People say that the two favourite topics for most people in India are cricket and films. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how Virat Kohli should have batted or how Sanjay Bhansali should have directed. Or how Deepika should have performed. Yet the world of films and how they get made still seems full of mystique and notoriously difficult for talented people to get in. There is talk of nepotism, excessive cash dealing, closed networks, and hight entry barriers. At the same time, India makes more films, TV series, web series and ad films than any other country and this is growing exponentially every year. Every major studio worth its name is in India now, from Sony Pictures, Disney and Paramount, along with digital giants like Netflix and Amazon. How will this old archaic style industry cope with the demands of the international style of working which these studios bring?
This is the question two experienced professionals from diverse fields asked themselves and came up with Filmboard. Filmboard is set to disrupt the way the audio visual content industry functions. A genuine pioneer, driven by a combination of feet on street and technology, Filmboard is setting up the first time ever verified, rated, reviewed database of all vendors and talent, which will change the game in creation of content at every stage.
This platform is for all filmmakers, producers, ad film makers, ad agencies and others who wish to scroll through the available talented artists into various production domains and can book any film-related services including locations, technical crew, and talent across India in a few simple steps. Their target base ranges from suppliers to location providers, to talented crew, small and large production houses, etc. The team is currently based out of Mumbai with a database already growing out of Mumbai into Pune and Uttaranchal and set to spread all across India. Apart from facilitating production houses all over the country, it is tipped to become a major faciliator for overseas producers who want to execute projects out of India.
Today we are presenting an exclusive interview of Founders of Filmboard, Lets see, how they are making a change with their venture in their own words.
1. What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
Filmboard Movies Private Limited. The name is self descriptive and sounds like a pioneer – which it is.
2. Who is your target Audience/clients?
Filmboard is a unique B2B e-commerce platform that enables producers, line producers, and filmmakers from anywhere in the world to book any film-related services including locations, technical crew, and talent across India in a few simple steps.
Annually, more than Rs. 12000 crores is spent in India in the creation of audio visual content. A majority of this expenditure is via independent freelance entities known as ‘Line Producers’. For such a large amount of expenditure, and on which the eventual quality of the product matters, there is no brand. Filmboard plans to be the first such credible brand which will evoke trust in the line production and facilitation space. This is the first real disruption of the entertainment industry, which is known in India for its disorganization, nepotism and ensuring high entry barriers.
To do this, Filmboard will first establish a detailed verified, reviewed and rated database of existing and new vendors and service providers and talent.
So our target audience ranges from non glam entities like equipment suppliers, location providers, service providers on one side, to talent and crew to small and large production houses and producers/filmmakers on the other side.
3. Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
Our company is based in Mumbai. We are initially focusing on Mumbai market but would gradually scale to include whole of India. Subsequently will be marketing the portal in the overseas markets.
4. What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
Creation of audio-visual content in the Films/TV/Web is a highly disorganized yet sunrise industry in India. At present the industry operates on primarily word of mouth and network, with high inefficiencies built up over a period of time.
It is common knowledge that most budgets have overruns and most projects exceed their timelines. In addition, the industry operates to a large extent on personal networks which is another factor leading to a loss in inefficiencies, as well as high entry barriers to new players and capital.
All the above is happening in an industry where annually, more than Rs. 12,000 Crores is spent, only till the creation of audio visual content.
Filmboard’s vision is based out of years of observation of why this happens and what needs to be done to improve efficiency, and deliver better quality products in time and within stipulated budgets.
Filmboard will completely change the way audio-visual contents are created for Films, TV, Web, Ad films, Documentaries etc.
Filmboard, besides the portal, which is a DIY (Do-It-Yourself), also offers premium ‘Line Production Services’ to its clients.
5. Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it come to existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
When I joined my first job at ITC (after my MBA), after the customary selling ITC products on a bicycle in the Ahmedabad June heat for two months, I was told that I was going to be part of a core team to launch a new cigarette brand in the whole of Gujarat. I was thrilled at the responsibility and worked for another month with my boss to figure out a project report – ‘To launch the new brand across lakhs of retailers in Gujarat, how much time would it take, and how much would it cost, including all media costs”
It took us around 30 days to figure that it will take around 72 days and around Rs. 44 crores (this is 1990’s). The head office at the picturesque Virginia House, Kolkatta, took around a month more to approve that plan and we got down to work. Finally the brand was a big success, launch in 69 days, and under Rs. 40 crores.
It was my first big project, achieved in under budget and under timelines and I went & hugged my boss- the pipe smoking half Brit with a handlebar moustache. He looked at me up and down for manhandling him in front of everyone and said in his clipped accent “Sandeep, we did add buffers, didn’t we?”
I learnt my first lesson in professionalism. To be able to plan and predict accurately is not an achievement if you want to be world class. It’s hygiene – par for the course.
Years later, I moved into ad filmmaking, and believed the first budget that was given to me by my line producer. I asked him – ho jaayega na? He replied with a cryptic – Sir, aap start karo!
I started, and ended being 5% over budget. And I was hugged by that line producer for ‘us managing within the budget’
I made scores of ad films after that, and soon enough learnt the 10% rule in Indian Film making. Whatever the final budget with buffers, presume it will go at least 10% higher. And overshoot timeline by the same percentage. Or more. That’s fine. Accept it. If you want to be accepted.
