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Betting Big On The Media Revolution

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ashwin Suresh, Fo-Founder, Pocket Aces

Founder of Pocket Aces, a new age socially-distributed, multi-format, digital entertainment company making highly engaging content for the millennial audience via its channels FilterCopy, Dice Media, and Gobble, Ashwin Suresh, prior to founding Pocket Aces, was the Creative Head at Junglee Pictures, Times of India Group’s film studio, which he setup in 2013. Previously, he was a Creative Executive at Reliance Entertainment, where he produced a variety of Hindi feature films.

Before entering the Indian entertainment industry, Ashwin worked at Citigroup and StepStone Global in New York, first in investment banking, focusing on advisory and M&A for financial institutions, and subsequently in private equity investing, including direct investments, co-invests, secondary’s, mezzanine debt, and fund-of-funds investing. He holds a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as a Diploma in Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy. An amateur musician and avid traveler across 40 countries and 5 continents, he calls Dubai (where he grew up) and Mumbai (where he currently resides) home. In conversation with Dominic Rebello, he reveals what drives him and his plans to make his company a leader in its own space.

What is the concept behind Pocket Aces?
Pocket Aces is India’s leading digital entertainment company. We run 3 content channels, FilterCopy, Dice Media, and Gobble, which are distributed across social networks and messaging platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. While we are a video focused company, we also create and publish a ton of written content on our website, www.filtercopy.com.

The company was started to address two primary needs: (1) With increasing mobile phone penetration there was a huge underserved demand for short-from written and video content. Additionally with content discovery moving from search to social, we recognized the need for a socially distributed publishing strategy. FilterCopy was the answer to this. Today it has become the fastest growing and most widely shared short-form content publisher in the country. Dice Media is the young urban Indian’s alternative to TV. Our long-form shows are created in the familiar seasonal format with finite episodes and they tell relatable Indian stories. As regards Gobble, when we saw that audiences craved high-quality food content, both across written and video formats. Gobble is quickly becoming a go to food destination and our recipe videos and live shows are starting to garner a massive following.

How big is the potential for a business like yours?
Our business has the potential to become bigger than TV and films. Today, we reach much larger audiences than most niche TV channels. This is very attractive to advertisers and they have started shifting their ad-spends towards this medium. As we continue to create more content and grow our audience base, we’ll see advertiser spending drastically move towards digital-first publishers who have a much better understanding of these audiences and know how to cater to them in a low-cost and effective manner. Additionally, companies like Pocket Aces are vertically integrated, i.e. (a) we do the work of creative agencies when we work on brand solutions, (b) we create and produce the content like a production house would, (c) we do the work of broadcast networks or print media when we publish and distribute the content through our own channels, (d) we market the content and help it reach large audiences like a media-buying agency would, and (e) we do the work of measurement agencies when we run analytics and gather audience data. This creates several revenue opportunities for us and we are able to exploit our IP in a variety of ways that is sometimes harder for traditional media companies to do.

Who would primarily be your consumer audience?
Each of our channels has its own niche audience and they’re fairly distinct. However, on a macro level, I would say that we’re creating content for the 13-35 year old demographic across both genders, primarily living in cities with unfettered internet access or 3G/4G penetration. Right now our content is a mix of Hindi and English, but we’re also exploring an expansion into regional languages to reach new audiences.

Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
We are seeing certain trends that will shape media over the next few years. Digital, as a delivery medium, is here to stay. What we call TV today, is actually simply a set-top box and a satellite receiver. The TV is likely to simply become a device on which we consume media, and over time, OTT platforms will provide a majority of content to consumers across the world. Traditional cohorts will be redefined and geographical boundaries will no longer be used to segment audiences as identity or interest based communities start to form globally. Social media and messaging platforms will become the largest distributors of media, and mobile phones the primary device on which this media is consumed. Content formats will keep evolving - vertical video, live, 360, AR, etc. - and this evolution will continue to be pioneered by the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, and others who control large numbers of audiences and have a need to constantly innovate. The democratization of distribution will also lead to an improvement in the quality of content in markets like India.

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