Gujarati Entertainment Industry has a rich potential of growth. Contribution of Gujaratis is unparallel in the history of Indian cinema. The first talkie was a Gujarati film – Chau Chau no Murabbo, there were many firsts that were registered in the name of Indian cinema history as contribution from Gujartais. Strangely the Indian entertainment industry still depends a lot on Gujaratis for investments.
The history goes on similar lines for Indian television. Many media researchers are aware of the fact that the highest television format experiments happened during the Kheda Communication Project, in Development Education and Communication Unit (DECU), in Indian Space Research Organization. In fact this was the first time when television was used for the holistic growth of a community in and around Kheda village. This is one experiment that scholars from all over the world have studied as a case study. The project also ended up producing great tangible results.
So the question is “what is stopping the growth of Gujarati entertainment industry?” Let’s understand this problem from various aspects.
There is a complaint that viewers don’t watch Gujarati content. This argument has been overdone and overused against the growth of Gujarati entertainment content creation. The biggest viewer of Hindi television with Gujarati flavor is Gujarati. In fact the difference between Gujarati viewers and non Gujarati viewers of Hindi content with Gujarati flavor is humongous. There have been researches, which have shown that a Gujarati would want to consume Gujarati content at any given point of time. With Mr. Modi becoming the national leader, Gujarati Pride has been showing a bullish trend. There is no reason why a Gujarati would not like Gujarati content. Successes? Gujarati theatre: including experimental expressions of Aditi Desai, which have given phenomenal successes. Gujarati theatre is no more confined to commercial players like Siddharth Randeria and Saumya Joshi, the envelope has been pushed to the next level. How about recent successes of Radio, Modern Gujarati films, Online content and live entertainment???
Many come up to me and tell me that the category is too small. Ask me about it. Out of the 16000 cr that Bollywood industry collects in terms of revenue, Gujarat contributes 500 cr, and mind you these numbers don’t include exorbitant collection that happens from NRGS. This is not enough an estimated figure that is spent on advertising across various platforms is 1000 cr plus. These numbers are not enough. We are yet to calculate the online and other media turnovers, which are trending upwards. The logic is simple; in any content market language consumption will be at least 25% of its total consumption. This is almost like a universal law. Look at newspapers, look at even usage of regional languages on the internet. The number quoted above is 2% lesser than the world average. In fact in more advanced countries like Germany, China and Japan these numbers are way too high. If we apply this logic to Gujarati cinema only, we have a potential to grow upto 125 cr Indian rupees. And we are sitting at a small number of 10 – 12 cr. This clearly shows unequal distribution and a strong need gap. Look at the language crazy and culture crazy 2 cr Gujaratis living outside of Gujarat. Cinema, television and internet are the only medium that can connect them all.
Another cliché argument I keep coming across is that Gujarati television doesn’t work. Look at how ETV has suffered, look at what happened to Zee TV, look at what happened to Tara. Here is my answer. Gujarati is a unique community. They are aspirational, and have a very high taste of content. Their choice of content is very selective. Though the community is frivolous and likes entertainment they also understand the value of content. Try to look at this fact from another point of view. Majority of Gujaratis are business community like Jews. They have the means, have the exposure and most importantly they have very high selection process for everything they do. Most of the television channels that have not worked in Gujarat have failed to cater to Gujaratis a combination of the above things. What is more important here is most of the television channels depend on their marketing teams to come up with a need statement for television programming strategy. If “needs statements” were to decide product creation; as Henry Ford said he would have created a fastest horse and not a Car. What is the content research team is missing on is the key insights to run television channels. Also, over a period of time I have come to a realization that the Gujarati television channel business has been a victim of strong Hindi GEC networks. Look at the other side of the story. Gujarati viewers eat the biggest pie of viewership for a Hindi television channel, why would they want this category to grow? Wouldn’t they want to discourage Gujarati television? Or try to invent a new genre that would not affect their current seemingly working genres???
I would say though Gujaratis have prospered and gone places, the Gujarati entrepreneur is still stuck in time. He or she hasn’t seen this enormous potential of Gujarati entertainment industry which is like a barren land. All it requires is about 50 cr investment in television, films and internet. The industry has potential to grow as if there is no tomorrow. The market has a potential to house at least 3 to 5 players. Let’s hope that the Gujarati business people comes forward and creates a pool of resources in such a way that it can turn the industry around.