Anirban Roy Choudhury

"It's time to monetise content through an ecosystem of 'paid models', not free services": Vi CMO Avneesh Khosla

The CMO of Vi talks about the importance of video in general and the telecom giant's association with Hungama Digital in particular.

Vi (known as Vodafone Idea earlier) has announced the launch of its pay-per-view service model. The telecom giant has inked a deal with Hungama Digital Media Entertainment for the same.

This deal will enable Vi customers to get access to 380-plus movie titles, including Christopher Nolan's 'Tenet' in four languages – Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu.

For Vi,the premium video-on-demand (PVOD) market in India a promising one, considering that the audiences continue to be price-conscious and choosy.

In an interview with afaqs!, Avneesh Khosla, CMO, Vi, says that in the post-COVID era, the PVOD model is rapidlychanging. The consumers are looking at alternative entertainment options.

Here is what Khosla had to say about the importance of video in general and Vi's association with Hungama in particular.

Edited excerpts:

Is video today the most sought-after value-added service?

Video consumption amounts to 70 per cent growth in India's digital ecosystem. It is definitely a lucrative proposition to reach out to the consumers. It is one of the key elements of our overall content strategy.

We are constantly launching partnerships that are an 'industry-first', and working towards bolstering our offerings, along with contributing to the growth of the digital ecosystem.

Could you explain the strategy?

The strategy is to drive more consumption, which results in higher recharges and plan upgrades, therefore leading to reduced churn and incremental average revenue per user (ARPU). Now is the time to monetise content by building an ecosystem of 'paid models', rather than providing free services in a market where the ARPU is at the lowest levels. It is an opportunity to address all consumer sets from across price points.

Our approach has always been consumer-centric and to provide superior service, catering to different needs of different segments. There is something for everyone at a palatable price.

Is a sizeable video content library a must today to retain thecustomers, especially with the sort of competition around?

Vi has always focused on offering more value to its customers. Today, as more and more content is being consumed by people on their smart devices, innovative video strategy and top-class product offerings will certainly be the differentiators.

Our focus has been to create a balanced mix of big content titles in multiple languages, backed by solid technology, innovative partnerships and, above all, co-ownership models with partners to build scale. Our effort has been on developing a rich content library on Vi Movies and TV app, which has a mix of on-demand shows and movies, to bolster growth, rather than playing pure vanilla number game.

What do you focus on when you agree on a partnership?

We recently announced Voot Select partnership for Vi consumers, where the focus was on how to give them the most recent shows which they can't get anywhere else. The partnership proved beneficial for us.

In the past 18 months, we have focused on building a 'mobile-first strategy', and continue to build the stack from that lens.

As a telecom player, we understand varied audiences. Therefore, our focus is to provide 'the right mix' via our recommendation engines, contextual and language-based content offerings to the right audiences across markets.

With the digital disruption, the consumer is constantly evolving. Therefore, it’s almost critical to ensure that you have a content strategy to keep the customer connected. Be it short format content for the consumers on the go. Or, long format for the consumers looking to watch on their personal screens. Or, now our latest transactional video-on-demand (TVOD)offering at a nominal cost - we have different mix for all our Vi users.

About retaining the customers, will an offering like this stop them from switching to a different network?

Till date, the paid subscription numbers across OTT platforms have been low, as compared to the 600 million Internet users in the country. With the pandemic last year, people were forced to remain indoors, which led to stupendous growth in digital-first releases.

As a telecom operator, we are constantly looking at ways to provide more value to our customers. It’s an opportunity for us to build a deeper connect with them. Today, the consumers are looking at meeting their needs at a single destination with lucrative price points.

What will make Vi’s association withHungamaa successful one?

We believe in more partnerships, innovative launches, and definitely co-ownership with the partner. We ensure that our partnerships are designed as a win-win for all the parties involved.