When Hoichoi launched in 2017, it envisioned itself as the one-stop entertainment destination for more than 250 million native Bengali speakers around the world.
Three years, 600-odd titles and 3,000 hours of programming later, it is the leading Bengali OTT platform not only in India, but also in Bangladesh, the UAE, and 100 other countries.
Hoichoi reaches 13 million cumulative subscribers (including via telco partners), which may be higher than most Indian OTT apps. The platform also houses 1,000 music videos and several hours of non-fiction content.
The Kolkata-headquartered OTT operator claims to be doubling its revenue every year, with 40 percent of its direct revenue coming from international customers. The platform also witnessed a 3X-4X increase in viewership since the lockdown in March.
“The lockdown has been a huge tailwind. It has accelerated digital and people’s willingness to pay for content by two years. It has also expanded the base of users who can be monetised,” Vishnu Mohta, Co-founder, Hoichoi, tells YourStory.
In September, Hoichoi unveiled its grand content slate for its fourth year. This included 25 original series, including literary adaptations, thrillers, romance, comedy, horror, ‘First Day First Show’ films, and a bunch of exclusive digital premiers.
Besides content, the platform rests on two other pillars — distribution and tech — that are also being expanded and revamped. (more on that later)
Summarising Hoichoi’s three-year journey, Vishnu says,
“In 30 years of SVF [Hoichoi’s parent company], the last three have only been about Hoichoi. We were a B2B company dealing with distributors, broadcasters, multiplexes… We didn’t know B2C where you directly interact with the customer, understand their tech issues, or solve their payment problems. With Hoichoi, we have transitioned into a global company from a content reach point of view. And that is the power of the internet. Without it, we would never have been able to reach customers in Japan, Sweden, Iceland, and Argentina.”
When Hoichoi launched in 2017, after being in development for a year, it set off a string of firsts in India’s OTT industry — first vernacular video-on-demand platform; first to launch subscription top-up cards; first to enable pay-per-view (which it discarded due to piracy issues); and first to offer content dubbed in other languages.
It was also among the handful of homegrown OTT services (along with Eros Now and ALTBalaji) to be born out of a traditional film studio. Its parent company SVF Entertainment had been making Bengali films for over 30 years until then.
In an earlier conversation, Vishnu told YourStory, “With our depth of content, IP, and the experience of making so many movies and shows, it was the right time to transition into the third form of storytelling – digital. With Reliance Jio bringing a tectonic transformation in the internet speeds, people could stream an entire movie on their smartphones. 3G was a pain, but 4G fixed it. It was clear that everyone’s entertainment viewing was moving towards the internet.”