In this interview with mid-day, Agarwal talks about how the competition is going to increase, the challenges that the industry faces and ULLU's expansion plans.
Vibhu Agarwal, CEO, and Founder, UlLLU App
By Rupal S
"Even the established players have to constantly keep reinventing themselves and cannot stick to the same kind of content," says Vibhu Agarwal, CEO, and Founder, UlLLU App. Launched in December 2018, the streaming platform has often been targeted to show edgy and erotic content. With an aim to change the perception, Agarwal launched the 2.0 version of ULLU recently. The newer version allows its viewers to choose between watching a censored and uncensored version of the same show. In this interview with mid-day, Agarwal talks about how the competition is going to increase, the challenges that the industry faces and ULLU's expansion plans.
How do you think the lockdown benefited the OTT platforms?
The pandemic has given a huge boom to all the OTT platforms. Much like other OTT platforms, we have also seen a significant surge in our footfall. More people are aware about Ullu and the content it offers. Normally, if 100 people download the app, 30 subscribe to it. The conversation has always been at the range of 30-35 per cent. However, during lockdown, it went up to 75 per cent. So, we started seeing 75 subscriptions per 100 downloads.
We have seen many new OTT platforms being launched in the past few months. How do you look at it?
Yes, there are many new platforms that have emerged in the last few months. There is going to be a huge competition among OTT players. The old players are also going to source content from everywhere. Earlier, the production houses had less options to sell their content but now they have more options. The number of OTT platforms has increased and so has the consumers.. Everyone will have to work on thin margins and huge volumes. Even the established players have to constantly keep reinventing themselves and cannot stick to the same kind of content. We were also working on a certain kind of show but we also decided to widen our horizon. We released Peshawar, Tandoor, The Last Show and Assi Nabbe Poore Sau.
How do you look at the competition and how do you plan to tackle it?
We are not going to leave our genre and our USP. In more than two and half years we have had loyal subscribers. To attract more customers, we came up with a 2.0 version where we offer viewers both a ‘plain’ and 'edgy' content- which will be further divided into two segments of censored and uncensored version. When it comes to competition, it is going to be tough. It is not necessary that people are going to come and watch our content only. It is not necessary that a person will only watch ULLU. He has a variety of options and he will select whichever he wants to watch.
Like you mentioned, people will have a variety of choices. Do you feel there is going to be an oversupply of content?
Yes it is going to be the case. In any trade, the demand rises and the supply is less. Later, the supply becomes excess. For example we earlier had only Fiat and Hindustan Motors as options to purchase cars. Today, we have so many options that we are confused as to which car to buy. Similarly, as the demand for content increased during the pandemic, the platforms started producing more content.
In this scenario, how do you plan to increase the subscription base?
We have a silver plan which works on the AVOD model. We play the current movies which are advertisement based. We also have a gold plan which is also an advertisement based model which is advertisement free for premium customers.
What is the biggest change that you see on OTT in the coming future?
Many OTT platforms will soon start having a 'bundling package' where people will be able to get the discount offers. Today, a person has to take individual subscriptions of every OTT platform. For example, he has to pay for ULLU, and other apps separately, but consumers wil soon have package options coming in which will benefit them. For example, currently the consumers pay an amount to Tata Sky annually to watch a certain number of channels. Similarly, they will get different packages of the OTT platforms they want to subscribe to.
It is projected that the OTT industry in the next couple of years will be on par with television in terms of viewership. What are your thoughts on this?
Customers will become more demanding and that’s a good thing. Television is thriving too and it is not going to go away anytime soon. In the past year, we have been growing and that’s been pretty consistent, regardless of everything else happening in the universe of entertainment. We understand that people's choices are not similar, because we are a diverse country. We should respect that and be able to cater to all the various segments in a meaningful manner. There are a lot of customers out there and it is a large country. Our aim is to keep driving and giving customers great value to everything we do.
You mentioned that there was a huge surge in subscriptions. How do you plan to attract more consumers?
We have the most reasonable subscription plans in the market, starting with Rs 36 for a week, Rs 99 for a month, Rs 144 for six months, and Rs 198 for a year. Eighty percent of our subscribers are from India. Of the remaining twenty per cent, Gulf countries are the biggest, followed by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Latin America and Canada. Our international subscription base is growing at a good rate. In India, most of our subscribers come from Hindi speaking markets like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. Recently, we have seen a surge in consumption in West Bengal.
What are your expansion plans?
We are soon launching ULLU in the United States of America and The United Kingdom. The idea is to make local content and show-case it there. We will execute and shoot the content in the respective countries for the lo-cal audience. We are in the process of setting up two teams who will look into the content. The team will approve the stories, we have a local cast and crew for the content that we shoot there. We are also planning to become a service provider for a revolution in Digital Telecommunication that is expected to be launched later this year in around September. A person can call up and speak to anyone anywhere in the world. We are also coming up with e-commerce. We will be launching apparels for which we will be launching a different app which will go live from August.
mid-day is completing 42 years. How has your association been with them?
I would like to congratulate mid-day on it's anniversary. My association has always been really great. It has an amazing brand recall value and ULLU has always got a good mileage out of it. We have always got a great response from them. If we have any issues, the paper has always open to feedback. The paper has always tried to publish real news and have always engaged in good journalism without being biased.