Mobile on voice is where middle India really is: Neeraj Roy

15 Jul,2012

Hungama Digital Media, along with singer and music composer Shankar Mahadevan, recently launched MOBisur – touted as India’s first digital talent hunt property. Taking time from the launch, Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. spoke at length with MxMIndia about this new brand property, the efforts put into it, and also about Hungama Digital Services post JWT acquiring a majority stake, his focus for the company in the next two years and much more.


You say that it has taken nearly a year to conceptualize the entire brand property – MOBIsur. Can you share with us the efforts that went into building this property, how it all started, and the kind of research you may have undertaken and so on?

This idea was conceptualized nearly three years ago by my colleague Anuj Bajpai who heads our voice business. As we moved into it, we realized the complexities, but at Hungama, we have a very deep rooted understanding about both consumers (because we have a lot of large consumer properties, which are all digital), and at the same time, we understand digital content. However, we still felt that something was missing and that’s where Shankar Mahadevan and his team came in because it was important that we run past them what we are thinking.


Do you have a dedicated team working on this initiative…?

Yes! It is driven by a voice team, but we have leveraged the entire group’s assets because there is a web interface aspect to it, there is a social media aspect because for any new service we launch, there is always a core product team. Once the product is approved and has a go-to market strategy at that stage, it moves from the product team to the operations team, which will then run this and ensure that it has momentum.


Hungama launches digital talent hunt MOBIsur

The mobile medium in the last many years have grown significantly, especially with 3G and now 4G coming in, there is great expectations from this medium. As wireless subscriptions continue to grow, billions of apps continue to be downloaded worldwide and India said to have the second largest mobile subscribers in the world.


Taking into account the growing popularity of the digital medium, ITC’s Vivel FaceWash, along with Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and musician Shankar Mahadevan has launched ‘India’s first digital talent hunt’ – MOBisur.


Mr Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. said: “The reach of Internet and Mobiletechnology has grown tremendously in the past few years. The aim of MOBisur is to create a talent-scouting engine in spaces that haven’t been explored in the past, via an entry ticket that is their everyday communication device.”


This unique mobile- and internet-based talent hunt promises to give every Indian an opportunity to prove their singing talent. The property was launched by Shankar Mahadevan, Nilanjan Mukherjee, Head of Marketing, Personal Care Products Business, ITC Ltd; Bhushan Kumar, MD, T-Series and Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO Hungama Digital Media Entertainment in Mumbai on July 13. T-Series is the official music partner for the property, which elevates the talent hunt to an even higher platform.


Mr Bhushan Kumar, MD, T-Series, said: “It gives us immense pleasure to be able to bring new talent in to the industry. As a music label, we are always looking for fresh talent and with a truly digital talent hunt; we have access to talent across the country. We are looking forward to releasing an album composed by Shankar Mahadevan for the winner of the hunt”.


The entries for the digital talent hunt, MOBIsur is said to continue for the next 45 days and the duration of the property will be for three months. The marketing budget is pegged at Rs3-4 crore.


Mr Nilanjan Mukherjee, Head of Marketing, Personal Care Products Business, ITC, said: “Vivel FaceWashis delighted to present Mobisur, an exciting and innovative platform to discover hidden musical talent. Vivel Face Wash MOBisur, in line with this brand philosophy provides a unique opportunity to aspirants to live their musical dreams.”


5,000 talented female participants selected from entries submitted on the Vivel Facebook page will make it to the second round.


The contestants who clear the first stage of the auditions will be given specific tasks by Shankar Mahadevan, who said: “When I conceptualised this property with Hungama, the thought was to give every Indian an opportunity to participate in a unique contest to try and reach the pinnacle of musical genius. Music is a powerful medium that can come from the most unexpected places.”


Based on their performance in the tasks and the votes secured for each task, they will be chosen for the next round. There are three tasks in all and after clearing all three tasks the contestants make it to the final round, which is the On-Stage Performance. Ten finalists will be chosen to perform in front of Shankar Mahadevan and two other prominent personalities, where the final two winners will be announced.

How different will the user experience be for mobile and internet users?

In internet, there have been initiatives of this nature – they have been done in the past. Over the years, even the mainstream entities that do reality shows have created web interfaces for people to upload and so on. We are, in fact, going to be unveiling a lot of newer applications which will have stronger internet experience to it. So we have innovated on that front, knowing fully well that as a process it has been done. On the other hand, this was never done on mobile. In fact, mobile on voice is where middle India is, in reality. We needed to build this property and we had our limitations in terms of what we can do and not get cumbersome. At the same time, I needed to capture certain amount of information data to be ethically appropriate in the whole process. Overall, we have balanced it well and we are happy with the product.


What about the duration of MOBIsur and its timeline and so on?

There will be three different phases. The entries will go on for the next 45 days, wherein it is all about reaching out and getting as many people to participate. Then it goes through zonal rounds, which will then culminate into final round. The entire property is on, however, for three months. We didn’t think that we ought to have a real world angle to it in terms of going on-air and so on, but the way it is panning out, we might even consider that as the response has been very positive.


Tell us about your marketing activities planned around MOBIsur?

There is a fivefold approach to marketing. First, it starts with announcing the initiative through media and we then backed it up with a television campaign. Hungama has about 20 million consumers on the internet which are accessing our media properties, and we will obviously actively promote it there. We have also have 3.5 million social media community and we will promote it there as well. The most vibrant community is going to be the telco-ecosystem – one of the most unique thing we have done – because it is a universal number. We want every one of the telcos to take ownership of this as their own activity event/ product and that will be the one that will give us the maximum reach.


Television promotion will be across channels, a lot of them music channels. Overall, my sense is that we should be putting in about Rs3 to 4 crore across mediums, in terms of the entire activations programmes, but a lot of that focus will be in areas where there is direct call to action. So don’t expect that skew to be driven completely by television, we will in fact do a lot more on digital and mobile mediums.


Now, post JWT acquiring majority stake in Hungama Digital Services, what changes have taken place, especially on internal developments?

JWT now has a 51 per cent stake in our business. There has been absolutely no change operationally, as it is the same team that runs the business, we are operating out of the same premises, we are handling the same clients. Clearly, over a period of time, we hope to be able to tap into and grow, leveraging their network onto other areas as well but, as of now it is business as usual.


What about expansion plans into newer cities, any new verticals in the Digital Services business?

Expansion is an ongoing process for us, the big focus is going to be to try and do as much of digital and physical promotional activations. The second area we are looking a little bit closely are trade-based marketing activations, which is the new area of growth for us.


What are your views on India’s drawing a blank in digital at the Cannes? Does digital creativity lack steam in India?

In fact, it is just the beginning in India, I think in the each passing quarter, you will find more focus on digital from both mainstream agencies as well as from brands. There are times when you have a good year or not so good ones, it’s alright.


What are your plans for Hungama Digital Services in the next one or two year time?

Our first objective is to make the new entity fully integrated; to align ourselves in certain manner and ensure that appropriate synergies are brought about. Our objective is to ensure that our existing clients benefit from a wider, more global network that exists for them. The third objective is that the team, about 120 people who’ve moved there, feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and energy towards creativity. All of this has to happen in the current fiscal, then we gauge how do we scale this and go forward.


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