September 12, 2012

An exciting new challenge

I recently joined Total Media Networks SA, a global leader in over-the-top (OTT) video entertainment, as its Chief Strategy Officer and EVP, Business Development & Content., its consumer service that was launched in Latin America in July 2011, is the region’s first legal and second largest premium video streaming service behind Netflix.

My role will be to expand the service in high-growth international markets in Asia, Middle East & North Africa and Eastern Europe, in addition to helping further consolidate our footprint within Latin America. We'll be working with leading mobile carriers in these international markets to provide consumers a seamless, premium video streaming experience on-the-go as well as in their homes.

The venture is backed by Ricardo Salinas, Founder & Chairman of Grupo Salinas, which owns TV Azteca, the second largest media company in Latin America, among other businesses that together generate $6B in annual revenue across Latin America & U.S.

The global OTT video opportunity is huge. However, building a business across key high-growth international markets takes time. Key to success for a new player therefore is to have strategic partnerships which can provide investment and access to premium content during the initial build-up phase. We're therefore fortunate to have access to the resources of Grupo Salinas as we build and expand our global footprint. I couldn't be more excited to be part of this journey.

August 8, 2012

Mind Without Fear - a Poem by Tagore

In the wake of the recent hate-filled killings of six innocents belonging to the Sikh community in Wisconsin by a lone gunman tied to the growing white supremacist movement in America, below is a beautiful poem by the great Rabindranath Tagore which every American should read.

Mind Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee to ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.

By Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941), Nobel prize for literature, 1913
From The Gitanjali, a collection of 103 poems by Tagore.

May 31, 2012

Internet Trends (Mary Meeker)

Mary Meeker's customary annual analysis on the state of the Internet industry is out. She presented it yesterday during The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in California.

One of the key takeaways for me was the mismatch between the mobile growth and mobile monetization compared to desktop, as more and more people go online and spend more of their online time on their smart phones. Facebook and Google are already facing this challenge.

But again, we're currently in the early stages of the mobile Internet revolution.

Below is the full report.

KPCB Internet Trends 2012

May 15, 2012

Left Mela (Verismo Networks)

This is to announce that I have left my position as the President, Entertainment Services, Verismo Networks/GM, Mela with immediate effect.

The main reason for my move is the dis-agreement on the right strategy and direction of Mela with the CEO of Verismo Networks. There were also a lot of Verismo legacy issues which made it very difficult to provide the right focus to Mela, which I launched as a new consumer business within Verismo in October 2011.

My excitement about solving the global distribution problem for premium South Asian entertainment content however remains intact. The Verismo experience in that regard was invaluable. Going in, we had more questions than answers. We were not very sure about the right business model, the right content mix, and the right platform strategy. The last one being more of a Verismo specific issue, given its legacy in the set top box business, than a market issue. We therefore iterated in the marketplace in order to get the product-market fix right, and learnt a lot.

This is what we achieved over the past one year.  We launched the service on three platforms (Mela dedicated set-top box, Roku and iPad) and quickly grew the service globally.  Today, consumers in more than 55 countries are enjoying Mela. In order to suit various customer needs, we offered multiple content packages (live TV, regional South Asian content, Bollywood movies - catalog vs new, regional South Asian movies, etc) and pricing (subscription with bundled all-in, stand-alone movies). Mela became the first major dedicated online Bollywood service to stream new movies in international markets simultaneous to their theatrical releases in India. This has huge potential -  less than 10% of new movies released in theaters in India get a theatrical release in international markets. Mela was also the first such service to stream Bollywood movies in high definition.

We however never got the chance to fully and properly execute at Verismo the strategy of the Digital Entertainment Corp of India (DECI), the company that I founded in this space and the pre-cursor to Mela. DECI, for example, was mainly a PC play. Mela was never launched on PC, the biggest online global distribution platform. The promised synergies which prompted me to launch Mela under the Verismo umbrella instead of DECI never materialized because those synergies never existed to begin with.

I'm now evaluating new options to capitalize on the highly exciting international OTT video opportunity. South Asia is arguably the most diverse content factory in the world. Bollywood is the world's biggest film industry in terms of the number of movies produced and box-office tickets sold annually. There is no consumer service today that fulfills the demand of global fans for this content in a convenient manner. If one gets the execution right with the right strategy, it presents an extremely attractive business opportunity.

Stay tuned!

March 16, 2012

Mela announces First Day First Show

Mela announced a major initiative today - First Day First Show (FDFS). Mela will start releasing on a regular basis new Bollywood movies worldwide simultaneous to their theatrical releases in India.

Bollywood fans are already enjoying the Mela service in more than 55 countries, a list that is growing on a daily basis. Under FDFS, studios and producers will be able to reach a global audience simultaneously. Fans will have the convenience of enjoying new movies in great quality without leaving their house, no matter where they're located worldwide. We're starting with new movies which normally do not get an international theatrical release. Today, pirated solutions are the only options for consumers outside of India to watch these movies when they get released in India. Not any more. Mela is committed to fixing this global distribution problem. We're fortunate to be able to work with a slate of pretty progressive content owners who share our vision.

Mela was labeled as the "Netflix for Bollywood" when we launched. With our FDFS initiative, Mela is further pushing the envelope and moving way beyond Netflix, which has been unable to secure new Hollywood movies until several months after their theatrical releases.

