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“You have to have your hand on the pulse of the audience†— Siddharth Roy Kapur (an interview with UTV´s CEO)
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Without a doubt, UTV is India’s best entertainment and integrated media organization. Whether it be movies, television, broadcasting or interactive, UTV has been delivering the very best. Today, I present to you an in-depth interview with the CEO of UTV Motion Pictures, Siddharth Roy Kapur. Read away and learn more about the organization which has brought us many memorable films such as Rang De Basanti, Life in a…Metro, Khosla Ka Ghosla!, Jodhaa Akbar and will soon be bringing us Fashion and Dilli 6.

You've worked for Procter & Gamble and Star Network in the past, and now work with UTV. What do you find most appealing about working with a media and entertainment organization?

I think the most interesting thing about working in a media organization is working with creative people and being able to feed off the energy and the innovative minds that they have, and working together to create something new. That’s really very appealing to me, and the fact that you’re always working on something fresh and new month in and month out. I guess the big thing for me really is working within the entertainment industry—it’s something I always wanted to do. And, movies has been a passion of mine all my life, so it’s very fulfilling for me to be in the industry.

What has been your personal favorite UTV project so far, and, why?

I think, there have been quite a few, actually—Rang De Basanti, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Life in a Metro, The Namesake and Jodhaa Akbar come to mind immediately. It’s very difficult for me to single out one of them. I’d say Rang De Basanti was really a fabulous experience because, of course working on the marketing of the movie was great, but also the fact that we also saw the film create an almost life changing impact amongst audience. When it released on the 25th of January 2006, we were touring across the country with the cast and crew. It was really a marvelous experience because in each theater that you’d go to where you’d have the cast interact with the audience— you could see from the reactions of the audience—they were moved very deeply by the film. So, seeing cinema do that is always very inspiring.

Prior to becoming CEO of UTV Motion Pictures, you were EVP Marketing, Distribution and Syndication. Given your background in marketing, perhaps you can offer some insight into UTV's marketing strategies for various projects. For example, UTV Classics' films release strategy is aimed towards a particular target audience, whereas a film such as Rang De Basanti is aimed towards a larger, mainstream audience—how does UTV structure its marketing campaigns, and what do you think is the key to a successful marketing campaign for films, as these days we have seen that even intense marketing cannot guarantee a successful film.

Sure, there are actually a few things I will point out, here, and that’s applies to marketing across any medium—and as true for films, as well. You’ve got to know the audience—you’ve got to be steeped in popular culture. You’ve got to know exactly what people are watching, why they are watching it, what the current mood of the audience is. You’ve got to have a sense for what will work, not just today, but a few months or a few years down the line, as well. It’s very crucial for a marketing person, especially within the media industry because tastes are so fickle and trends are so fickle, that you have to have your hand on the pulse of the audience. You need to research your audience. It is easy to say with movies, why should you get into research? But, that’s something we really strongly believe in at UTV. We put a tremendous amount of research from the scripting phase all the way to the final edits stage of a movie. We take feedback on board—when dealing with creative people it is of course important to give them the leeway to interpret that feedback in a way they think is best, but it’s important for them to get it. Second, of course, it is important to understand that not every movie can be marketed the same way—you’ve got to figure out an innovative way to look at each film—each film is a separate brand on its own. Media that you use might be the same. You might use the same mix of print and television and outdoor and the internet, but each film has got to be treated completely separately. You’ve got to be innovative in the way that you are communicating to audiences because the clutter today is tremendous—so, it is important to be able to break through it and get your message across. It’s important to have campaigns that really reach out and grab an audience and word of mouth is very crucial in the entire equation. So, one, of course, is the paid-for-media and then using the non-paid-for-vehicles, as well. For example, PR—PR is a very very crucial tool really within the movie business because it’s easy for a movie to get written about because newspapers and electronic media, really do want that sort of content. But it’s important for you to pitch that content right, from the very beginning. These 3-4 things are very crucial when you’re looking

at a good impact with movie marketing.

As you just mentioned, when creating a marketing campaign, the research and audience analysis stage is quite important, and research is something UTV really values. But, how extensive is the research UTV conducts when building various marketing campaigns?

We try to figure out the movie going patterns, the amount of leisure time the audience has, what they are spending it on, what different groups/different genders are doing, different regions of the country—India is such a vast country—but we tend to look at it as one homogenous country. So, being able to figure out regional skews, especially with your marketing and distribution, and figuring out what audiences in which areas of India, which genders and age groups are interested in what sort of content at a point of time, what are the other options to movie viewing that they have and how exactly are they accessing it… This is the basic generic research that we do as far as audiences are concerned. In addition to that there is movie-specific research that we do, as well—audience research based on their reactions to the script, the audience reaction to a rough cut of a movie, movie promos, trailers and promotional materials for movies. At each stage we try to get as much audience feedback as possible and this might not be formal research—you might just be getting a group of people to see a promo and ask them to comment on it—it might be a simple as that, but it is important to get audience feedback.

