While on vacation in Delhi in the summer of 2006, New York-based investment banker Neetu Bhatia was dismayed to find the facility of booking tickets for shows online was practically non-existent in India. In the United States, she would book all such tickets through global online ticketing agents such as ticketmaster.com. "Soon after I returned to New York, my brother in Delhi called me asking what I thought about setting up an Indian Ticketmaster," she says. She was game. In April 2007, Bhatia, her brother Akash and a common friend Arpita Majumdar, launched the site KyaZoonga.com.
Starting with movies, KyaZoonga has since diversified, selling online tickets for such events as singers Bryan Adams and Akon's shows when they toured India earlier this year, as well as for all the recent top sporting events: the Cricket World Cup, the Indian Premier League matches and Formula 1 racing. It now sells around 250,000 to 300,000 tickets a month, only 25 per cent of them for film shows. "India may have been late in waking up to online ticketing, but in terms of technology and features, we are at par or even better than most overseas websites," says Bhatia.
There has been a 25 to 30 per cent growth in traffi c on our site since we revamped it, adding many new features: Jitender Verma
KyaZoonga has had a relatively smooth run so far. Not so the site BookmyShow.com, currently the biggest online ticketing site today selling around a million tickets a month. Started way back in 1999 by three friends, Ashish Hemrajani, Parikshit Dar and Rajesh Balpande, it struggled to survive till the dotcom bust of 2001 put it out of its misery.
"Internet connectivity was poor and we were way ahead of our times," says Dar. But it was revived in 2007, and in its second coming has been a runaway success, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 40 per cent for the past four years. "As connectivity improved, banks started encouraging credit card transactions which worked in our favour," says Hemrajani.MUST READ:E-Commerce - Let the festivities begin
Paid a commission of Rs 15 or above for each ticket sold, online ticketing companies now control a Rs 650 to 700 crore market. "The numbers should double in the next few years," says Dar. Predictably they have made greater inroads in South India - with its higher Internet penetration and vast number of cinemas - than in the North. A host of smaller companies like NoMoreQueue, Films N Tickets and Limata have arisen, with operations confined mainly to South Indian towns. (NoMoreQueue has limited operations in parts in the North as well.) "The action is in South India," says Rama Raju, CEO of NoMoreQueue. "Fans here want to watch their favourite stars' movies at any cost."
Ticketing companies are also working overtime to ensure public enthusiasm continues to rise. KyaZoonga and BookmyShow, for instance, team up with select retail outlets to sell their tickets. BookmyShow also has ticket booking applications on the Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Symbian mobile operating systems. It even has a Facebook page, Ticket Buddy, through which it sells tickets.
Many of the multiplexes, such as PVR Cinemas, Fame Cinemas and INOX Movies, have their own ticketing websites as well. PVR revamped its decade-old website last July, providing much more information than before: details of the films being currently shown, and the ones to follow, with the facility of pre-booking even the latter. It also lists the snacks available, along with the option of pre-ordering them at a discount, along with the tickets. "There has been a 25 to30 per cent growth in traffic on the site since the revamp," says Jitender Verma, Chief Information Officer at PVR.
But there are challenges, too, chief among them the Internet's limited reach in India. "More broadband networks need to be built, the cost of 3G telephony needs to come down," says Hemrajani of BookmyShow. Again, these companies are saddled with many more responsibilities than their Western counterparts. "Unlike overseas, where organisers manage the infrastructure for ticketing, in India, ticketing companies have to take care of everything from printing the tickets to selling them online as well as at the venue and at retail outlets, to home deliveries," says Hemrajani.
Online ticketing, however, has enabled event organisers to earn much more from ticket sales than they used to. Earlier ticket sales were haphazard, with organisers relying much more on sponsorships to recover their investment. "Formerly 90 per cent of the money earned came from sponsorships," says KyaZoonga's Bhatia. "But now ticket sales comprise 60 to 70 per cent of the revenues."