Our press release is below:


Mela Becomes the First-Ever Global Online Service to Release New Bollywood Movies Simultaneous to Their Theatrical Releases 

Chaurahen releases worldwide on Mela on March 16th simultaneous to its theatrical release in India

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Mela, a global multi-platform consumer entertainment service with one of the largest aggregations of premium South Asian content, today announced the launch of First Day First Show, an initiative under which it will release new Bollywood movies in international markets simultaneous to their theatrical releases in India. Bollywood movie fans outside of India will now be able to enjoy new movies from the comfort of their living rooms no matter where they are located in the world.

Mela is the first-ever major Bollywood movie service in the world to launch such an initiative. Bollywood is the most prolific movie industry in the world, releasing more than three times as many movies per year as Hollywood, its more popular rival. Despite its global popularity, Hollywood has yet failed to simultaneously release new movies in every country in the world.

Mela is announcing the formal launch of its First Day First Show initiative with the simultaneous global release of the award-winning and multi-starring Bollywood film Chaurahen. The film will release globally on all Mela platforms - the Mela Bollywood movies channel on Roku, the Mela app on iPad and the Mela High Definition set top box on Friday, March 16. The film is being released the same day in theatres in India by its local distributor, Priya Village Roadshow (PVR).

Chaurahen (Crossroads), a film directed by Rajshree Ojha, who previously directed Aisha, in addition to two other popular specialty projects, boasts an impressive ensemble cast that includes Soha Ali Khan, Victor Banerjee, veteran Bollywood actress Zeenat Aman, and Kiera Chaplin, granddaughter of the silent film superstar Charlie Chaplin. The film is an adaptation of short stories by celebrated author Nirmal Verma. Ojha describes the three vignettes that comprise Chaurahen as "snippets of collected photographs, bringing together similar disconnected people trying to find their path." Originally completed in 2007, Chaurahen went on to screen at 11 international film festivals before securing theatrical distribution in India by PVR Cinema and global online distribution by Mela.

Chaurahen is not the first Bollywood movie to make its international distribution debut on Mela's global platform simultaneous to its theatrical release in India. Mela earlier released Puja Jatinder Bedi's Ghost and Sudish Kamath's Good Night Good Morning. The performance of these two smaller budget titles convinced Ojha of the effectiveness of Mela's global distribution platform.

"The quality of the Mela service, engagement of its audience, and the global reach of its platform will appeal to any content owner looking for a highly effective global distribution platform," expressed Ojha. After an arduous process to seek adequate distribution, she is optimistic that simultaneous worldwide release of the film through Mela will bring her already acclaimed film to an even broader global audience.

Sab Kanaujia, the General Manager of Mela, commented, "Mela is proud to become the first entertainment service to provide Bollywood producers and studios arguably the most effective global distribution platform. Now, quality content can reach its fans immediately, no matter where they are in the world. We are excited to acquire Chaurahen. While we are starting with mid- to small-budget movies under this initiative, we are confident that over time we will be able to acquire big-budget movies by demonstrating the value of our distribution platform."

Almost fifty percent of new Bollywood movies released in India every year do not get a simultaneous theatrical release in international markets due to various reasons. Limited number of available screens for releasing niche content and high traditional distribution and marketing cost are the main reasons why many Bollywood movies after releasing in India do not reach their global fans. As a result, rampant piracy has taken root in international markets to meet the growing demand of ardent fans who don't want to wait until official DVDs are released several weeks or months after a new movie's theatrical release in India. Additionally, cheap, pirated DVDs, available within days of a movie's theatrical release in India, have almost killed the home box office market because the price of official DVDs has remained very high comparatively.

Mela has been working with various producers and studios in India to ensure that a wide selection of films can leverage its global distribution platform and provide Mela subscribes a high-quality movie watching experience when the demand is the highest. Content owners will, for the first time, be able to distribute and monetize their content on a worldwide basis from day one. Fans will have a very compelling, legal alternative to enjoy new Bollywood movies in a high quality that was previously unavailable to them.

About Mela: Mela, a division of Verismo Networks Inc, is a multi-platform entertainment service that provides global consumers one of the largest collections of premium South Asian movies, music videos and TV content. Mela offers dozens of live television channels covering news and entertainment, hundreds of Bollywood, South Asian regional and independent movies, with an increasing number of titles in high definition, and selected premium videos from the Internet. Mela's content partners include India's leading and most popular film studios and television networks. Mela is available on multiple distribution platforms including Mela's high definition set-top box, the popular Roku streaming player, and Apple iPad. Mela's popular Bollywood movie service is available for $4.99 per month for instant, unlimited viewing of over 1,000 hit Bollywood and South Asian regional movies. Mela also offers a bundled package which includes its award winning, high-definition set-top-box with over seventy live television channels and 1,000+ popular movies available on-demand for a promotional price of $149 for one year of service.  Mela plans to later roll out its service on other major platforms including PC, tablets, Internet connected televisions, video gaming consoles, phones, Internet connected Blu-ray players, and other over-the-top devices. Mela is owned by Verismo Networks, a Silicon Valley based company that offers business customers worldwide solutions to bring  seamless convergence of IPTV linear channels, video-on-demand, Internet videos, social networking and personal media playback directly to consumer's television. Verismo is backed by Intel Capital. To learn more about Mela, please visit To learn more about Verismo, please visit