for online games and iPhone/iPad application for fans, Sony Playstation for video games, Google Plus and Seventymm, a leading DVD rental company for merchandising, as well as with Homeshop18 to sell superhero film merchandise and Youtube.

"We developed about 60 products for 'Ra.One' merchandising. The whole idea was to try and bring the concept of merchandising to India on a large scale. We licensed the back-to-school items to a professional company. All this added to the film's big jump in marketing in India", she added.

A commerce graduate, Gupta started her career as a web designer. After a few other jobs, she set up a web development company, Techshastra, with business partner Nishith Shah.

Their first project was SRKWORLD, an entertainment forum for the Indian entertainment industry.

Following her long-dormant fascination for filmmaking, Gupta, who also holds a masters degree in computer programming, studied filmmaking in New York.

In 2009, she shot her first feature film, "Walkaway", intersecting stories exploring different aspects of love and companionship through four friends in New York struggling to find their way through the meanders of Indian matrimony.

She couldn't find a distributor and her film was released digitally.

As an independent filmmaker, she feels besides the market, which is opening up gradually, such films need strong infrastructure.

"More than the audience, the infrastructure for independent films needs to pave the way for the growth of the market. For example, in New York, there are more than 40 independent theatres, special subsidies for ultra low budget films, etc. We need that kind of support," she added.

Shailja also assisted as script supervisor for 2004 Hindi film "Raincoat".

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

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