In Conversation with Sushil Chaudhary, Founder of PictureTime : A Mobile Digital Movie Theatre Startup
PictureTime is unleashing a new revolution in the entertainment industry
An engineer by qualification and a serial tech entrepreneur by heart, Sushil Chaudhary is among the pioneers who played an integral role in making India’s IT capability presence felt in Latin America. Starting his entrepreneurship journey with Mann-India in the LatAm region, he is now the founder and chief executive officer of Picture Time Digiplex Pvt Ltd that is bringing digital cinema experience and IoT (Internet of Things) to the parts of rural/ interiors of India that have traditionally not been served. He speaks about the mobile DigiPlex start-up that’s building an affordable ecosystem of technology driven by a cinematic experience, which will take India’s box-office revenues to 10 times the level in the next five years.
Sushil has been aware that since the screen density in India has been very low and has further come down drastically from 18,000 screens to around 11.000 at present. While cable television and the digital revolution played a role in their decline, however, he always felt that the single screen cinema theatre business could not adapt itself to the changing times. Particularly so in Rural India. While multiplexes have taken over the market in the metros and mini metros it has not penetrated rural India and so is deprived of a grand cinematic experience. Sushil is very clear that he wants to revive the cinema experience in every town/village in the remotest part of India. The cost of setting up and operating a facility was the key reason why multiplex and single screen theatres haven’t ventured into the rural markets. So, one day Sushil had an idea ; he wondered why he couldn’t make a portable cinema theatre on a small truck, but without compromising on the audio and video quality. This simple question made him work on the design and he launched PictureTime. His vision is to create entertainment zones centered on the mobile movie theatre where people can come and watch films and just hang out, taking advantage of the Wi-Fi spots on offer.
What motivated you to start this venture? Tell us about Picture Time and its features.
If you look at the current screen density in India, it is very low India and the numbers have come down drastically from 25,000 screens to around 11,000 at present. While cable television and digital revolution played their role in this decline, the main reason in my view was that single screen cinema theatre business could not adapt itself to the changing times. Particularly so in rural India, the ‘tambu talkies’ format started dying. While multiplexes have taken over the market in the metros and mini metros, it’s not penetrated rural India which is deprived of the grand cinematic experience. India is a severely under screened nation and the high real estate prices and cumbersome regulatory process to set up the cinema theatre pushed me to think beyond. Hence the product DigiPlex came to be. I wanted to have portable, real estate independent, low on regulatory compliances and ready to have a new release films platform and PictureTime is a solution to the above. With the mobile DigiPlex concept, I am attempting to revive the cinema experience in every town/ village in the remotest part of India. I feel entertainment is everyone’s right apart from food, shelter, and clothing. Our launch was in the International Film Festival of India, Goa in 2015. We showcased many movies during the film festival. We participated in 2017 also and it was inaugurated by Shraddha Kapoor and Closed by Alia Bhatt.
The technology behind the core offering by PictureTime:
- IOT backed, DCI compliant Mobile Digital Movie Theatre
- Internal MIS and required ERP for in-house inventory management support system.
- Mobile App for user and content owners with capabilities of audio/video reviews. Along with the online mobile ticketing platform.
- iCount and B2B live chat platform
Other Innovative features:
– It is a comprehensive portable Mobile Digital Movie Theatre(MDMT)
– First E-cinema/DCI compliant MDMT in India and the world, developed for Day One release platform.
– The product is focusing on fulfilling the low-screen density in India (9500+ as on date to 65000 which is the required number)
– Integrated infotainment/education platform to bring quality at par experience of the current times to interiors of India
– Last mile connectivity platform enabling Digital India
– Transparent, cost-effective cinema release platform for small and mid-size content/ film producers. It is boon for content owners as new media/exhibition platform
– Monitor-able outreach/new media platform to be used by govt./corporates to connect with the respective user group in tier 3/rural India.
How many mobile DigiPlexes do you currently have, and which parts of the country have they reached? How many more are you now aiming to make?
Currently, we have 25 DigiPlexes and covered 14 states, like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and others. Our target is to have 120 operational units by end of this Financial year and have 3000 units by 2021 operating Pan India
Talk to us about your association with Film Festivals.
Our launch was in the International Film Festival of India, Goa in 2015. We showcased many movies during the film festival. We participated in 2017 also and it was inaugurated by Shraddha Kapoor and Closed by Alia Bhatt. Recently, we partnered with Dharamshala International Film Festival. We were the technical partner and responsible for the projection and sound system for the entire festival. Along with this, we had set up one of our DigiPlexes for the festival. After DIFF we are all set to do IFFI People’s Film Village in Goa from 21st November.
We are the most ideal solution since we are not location dependent. Due to our technical capabilities, we can take the festivals to any city.
How big is your team currently? Are you looking to expand?
Currently, we have a team of 100. Yes, we will be expanding with a number of units being 120 by March 2019, we will require a bigger team.
How much have you been funded?
Last year in December we raised 25 crores as part of Pre-series A funding.
Do you see partnerships with studios to take movies to tier 3 and 4 cities?
Yes, we see a huge potential of partnerships with studios, as we can reach their target audience without any intermediary. Since we are a portable multiplex which can move from one place to the other, we are able to reach a larger number of people.
How do you see your association with Indian cinema in tier 3 & 4 cities?
Indian cinema’s reach to such cities is minimal. We, being DCI compliant Mobile Digital Movie Theatre, MDMT is the most suitable partner for the cinema industry. Our target of putting up 3000 screens would be a huge contributor to the Cinema industry revenue. Along with this, we are a direct medium of cinema exhibition where filmmakers can exhibit their movies across India.
How do you see Picture Time’s growth in the next 5 years?
Focus is to target entertainment dark cities and towns where there is poor cinema screen density. We want to take cinema to the remotest corner of India especially Jammu&Kashmir and the North Eastern states. Our growth plan is to have 120 units by March 2019 and 3000 units by 2021.