Percept in the News

'If content was king in the 90s, packaging is god now’
23 December, 2008

It may have been an unstable year for the entertainment industry, but for Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept Ltd, being optimistic about the future comes naturally. A film enthusiast, he promises to deliver one film every month in 2009—the year when the entertainment, media and communication company will complete 25 years in the business. Speaking to FE’s Sagorika Dasgupta, Singh elaborates on Percept’s growth path, its forthcoming releases and the future of the entertainment industry. Excerpts: 

Percept will be completing 25 years in January next year, how has the current year been for your company? 
Given the economic recession, 2008 was quite a dramatic year. The stock markets had been choppy for the major portion of the year and we have realised how our financial markets are fragile to international markets. The economic crisis has taught us a lot about the consumer and various consumption patterns. We had planned to list the company last year but it has been delayed keeping the market sentiment in mind. This kind of a reality check was required as it has helped in balancing reality and fantasy. The inflated fantasy bubble had to be popped, be in terms of the exaggerated movie ticket prices or the remuneration of actors. A steady economy is always better than a fast one. 

What will be the area of focus for the company in 2009? 

Advertising has always been the DNA of Percept, so we will definitely concentrate on that front. Besides, we will also build consistently on the experience that we have gained in the field of event management, sponsorships, films and talent management. Branding will also be one of our main focus. We were once a B2B (business to business) company and have graduated to B2C (business to consumer). We know how important it is to leverage a strong brand name. 

Which of your businesses have contributed the maximum revenue for the company? 
Percept consists of three main divisons: entertainment, media and communication. Our entertainment business contributes 60-70% of our revenue, while media & communication are collectively responsible for garnering 30-35%. The drivers of our business growth have been through our entertainment ventures that comprise verticals like Percept Picture Company, P9 (our film marketing wing) and Percept Talent Management (PTM). We will focus hard on quality content. However, the two businesses that we will refrain from are theatre and distribution. We are happy with our distributors, Sree Ashtavinayak, as they have been in the business for the last 25 years. They know their job well and I have no reason to complain. 

What are the films we can expect from the company in 2009? 
We plan to bring in one movie every month in 2009. The idea is to create a strong consumer connect. We will be releasing the John Abraham-starrer Aashayein, Madhur Bhandarker’s Jail, Raftaar, Raat Gayi Baat Gayi, 8X10, to name a few. While we are aware that small budget films have a lot of potential, we want to serve a varied platter of films to the audience. 

Percept has a wing dedicated to animation. Despite most production houses pumping a lot of funds in this genre, animation films are yet to see the light of the day. What is the reason? 
There is a huge mental blockade about animation films in India as these films are often misinterpreted as children’s films. They have to be marketed tactfully. Currently, we have a strong marketing strategy in place for our animation film Jumbo, which is being promoted by Akshay Kumar. Production houses need to create animation as a genre not just for kids, but a lot more than that. It’s a mindset issue that we are fighting with. But we have tried to break the mould for marketing Jumbo. We signed Akshay Kumar as the brand ambassador and then had Lara Dutta on board. We spent close to a crore on a music video for the film. 

Has marketing become more important than content? 
Let me put it this way, if content was king in the 90s, packaging is god now. One can’t do much without publicty and promotion. Having said that, you can only have a successful product if you focus on quality content and back it up with a tremendous marketing line up. 

What is your stand on endorsements, and is it justified to pay high remuneration to actors in these times of recession? 

At PTM, we are trying to focus on short-term deals. Some of the companies that did sign a few actors for long-term contracts have also been forced to rethink their decision due to the current market scenario. These days most enorsements are short-lived. It is a time for transactional affairs rather than financial marriages. 

Where is the media & entertainment industry headed to? 
One doesn’t really know what the future holds as we are often pitted against political events and unpredicatable stock markets. But hospitality and entertainment are the two sectors that are here to stay as people view these as outlets, both during happy and sad times.