Since the pandemic has disrupted the world, Cinema or theaters have suffered a lot. All other industries are getting back to work as it used to be earlier. Now with a very strict COVID precautions, theaters have started opening across India. As tech helped all other market to adopt in new normal, tech is again playing a key role for theater owners too. At every stage, technology will keep the human-to-human interaction lower thus cinemas will be a safer place to watch movies post-pandemic. PVR, the big name in this domain has taken a stay ahead and has brought great viewing experience for their customers by use of advanced technology. In line to get deeper insights about the new initiatives, Rajeev Ranjan, Editor, Telecom Today, held an exclusive chat with Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Ltd. Gautam spoke about the current trends, key technologies that will play a key role in the reopening of cinemas and much more. Read below the excerpts:
Rajeev: What all new technologies you have adopted in recent times at PVR Priya to give best viewing experience for audiences who will watch movie in theater after a long time?
Gautam: PVR [PXL] powered by CGS at Priya offers an industry-leading Barco Dual Laser projection and active image control to present a brilliant and uniform image with high contrast. Additionally, the property is integrated with advanced in- cinema features like Dolby ATMOS sound with pro-ribbon HF. This combination truly allows crystal-clear, high definition immersive audio with perfect intelligibility and no distortion, even at high volume level. The Audi is equipped with a 19 m wide Harkness Clarus XC – 2D and 3D Polarized Screen for a best-in-class laser projection with wide viewing angle, greater uniformity, improved colour and contrast. The RealD 3D digital stereoscopic projection ensures crystal clear, razor sharp, ultra-bright pictures for a breathtaking visual experience. This is the most advanced cinema in Delhi and India’s First state- of- the art premium Giant Screen Format powered by Cinionic Giant Screen.
Rajeev: How do you see the role of technology in building safer place for audiences who wish to watch cinemas in theater now?
Gautam: Technology will play a key role in building safer cinemas and PVR has adopted technology in all touch points of the consumer journey and experience in its cinemas.
In order to minimize human contact, digital transactions have been enabled via e-wallets. To facilitate paperless movie ticketing and eliminate the need to buy physical tickets at the box office, these can be booked on the PVR Website, PVR Mobile App and other Aggregator Website and Mobile Apps. QR codes can be scanned to enter the cinema through customers’ phone. There is no pat down search, only DFMDS (Door Frame Metal Detectors) that are used for security check.
One can also pre-book meals via the PVR app to avoid queues and waiting time at the concession counter and the food bills will be delivered digitally. The menu can be downloaded on the phone, so that customer can order on the phone before even reaching the candy bar. Payment for F&B will be made digitally, through NFC, or through cash cards available at the cinemas. No cash and no contact. Anti-microbial disinfectant films are wrapped on auditorium door handles. Ultraviolet cabinets are in place as a sterilize device to sanitize food packaging before it is served to the customer.
In its air-conditioning system, PVR uses UVGI (Ultraviolet Germicidal irradiation) in its Air Handling Units (AHU’s) which ensures clean coils and clean air (viruses, bacteria, fungi and spores). As part of its indoor air quality management, single and dual polarised air cleaning system ensures reduction of pm2.5 and pm 10 to maintain IAQ of US standard. In addition to motion sensor-based taps in washrooms, all water coolers have sensor-based drinking water taps to minimize human contact.
Rajeev: How did you managed to hold the nerve to face extreme challenges since pandemic started last year?
Gautam: From March 2020 to February 2021 during the first wave that included national Lockdown with closure of theatres, staggered reopening at 50% capacity and 100% capacity allowed in February, we built liquidity buffers, negotiated Rent and CAM waivers / discounts from Landlords / developers, reduced fixed operating costs, developed Covid appropriate SOPs and Successfully raised INR 1600 crs of additional liquidity (INR 1100 crs of Equity and INR 500 crs of Debt).
From March 2021 that saw the resurgence of the second wave, staggered lockdown and cinemas closures from March 2021 to May 2021, we focused on vaccination of employees, re-engaging with developers for rental waivers, cost reduction including payroll cost, liquidity & cash flow management. We launched a holistic comprehensive care package to help our employees tide over the second wave. The package entailed Covid SOS medicines, reimbursing cost of vaccination for self and dependents, 24*7 Covid helpline with on-ground response team, oxygen concentrators, doctor on call assistance, hospitalization & ambulance services, and food deliveries for covid tested employees.
Rajeev: How do you see the impact of OTT players on your business continuity in post COVID-19 world? Do you have any plan to enter this space or launch any subscription based model?
