Mumbai-based In House Productions is heading south, working beyond studio-based formats, exploring content freelance partnerships, and spinning off a subsidiary company to spearhead expansion into feature films and other media in its bid to become an 'integrated media company'. This is the vision that In House's new COO Uday Sinh Wala, and his team, are working at. Sinh Wala joined In House from Nimbus Communications (COO) in end May.
Best known for Movers & Shakers, the Shekhar Suman-anchored desi version of Jay Leno's Tonight Show, In House has grown dramatically in the last five years, but without a clear direction. Its revenues last year (FY 2001), for instance, more than doubled to Rs 19.7 crore (from Rs 9.4 crore in 2000), courtesy productions like Nazdeekiyan, X Zone (Saturday Suspense), Commando, Harmony, Star Yaar Kalakar, Gubbare and the high-profile Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke, among others. The number of programming hours rose from 235 to 327. "It has done some breakthrough, good-looking products but it has never had an idea of where it was going for the next three to five years," explains Sinh Wala. "My mandate is to give it that direction and vision."
To begin with, Sinh Wala wants to extend In House's expertise beyond the limited genre it has delivered to date. "Studio-based celeb shows have always been our core strength," says Samira Kohli, head of marketing. "Because In House had strengths in only one kind of genre, we tried breaking away from that in Commando and Nazdeekiyan (soap)," she adds. Even as her company has experimented with thrillers or comedy in the form of X-Zone or Gubbare, it has not been consistent at that. Among genres being worked on currently are formatted shows, thrillers/action, reality game shows and comedy.
"There are very few teams in this country developing high-quality, high-calibre thrillers, for instance," says Sinh Wala. His team is approaching an action soap (unlike hardcore thrillers) in a unique way. At the same time, a reality-game show, which is again under tight wraps, is in the pipeline.
To stretch the width of his company, he is actively looking at partnerships. "No one production house has a complete grip on an idea," explains Sinh Wala, stating the logic. "There is lot of good talent out there, and we are looking for people who can work with us as producers. We are looking for groups of talents." This is in contrast to a complete in-house dependence on talent earlier. He aims to reach these pockets essentially through word-of-mouth. Kohli also hints at what she calls 'In House Studio Concept' - partnering with channels in specific genres.
More formal tie-ups are not ruled out either. In House is actively looking at mergers and acquisitions or tie-ups with different companies - whether in the form of co-productions or other business arrangements.
The bigger idea is to move beyond television and emerge as an integrated media company, as Sinh Wala calls it. That is, content creation for all other forms of media - events, documentaries, international mini-series, feature films, cabling and distribution, exhibition and film distributions, music and ad films. And it won't be limited to India alone. "We are seriously considering geographical expansion and entry into events and a foray into the blooming music scenario," reads a company note. It is also in the process of spinning off a subsidiary to spearhead expansion into feature film production, distribution and exhibition.
A joint-venture production house in Bangladesh has, the company claims, broken even within a year. "It caters to Bangladeshi channels, but if we can strengthen it, we can back-integrate it to Calcutta," muses Sinh Wala. It is already working on Bengali and Marathi fare. "We are looking at differentiated content creation for the two languages," he says. At the same time, serious work is on to explore the southern market as the next expansion base within India. "We have just started a dialogue," reveals Sinh Wala. "Before this year is over, we should be doing programming in the south."
In House expects to close this financial year with revenues of around Rs 26 crore and a nearly 35-per cent jump in programming hours to 440 hours.
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