One of the first Indian film companies to float on London's AIM when it raised $41m in June 2006, Eros has been expanding from its base of international distribution of Hindi films to become a vertically-integrated studio spanning production and distribution across theatrical, video, TV and new media platforms.
It recently had a massive global hit with Shah Rukh Khan vehicle Om Shanti Om.
Key to its strategy has been the acquisition of production companies and libraries, and striking co-production deals with local producers. Acquisitions include Tamil film industry giant Ayngaran.
'The old way (to secure product) was to pay a minimum guarantee but that model is fading,' says Eros International COO Jyoti Deshpande. 'The point behind developing a value chain is to become a joint owner. Sometimes we fully finance projects, sometimes part-finance or just buy rights - we're flexible and do whatever makes sense for each project.'
UTV Software Communications
Expanding from its base in TV production, UTV is also building a vertically-integrated studio across film, broadcasting and interactive. Since raising around $70m on AIM last July, the company has ramped up its co-financing and in-house production activities and also entered Telugu- and Tamil-language production. It recently scored a worldwide hit with Jodhaa Akbar, a sixteenth-century costume drama that is not a typical Bollywood film.
'The Indian market is transforming into the Western model but it's happening much faster than it did in the West,' says UTV CFO Roma Patel. 'Historically, about 70% of revenues come from the box office. Now the market is growing but becoming much more fragmented. You can be much more effective if you own your IPR (intellectual property rights) and have a long-term strategy.'
Studio 18/The Indian Film Company
Also moving from a base in broadcasting, start-up Studio 18 and affiliated investment outfit The Indian Film Company are involved in production, co-production and acquisition of world rights. Owned by Raghav Bahl's giant Network18 group, Studio 18 is also setting up international distribution networks across all platforms and will be attending the upcoming MipTV and Cannes markets. Following Network18's joint venture with Viacom, into which Studio 18 was folded, the company is expected eventually to distribute Paramount films in India.
Upcoming releases include Anees Bazmee's Singh Is Kinng, featuring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif, and Gajini starring Aamir Khan and directed by AR Murugadoss.
Newcomer Reliance already owns Indian distributor-exhibitor Adlabs and is building a vertically-integrated studio under the Big brand.
'Our vision is to create a strong slate of movies backed by exceptional distribution capabilities in the studio model style and to be the number one player in exhibition,' says Reliance president Rajesh Sawhney.
The company is developing a slate of around 30 movies and has entertainment interests including a 50% stake in Mumbai-based Nitin Desai Studios, Big Flicks video rental outlets, BIG FM radio stations, social networking site Big Adda and gaming portal Zapak.
Watch out for
Indian broadcasters Zee and Ndtv have big plans for film investments in the coming year. NBC Universal recently acquired a 26% share in Ndtv.