Gautam: During the period while cinemas were shut led film-makers response to exceptional circumstances due to release of new content leading to rise in OTT audiences. It’s a trend which started in the pandemic, all of a sudden, when it became a necessity for people as part of their daily lives. But otherwise, home entertainment through VCR, Video, DVD, Cable TV and streaming were always there. However theatrical business will always co-exist with multiple other platforms, digital platforms are no exception. Even OTT platforms were starved of content because shooting for movies had also stopped during the pandemic and they needed content to sustain their viewership, so they started buying movies. The producers also complied as cinemas were shut as this was the only option available for them. Now that the cinemas are opening, the producers will return to theatrical releases as this is where they make money. A theatrical release earlier before OTT makes commercial sense to them as they know the performance of the movie and pay the price for the content accordingly. But the good thing is that due to OTT, producers get back their money and they get encouraged to make more content.
We are primarily social beings – we want to get out and entertain ourselves and that’s going to happen in Cinemas only. Movie viewing is one of the best and cheapest forms of out-of-home entertainment. It spreads happiness enabling a patron to enjoy a three hour movie-cation and leading to a complete family entertainment experience. Cinema is a catalyst to ‘together time’ for couples, families, friends and peer groups and hence the experience of bonding over the shared experience of watching a movie together is much more than other entertainment avenues. Movie-watching business has been around for more than 100 years and faced many disruptions but has always bounced back.
Rajeev: What new technology & trends in this domain will impact all theaters in coming years?
Gautam: Theatrical technology primarily revolves around upgradation in projection, sound and screen. Technology advancements in theatres would largely revolve around enhancing the power and impact of the big screen, creating an unparalleled viewing experience, something that you cannot get while watching content at home. In other words, the full focus would be on the complete immersive experience covering every angle of the theatre, creating excitement of storytelling which means crisper images, giant screens, or all-encompassing sound effects. Technological innovations in audience engagement and enhancing the cinema could be Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Glassless 3D, and 4D experiences that will play a key role. Going forward enhancing the cinema going experience, better adaptability of the cinema going experience to rapidly changing consumer preferences would be crucial for movie theatres to continue playing the pivotal role in the exhibition of filmed entertainment.
“The current base of poker players would be around 5MN in India”
Poker game is growing at a very good pace these days in India especially among youths. There are some specific gaming platforms that are consistently working to uplift the standard of this game and deliver a seamless gaming experience to the players. Adda52 offers a highly engaging gaming experience and has become the leading player in this industry in a very short duration. Jyoti Janda, Editor, Telecomtoday.in interacted with Krishnendu Guha, CMO of Adda52 recently to know all about online poker industry, and gamers’ interest toward this game. Read below the excerpts:
Jyoti: Please share about the journey of Adda52 so far. What have been the key achievements in this journey?
Krishnendu: The true journey of Adda52 began very early, when the co-founders, Mohit Agarwal & Anuj Gupta, were in college. Mohit had created an online poker software for a project and Mohit & Anuj were inspired by their seniors who had set up an online poker website, called Party Poker, in the US in the 1990s. However, the founders didn’t work on Adda52 right away, and stuck to their corporate careers for a decade. Around this time, the duo was tracking with the craze around online poker being played over social media around 2009- 2010. What surprised them was that users in India played a lot of poker online for no money at all. This was when the two realised that it was finally time to work on their decade-long dream of building a startup for poker players in the country. Some of the milestones that make us unique is shared below:
- Adda52 is the first brand to bring in a global alliance with a brand like World Poker Tour and increase awareness and exposure both online and offline through their properties WPT India and WPT online India.
- Adda52 is the first brand to develop live streaming tech locally and stream Indian poker to the world.
- Adda52 is had also developed their own live tournaments like DPT which is a well renowned property in the Indian Poker circuit.
- Adda52 is the first legal online poker platform in India. The acquisition of Adda52 by Delta Corp has fuelled the birth of the Poker Vertical in India.
- Adda52 is the first brand to appoint a Pro team and represent the brand and country on foreign soil.
- Adda52 was the first in India to get International certifications for its gameplay Itech labs
Jyoti: How do you look at the future of this game in India?
Krishnendu: The current base of poker players would be around 5MN in India so one can surely imagine its potential to grow. Poker unlike any other product falls under a niche category which requires mind skills to play and hence is extremely popular among the younger groups. The culture of online poker in India needs a strong involvement of live experience and that’s one of the key areas that we intend to focus. Being a part of Delta corp it gives us an added advantage of getting that trust from users and also explore the live experience clubbed with online gaming.
Jyoti: What are your plans to offer an improved gaming experience and develop interesting gaming formats to engage the audience?
Krishnendu: 2021 will be bigger than ever and we have already launched some amazing promotions like exclusive womens day tournament, 2 CR ACL leaderboard where we intend to find our next Adda52 PRO from the industry. We are also running FLY to VEGAS campaign where a player can win an all expense paid trip to Las Vegas to play at one of the best casinos in the world. This campaign is open to all and there is no limit on how many persons can win it. We are also working on some new game variants which we will unveil during the year.
