digital media trends

‘Local story, global appeal’: Netflix’s strategy in India with ‘Sacred Games’ and other projects

Erik Barmack, vice-president, International Originals, speaks about the streaming platform’s plans for India.

Netflix is a pop culture phenomenon in India without the numbers to support it. It is not known exactly how many Indians watch the series, films and documentaries available on the streaming platform since Netflix is notoriously tight-lipped about local viewership data. The platform claims to have 125 million viewers around the world. In February, a report in Quartz pegged Netflix’s Indian subscribers in the over-the-top streaming market at 0.52 million, as opposed to rival Amazon Prime Video, which reportedly has 0.61 million subscribers.

What is known about Netflix’s plans for India since its launch in January 2016 is that the American company hopes to ramp up its viewership numbers by offering original series and directly streamed films. Among US-headquartered company’s biggest offerings to Indian audiences is Sacred Games, the adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s 2006 novel of the same name. The first season, with eight episodes, will be launched on July 6.

Netflix will also commission between eight and 12 films over this year and the next, apart from rolling out several series based on books and original ideas.

“Next year, we will be commissioning five, six, seven series,” Erik Barmack, vice-president, International Originals, told Scroll.in in a telephone interview from New York City. “We are building a pipeline of projects that we love. Sacred Games has the ability to be watched in the UK and Canada and the US. It will be available in over 20 languages and globally distributed. We are trying to create a cultural movement – a new way to do TV in India. We will be treating the show like a local production but also a global story.”

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Sacred Games.

The horror series Ghoul, written and directed by Patrick Graham and starring Radhika Apte and Manav Kaul, is likely to follow Sacred Games later in the year. In various stages of development are adaptations of Aravind Adiga’s cricket-themed novel Selection Day, Bilal Siddiqi’s Kashmir-set thriller Bard of Blood and Prayaag Akbar’s Leila, about a mother’s search for her daughter. Selection Day will be ready by early next year.

Netflix has also commissioned acclaimed Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani to direct a film adaptation of Adiga’s Booker Prize-winning novel The White Tiger.

Barmack described as “a coincidence” the fact that many of the original Indian series are based on acclaimed novels. “There are 50 Indian books that can be adapted, and this is unusual for a market,” he observed. “You will probably see over the next few months three or four projects based on books, while a couple are coming from other sources. There was a bit of a design – we have these great stories and avid readers, so why not start here?”

The eagerly awaited Sacred Games adaptation was the result of Barmack having read the book a few years ago. Vikram Chandra’s novel revolves around Mumbai gangster Ganesh Gaitonde (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who has holed himself up in a bunker in his Mumbai stronghold. Gaitonde summons Mumbai police officer Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) and dies along with a mysterious woman and tonnes of cash after an enigmatic conversation with Sartaj. The policeman’s investigation, guided by Research and Analysis Wing officer Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte), covers the communal polarisation in Mumbai after the 1992-’93 riots, opportunistic politicians, crooked gurus, and a dirty nuclear bomb.

Radhika Apte in Sacred Games. Image credit: Netflix.
Radhika Apte in Sacred Games. Image credit: Netflix.

“We were talking about the idea of doing premium TV in India and what it would look like – how we would be telling stories that are complicated and twisty and globally relevant, like Breaking Bad, Peaky Blinders, Narcos,” Barmack said. “We also love doing something with an anti-hero. We reached out to Vikram Chandra’s agent and then to filmmakers in India.” Sacred Games has been co-produced with Phantom Films and directed by two of its founders, Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, both of whom have made films that have travelled to international festivals in the past.

The Bollywood talent that Netflix wants to woo away from Amazon Studios is obsessed with numbers – what does a project cost, who is paying how much, how many are watching. Among the carrots Netflix is dangling for Indian filmmakers is the opportunity to be seen outside India, in the 190-plus countries in which Netflix is available. In one sense, Netflix could give Indian directors and actors the global exposure that is not immediately available, or assured, by film festival exposure or international distribution.

“On the series side, we have a compelling argument –we are not just doing shows for India, but we are creating global TV,” Barmack said. He cited the international popularity of such Netflix shows as the drug trade-themed Narcos, the German science fiction show Dark, the Spanish thriller Grand Hotel, and the Danish survival drama The Rain.

“Shows like Narcos and The Rain are travelling everywhere, as are 13 Reasons Why and Stranger Things,” Barmack said. “So when we are talking to people here, we are saying, you are going to be creating a new medium for India – a high-value production and a complicated TV series. Actors like Radhika Apte and Nawazuddin Siddiqui also get a chance to be on a global platform.”

Indian filmmakers are increasingly experimenting with bypassing theatres and being directly distributed on Netflix. Independent films such as Q’s Gandu and Rohit Mittal’s Autohead have been directly sold to Netflix. Anand Tiwari’s Love Per Square Foot, a comedy about Mumbai’s housing crisis that was produced by Ronnie Screwvala’s company RSVP, was premiered on Netflix in February rather that released through cinemas.

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Love Per Square Foot.

Netflix offsets the absence of hard data about viewership with the opportunity to have freedom from censorship and conventional marketing wisdom. “On the film side, we can be free in some sense – we are going to fully finance films,” Barmack said. “We are targetting the kind of films that are not being made as much anymore. Here is an opportunity to make films with the artistic vision you want without feeling the sense of pressure of having to gamble on box office success.”

Netflix, along with other streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, AltBalaji, Voot and Eros Now, is well poised to tap into the uptick in digital consumption in India. A FICCI-Frames report on the Indian media and entertainment industries for 2018 estimated between 1 million to 1.5 million digital only consumers, which is expected to grow to around 4 million by 2020. “250 million people viewed videos online in 2017, a growth of 64% over 2016,” the report stated. “Trends in online searches in India suggest that entertainment is becoming the largest sought after category, contributing to 31% of all searches.” By 2020, India is expected to become the second-largest video-viewing audience in the world, according to the report, which is being driven by “rapidly increasing mobile penetration, increasing Internet speeds, advent of 4G and falling data charges”.

According to Barmack, Netflix viewers in newer territories, including India, tend to be in the 20-something age bracket. This demographic pool has some familiarity with American television trends. Netflix wants to expand its reach beyond this pool in India. “We will try all consumers who have broadband connections and global data plans, such as families,” Barmack said.

There are both differences and similarities between India and other recently conquered markets, such as Brazil and Spain. “There have been differences in how shows get made, and there is a shocking similarity in the passion that people want to have to be part of global TV,” Barmack said. “Some of our biggest shows are not in traditional genres, and the one thing you are seeing is the thirst among audiences to see something different, younger content in genres such as science fiction and fantasy that they haven’t seen on TV before, eight to ten episodes with great cinematic values.”

Eric Barmack. Image credit: Netflix.
Eric Barmack. Image credit: Netflix.
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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.