When the $25-billion streaming giant Netflix came to India in early 2016, it was seen as a major event in the country’s entertainment ecosystem. Armed with a massive armoury of global content and a brand that was perceived as a premium offering, Netflix went about the task of capturing Indian audiences. Initially, the premium brand identity and pricing (its top-end plan is priced at Rs 799 per month) meant that consumers at the upper end of the market, familiar with global content, were the early adopters. Then came Reliance Jio which, with its aggressive pricing of data, completely disrupted the telecom space. Data prices came crashing down, providing a major boost to streaming services like Netflix.
Cut to 2021. As the Reed Hastings-founded streaming service works through its sixth year in India, the landscape has changed dramatically. Global streaming giants like Disney and Amazon Prime have upped their game, and local players MX Player and Zee5 have also scaled up significantly. Along the way, recognising that the Indian market had its own significant pricing dynamics, Netflix did what many would see as a significant departure from its premium positioning: in 2019, it launched a Rs 199 a month, mobile-only plan to capture the price-sensitive section of the market as competition began getting into the game. Today, the mobile-only format Netflix launched as a global first in India has been rolled out in several other countries in Asia and Africa.
In our cover story by Krishna Gopalan and Abhik Sen, we take a deep dive into Netflix’s India strategy and find out how the storied streaming service is navigating the ever-changing and fragmented Indian market. More importantly, many rivals have other instruments that power their streaming offering—Amazon has streaming as part of its Prime delivery service, Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLIV have sports as a major attraction and are also broadcasters. How will Netflix, currently placed at No.4 in terms of subscription numbers in India, carve out its growth strategy for the future? The pandemic may have boosted home entertainment significantly, but the Indian market is now getting increasingly competitive. Netflix’s answer to this is to present itself as the storyteller of choice, where great stories told in a powerful way by the finest content creators in the business, delivered by way of cutting-edge technology, will keep subscribers hooked to its service. Whether it is global content brought to India, or the long line-up of Indian originals, Netflix believes great content will continue to be its winning formula. As Hastings tells Global Business Editor Udayan Mukherjee in an exclusive interview, even while it is focussed on providing greater affordability to Indian consumers, Netflix’s core strength is around storytelling, and the company is “still getting better and better at it”.
Talking of movies and streaming, I would also urge you to read the story by Vidya S. on how pandemic-hit multiplex chains like PVR and Inox are aiming to take their food and beverage (F&B) offerings outside theatres and into consumers’ homes through food delivery services. As ticket sales remain low, F&B could be an important survival strategy for these companies.
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