Jyoti: What are your further outreach and expansion plans in the year 2021?
Krishnendu: We intend to carry forward the growth that we have seen in 2020 and we are focusing on product and technology as well apart from marketing campaigns. We will focus more in growing the poker category as that’s what will mainly drive growth. The awareness on real money gaming ecosystem is much better now (thanks to lockdown) so category growth becomes the main focus. We will focus on campaigns which will educate users more about the game since its niche category unlike other real money games.
“We are Covering the Entire Audio Segment in the Lifestyle Category”
The rising demand for smartphones among Indian customers is driving the growth of the smartphone accessories market. The customers ride on the latest trends which keep this market always active. In recent years, Indian customers are more open to spend money to buy quality products for comfort and complete satisfaction. Anker group offers a wide range of products to Indian customers at very affordable price point. Jyoti Janda, Editor, Telecomtoday.in recently held an exclusive interaction with Gopal Jeyaraj, Country Head India and SAARC, Anker Innovations. Gopal Jeyaraj spoke about their product offerings, latest trends and plans to bring more advance products for customers. Read below the excerpts:
Jyoti: Please tell about performance of all five brands under the Anker group which are present in the competitive Indian market.
Gopal Jeyaraj: Anker Innovations is the umbrella of the five sub-brands: Anker, Soundcore, Roav, Nebula, and Eufy, each of which caters to five distinct product segments with unique and proprietary technologies. Anker’s Smart Charging devices, which are focused on charging, provide superior technology at reasonable price points. Soundcore on the other hand, specializes in audio with a fashionable twist as per the needs of the millennials. Eufy focuses on smart home appliances and smart security, while Nebula focuses on smart projectors that fit a diverse lifestyle. Roav is around smart car technology.
We want to have products that are more robust and technologically competitive. Due to the current situation and demand in the TWS segment as a result of the new-normal working and learning lifestyle, our primary emphasis is now on Soundcore and Eufy for the Indian Markets. In addition, the Robotic Vacuum Cleaners and Handstick segments in India are expanding, and we too have gone aggressive over this, and have launched a Robotic Vacuum and Handstick line in the Eufy Section.
Jyoti: How are you working to strengthen the position of Soundcore in the Indian market?
Gopal Jeyaraj: Since the Pandemic, demand for TWS, Headphones, Speakers, and other audio products has increased. We have done good volumes, and it seems promising too for the future times. To stay on top of the market, we will be coming up with a variety of new products, events, and other initiatives under the brand. Soon, we will announce a new product that will set a significant benchmark in the Indian audio industry. Our goal is to reach out to more people and cover both Metro and Tier 3 & Tier 4 cities with high-quality goods and cutting-edge technology at an affordable price.
Jyoti: How are you planning to grow in the competitive audio product market? Please share your product strategy.
Gopal Jeyaraj: All of our audio items are sold under the Soundcore brand, and we concentrate on three categories: headphones, Bluetooth speakers, and party speakers. With all of these categories, we’re attempting to position ourselves across India on all of the platforms that via which we are currently catering the consumers, so we’ll be concentrating on both the online and offline markets. Offline, we’ll try to build a foothold in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities. Whereas, via online platforms, we will attempt to reach as many States and Districts as possible. We’ve set a goal for ourselves to obtain a certain market share, and we’re working hard to achieve it. We are covering the entire Audio Segment in the Lifestyle Category starting from Headphone, speaker and party segment with a range of TWS, Neckband, portable and large speakers, along with party speakers and woofers. We shall certainly witness a strong reach this year compared to last year. Aditionally, we have drawn aggressive Roadmaps until 2023 that we will be launching accordingly.
Jyoti: How do you make a balance between online and offline platforms?
Gopal Jeyaraj: We always prioritize online as well as offline channels because both are important for our development. We do not limit ourselves to one sole channel as both are crucial for us; we also provide exclusive SKU’s to both channels in order avoid any dispute and to have an organic growth.
Jyoti: Please brief about your expansion plans near future.
Gopal Jeyaraj: In India, we plan to expand our team. Our main emphasis will be on forming separate teams for each brand, which is also one of our major investments. In addition, we will make major marketing investments in order to improve product awareness as well as brand awareness. We aim to maximize our business in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities as well.