Then I did my first feature film ‘Manjunath’, in which apart from being director, I was also designated as co-producer. The same budget tolerance of 10% in a feature film means crores of rupees – money that my dad didn’t earn in his entire life. All this while I had been told that ‘it’s a creative field, so the director can have a change of mind, therefore things go over budget’. But I was ‘the director’ of Manjunath, and I didn’t change my mind. And most of the decisions didn’t even involve me. Why would I even be bothered with which hotel my unit of 60 would stay for 45 days in Lucknow? Or even where we got the camera from, as long as it was as per specified?
I realised I had been fed rubbish and I had digested it thinking I don’t know enough. A lot of times, it was just lack of planning, or plain inefficiency, or kickbacks, or just not enough information.
I ‘ve seen the COO of a top studio tearing his hair out for a large budget film of Rs. 50 crores budget going over budget to Rs 60 crores, and no one battling an eyelid. And the blame being laid at the door of the top star in it, who would probably count as one of the most professionally managed stars around.
This has got to change! We cannot be a largest film-making economy in the world, and be so archaic in how we make those films.
Then I met Rajesh Butta, my BITS Pilani batchmate. Unlike me, he had remained loyal to the tech field.
We discussed why all this may be happening, and he brought great technology insights on how all this can be changed slowly. So that’s how it came about – combination of domain expertise, feet-on-street and technology.
6. Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Filmboard has no direct competitors at present.
Indirectly, the first competitor is the existing vested interests. This is because Filmboard is changing the order of things in the creation of content. Also, the only direct competition using technology is in the talent space. In its core, it is very different because such models solve the problem of some of the sellers (i.e. talent) in their access to buyers (producers). We believe that is not solving any problem of the buyer at all since buyers do not have a problem of getting talent. Their problem is more in the other higher budget areas. Also, we believe the revenue stream in such a model is suspect (talent platforms) and is more based in listing revenues and advertising. As we have seen, models based primarily on such revenue streams have not been very successful in other sectors till they have scaled up to a very large size.
Filmboard on the other hand, has already started generating revenue.
There are some other ventures essentially trying to solve the problem of aspiring talent, from actors, singers, musicians, dancers etc. in finding access to work within the industry. While India has a lot of aspiring talent, we feel this is not a great business model because it is backed up by a weak revenue model.
On the other hand, Filmboard is more comprehensive, and seeks to cover a database ranging from locations to service providers, core and non-core services, even including food catering and transport. Talent is included but a part of this. In addition, Filmboard is buyer facing and not seller facing, like the talent portals. The buyer already spends a great deal of money in executing of projects yet it is done in a cost inefficient and deadline inefficient way. Filmboard seeks to solve this problem of the buyer, and therefore the revenue model is strong and already existing.
Currently, there is no other organised alternative in this industry.
7. How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us something about your co-founder/s
I met Rajesh, my BITS Pilani batchmate, again during our silver jubilee reunion. Unlike me, he had remained loyal to the tech field.
While we discussed the broad idea, and I got to know thar Rajesh has keen technologicial insights, the primary reason for asking if he will be co-founder was instinct.
As it turns out, instinct generally turns out right.
8. How did you hire your first team members? What skills do you want in your employees/team?
We have been hiring team members mostly from job portals like Angelist, IIMJobs, Indeed etc. Since we are pioneers, there is no one from a like-to-like company because there is no like-to-like company.
We also realised that if we want to change the way things happen, we cannot have too many people in the team who are already entrenched into the way things happen in a disorganised manner.
Therefore, while we do have some from within the domain, a large part of the team are recruited from any field. All that matter is their attitude, the ambition to be part of doing something different and game changing, and a lot of self drive and conviction.
9. What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
In 2 years, we will expand all India and will be on-boarding all relevant players operating in the industry and gain relevant market share.
In 5 years,
a. We plan to have operations in the overseas market, offering India to the world. We are confident that then Filmboard will be the main window for overseas projects into India.
b. We will be the main entry point for all aspirants from talent, crew, services as well as inflow of capital into the industry. This means the model will extend from B2B to B2C.
10. Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
In 10 years, we are confident that:
Min 50% of all transactions in the industry will flow through Filmboard.
All films/audio visual projects will have sourced something from Filmboard.
We will be integrating a lot of AI/MI/AR/VR and other technologies to make filmmaking as a process far more efficient.
11. What are your immediate goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
We have milestones set for ourselves on all the fronts that include no. of sellers in various categories and subcategories, no. of buyers conducting business on the portal, no. of transactions being conducted through Filmboard. Broadly, keep improving the stickiness of the portal for all stakeholders of the industry. So, the focus really is to raise decent funding to scale up operations.
12. Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
Filmboard has a group of carefully handpicked strategic investors backing it. These are highly qualified and experienced professionals in their own fields, who resonated with Filmboard’s vision to introduce the same values to an industry that has been waiting to be disrupted.
We are now looking to raise our first round of institutional funding.
13. What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
Our major problem has been the resistance within the industry and a certain cynicism towards being network driven and nepotism. This is something which we already had in mind, since whenever any startup is out there to disrupt existing order of things, the more established player who leverage their relationships are bound to resist. We have been careful in selecting the team members who are buoyant about the idea and are willing to counter all negatives and objections head-on. After all, its an idea whose time has come, something which has been successfully achieved elsewhere by Oyos, AirBNBs and TripAdvisors of the world. With sheer perseverance and string will we have travelled quite a distance. Today industry players are more and more amenable to transacting business online and in fact liking the idea. We have had comments from some section of people who say – “After sometime we would be surprised to note how we were doing business earlier.”
14. What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
The challenging part has been to design the tech algorithm to be intuitive and in sync with how business is done in offline mode currently. We have been having active feedbacks from the industry and kept improving the offering.