Vin Bhat, the founder of fast-growing New York-based Indian pay-TV service Bodvod, has been celebrating a successful year for Bollywood movies at the North American box office.
Hits in 2006 included Kriish - India's first action superhero film - and Dhoom 2, about a malicious gang of Bombay bikers, which grossed more than $2.6m.
Bhat created Bodvod in 2004 following a trip to India, where he was helping Bob Kelty, head of Richard Gere's charity The Heroes Project, mobilise the media industry to raise awareness of Aids and HIV in India. During his trip, he spoke to local producers who complained about the poor distribution of Indian movies in the US.
"In the US, Indian films were being seen in only 80 theatres out of 12,000," says Bhat. Cinemas where Indian films were playing were often in poor condition and lacking proper concessions, he adds. Piracy was also a concern.
In 2004, online video rental service Netflix was distributing 100,000 Bollywood films to customers every month, Bhat recalls. "We decided that if we worked with cable TV, we could reach 80 million homes," he says.
Bhat and his business partner Neal Shenoy, both managers at Media, a company that owns and operates a portfolio of media and entertainment ventures, created Bodvod.
Since then, Bodvod has become the first video-on-demand service to acquire, package and distribute Bollywood and South Asian movies, TV shows and music on cable, broadband and mobile networks in North America. The company has more than 30 major distribution partners, including Time Warner, Cox Communications and Google Video.
Bhat is now ramping up Bodvod's library. The company owns rights to 600 movies, and is expanding its music library, which already includes 200,000 audio tracks and 13,000 ringtones.
Bodvod's library has, until now, been distributed under the name of its major partners, such as Time Warner Cable. But Bhat now aims to build up his own brand, distributing Bodvod's content under the banner Saavn (the Hindi word for 'seasons').
The company also operates Saavn.com, a web community and social network, which recently teamed up with Joost, the online television service, to expand its distribution of Bollywood music videos over the internet.
"We're the second-best ethnic category (in pay TV) behind Spanish-language films," says Bhat, pointing out that the South Asian population, with around 3.5 million inhabitants in the US, is much smaller than the Hispanic population.
"We're doing so well because of the pent-up demand," he suggests.