“The Pandemic Has Given a Boost to The Online Selling”
The smartphone accessories market in India has attained quite good growth in recent years. Boost in smartphone users is one of the major fuelling factors behind the growth of accessories market in India in recent time. As the opportunities are enormous, there are several such brands who are eying to offer innovative products to the huge customer base across India. Crossloop is one of such accessories brand in India currently who are committed to offer best, innovative and affordable products to customers here. Jyoti Janda, Editor, Telecomtoday.in interacted recently with Mr. Sameer Katole, CEO, Crossloop to know about their journey, product range and buying trends. Read below the excerpts:
Jyoti: How has been the journey so far for Crossloop in the Indian market?
Sameer: Backed by Mr. Sanjay Hira of Hira Group, a UK based consumer electronics focused MNC in existence since 1959, Crossloop was launched in the year 2019 with the aim to offer a different set of concepts in the form of personalised and customised products to the consumers in India. This involved a lot of research on understanding the needs and style statements of users and then creating concepts for fulfilling the requirements. We just can’t spare ourselves from electronic accessories. Then why not make this electronic connection more interesting and say no to boring. We offer customers a perfect blend between design, utility, performance and functionality. Although it’s a development phase but within such a short period consumers have already started relating themselves to our concepts as they have shown a tremendous appreciation towards our products and we further aim to expand our product portfolio based on this concept. Our current range includes Pro Series high end Earphones, Crossloop GEN Truly wireless earbuds, Bluetooth Speakers, Daily Fashion Earphone Series and Crossloop Styled Charging Cables.
Jyoti: How do you look at the competition in the Indian market players?
Sameer: Again it’s about the concept that I briefed above. Our offering to our Indian audience is not just products but beyond. We offer experience, convenience, comfort, style, satisfaction, trust and care along with our products. If you look at our range, there’s a unique line-up of products which involves a convergence of design with latest technology at an affordable cost. While there are brands offering tech accessories, we cater to a different niche of consumers who are more conscious of their style. By this year end, we aim to see every consumer with at least one designer accessory. Tech gadgets are mostly associated with a non-trendy look and we are focused on changing that perception among our consumers.
Jyoti: Which are the key products line from Crossloop for Indian customers?
Sameer: Indian market is very much price sensitive. To bring something new and run that sustainably, its vital that the price points are matched with expectations. So we initiated by offering affordable tech accessories with a blend of design and latest technology. Hence our products which are focused on ensuring a smooth experience and performance to consumers are available at a price range of Rs. 400 to Rs. 4,000. The product portfolio includes tangle free Pro series earphones which are specially designed to appeal to the new aesthetic of consumers. Crossloop Gen TWS earbuds which actually is the hero product which is a combo of a TWS earbuds + a powerful 3W Speaker. The device features instant connectivity with Bluetooth v5.0 and an outstanding long range of up to 10m along with an amazoing battery life. It has smart touch controls and is available in four varients- Black & Pine, Black & Teak, Black Leather and Blue Leather. The speaker portfolio consists of ultra-stylish Volar, Drom and Akorn speakers with long lasting battery life. The daily fashion earphone series has a perfect mixture of amazing sound and accessibility. The Crossloop stylish designer charging cable has quadbraid technology for 100% tangle free experience.
Jyoti: How has COVID-19 impacted the consumer buying trends in last one year?
Sameer: The pandemic phase brought many changes in the personal and professional lives as we all know which is significantly impacting the buying behaviour. With work-from-home taking precedence, we saw an increase in the demand for gadgets and accessories. India’s consumer market has further evolved with consumers now looking for more personalised offerings. As we enter in 2021 we have a commitment towards exploring newer opportunities and evolving the brand to meet the needs of the consumers in these changing times. With the rising demand on our products, we foresee our products to attain a position of the best companions in people’s mindset when it comes to accessories.
Jyoti: Which platform do you rely more in current situation, offline or online?
Sameer: The pandemic has given a boost to the online selling hence we have focused on enhancing our presence on ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, Paytm Mall, Flipkart, Tata Cliq and Croma. However, there is a strong experiential edge to our products because of which we have seen a successful pull in the offline market as well. We are already working with Croma as our trusted offline partners and our offline spread is in process to rest of nationwide retail chains. We also are welcoming enquiries from regional and independent retails. On the online side, as a direct consumer brand we have redesigned our digital strategies keeping in consideration the way we communicate and engage with the audience. It is very crucial to have a well-designed roadmap to produce demand-driven products and services while maintaining the communication with our consumers via social platforms.
Jyoti: What are your major after-sale-services commitments to your customers?
Sameer: While we aim to offer a warranty coverage of minimum of one year on most of our products, we create a personal connection with all the possible users of Crossloop by actually talking to them and knowing their experience about our products. Although it’s not an easy task to manage personal touch with all of the users, we consider this as an important part of the activities we do and wherever possible we tend to reach out. We have a dedicated team of experts ensure a flawless end to end consumer experience. We also have a robust customer care service to address any issues being faced by the consumers.
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