As you mentioned, you have been targeting mainly Indians, and also and overseas Indians with your films. Have you thought about targeting Americans and Europeans with Hindi films, and to, thus, create a new market for Hindi films?

It’s something that we really think is the next step for the growth of our cinema overseas. Frankly, so far, all of the Indian films that have really released in the West or the Far East have reached out to the South Asian diaspora. We really haven’t had a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon coming out of India, yet—we haven’t had the equivalent of that. That’s definitely the next step, the next big thing as far as Indian cinema is concerned. But, the grammar of our filmmaking will need to maybe change a little bit—by the fact that India is exposed to so much of the West whether it be Hollywood or cinema from around the world—I think a change in the style of the filmmaking would also be a corollary of that…so that the films we make could have a better chance of getting accepting within the non-South Asian audience.

UTV has definitely been making its presence felt all over the world, including in places such as the USA, China, UK, and even Japan—as the UTV Web site says, "the entire WORLD IS OUR MARKETPLACE." Out of all the foreign markets UTV is involved in, which one do you think is the most promising, financially?

I think…the US, the UK, UAE, Australia, South Africa and a few South East Asian countries, France, Germany…Our big movies are released in more than 30 countries around the world today. The idea is really for us to expand that reach even further.

What is one business decision UTV regrets making the most?

I wouldn’t like to get into the specific examples—yes, of course, it is a movie business, so some movies work and some movies don’t work. So, at the end of the day, you have to hope that your hits are more than your misses.

UTV has a lot of brands/sub-brands, which makes sense as UTV is organized into four verticals.

We have UTV Spotboy and UTV Classics, and that’s mainly it.

Does UTV plan on forming more sub-brands?

No, not as of now.

UTV has been working with Hollywood—does this mean that UTV will be opening more offices in the USA?

No, at this point of time we’ve got offices on the East Coast and West Coast. But, in the future, if we feel the need to open more offices, we will.

What would you say are UTV's biggest strengths?

I think our major strength is the team we’ve been able to develop over the last few years—we’ve got a great blend of creative and commercial people who have been in the system for a long time. Our relationships with talent—both directors and actors—are very strong based off the fact that we have worked with them in the past and they would like to work with us on a long term basis. Our marketing and distribution system is something we’re proud of—we have the ability to take movies and make them bigger than we think many of our competitors have been able to do.

Speaking of competitors…UTV has multiple verticals—movies, television, broadcasting and interactive—and, within each vertical, there are multiple competitors. Overall, though, who would do you view as being UTV's biggest competitor?

We couldn’t find another integrated media player to really compare to UTV because, as you rightly said, we are in various businesses, and within each we’ve got a different set of competitors. It’s going to be very difficult to find an organization comparable to the sort of integrated play which we have, at this point of time.

True—UTV is an excellent organization and is way ahead of others. However, do you think there are any organizations which might emerge to be, perhaps, potential competitors in the future?

There are a lot—and, I have to say that we are always on our toes as far monitoring the competition is concerned. What we have realized over the last few years is that we need to focus on what we need to be doing instead of focusing so much on the market—it is difficult to do, but it is something that we’ve tried to do in the last few years, and that has really helped us. It keeps us focused on the work we are doing rather than what others are doing.

Partnerships between various organizations in the entertainment industry, whether it be media partnerships or corporate partnerships, are the norm. What does UTV consider before entering into a partnership?

I think the ability of both organizations to work together on a long term basis is very important. And, of course, whether the need to get together in a partnership really matches because the reason to get into a partnership is that each party needs something that the other has. It is very important for each side to consistently deliver on what you are partnering with them for, to sustain a long term association.

What are the benefits of 3-film deals with various artists? For example, UTV has formed such deals with Rajeev Khandelwal, Anurag Basu and, perhaps even Priyanka Chopra.

When you reach a wavelength with an artist, then you’ve realized that this is a long term relationship that both parties would like to continue because there is an ease of working together and an understanding and both can benefit from each professionally. That’s when we like to make a long term relationship with an artist.

UTV is definitely an amazing organization which has truly been living up to its mission statement "to be pioneers, innovators and leaders." UTV has accomplished a lot and much more than other Indian production homes—however, the sky is the limit! What are some of UTV's long-term goals and ambitions?

I think, long-term the idea really is to strengthen each of our verticals—which you mentioned earlier—that we are number one or two in each of the spaces we inhabit. And, also, to ensure that we nurture existing relationships we have with our partners—creative and commercial—and be able to build on those.

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