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!

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