Global entertainment czars gung-ho over India

MUMBAI – FRAMES 2004, the fifth convention of the global entertainment business, whizzed through the lakeside Renaissance Hotel in Mumbai this week, with an eclectic mix of 1,300 delegates dipping into the world’s current favorite business environment -
India – and heaping praise on its achievements and market potential. India has 340 million children under 15. That’s a lot of potential.

From Walt Disney President Andy Bird to Nielsen Media Research Chairman and chief executive officer Robert McCann, entertainment, media and marketing leaders grappled with issues ranging from new technology to persistent headaches like piracy and censorship.

Organized by The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the three-day conference ending mid-week was as ambitious as squeezing the Ben Hur epic into a three-minute promo. More than 25 countries participated, including Australia, Britain,
Canada, China-Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore and Thailand.

The media was captivated by the first high-level Pakistani entertainment delegation to attend a global convention in 38 years, especially topical given the warming India-Pakistan relations. While India was playing Pakistan in a one-day international cricket
match in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, subcontinent silver screen delegates seemed as keen to keep tabs on the score as the happenings at the conference.

Meanwhile, after Bollywood super star Amitabh Bachchan and former screen idol Hema Malini were crowned with the FICCI Living Legend Awards in the inaugural session Monday, the day unfolded along the predictably concocted theme, “India Unbound”. An Ernst
& Young study gushed: “In 2003, the Indian entertainment industry continued to out-perform the economy – it has grown by 15 percent to an estimated US$4.2 billion.” The study predicted revenues for television to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 17
percent over the next five years, to gross $6.4 billion by 2008.

Marcel Fenez of PricewaterhouseCoopers was equally gung-ho, predicting a 5 percent growth for the Asian entertainment business this year. The boom is expected to be a forerunner in global advertising spending, which is set to expand to $375 billion by 2007.
This growth rate of 4 percent contrasted sharply with the bleak 1 percent growth the entertainment market experienced in 2002.

“Overall ad spends in the future are likely to be boosted by events like Olympics, elections – not just in the United States but in other important economies also,” said Fenez. According to him, ad spending in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow by
6 percent. In 2002, entertainment and media spending in the region was $209 billion. Japan was the weak link, said Fenez. Continuing weakness in Japan, the region’s largest market, undercut the growth in ad spending in India and China. In India, ad spending
grew at 9.5 percent in 2003 and is expected to post similar numbers in 2004.

“Entertainment is part of the Indian psyche, and the consumption of various forms of entertainment is one of your most pleasurable past-times,” Walt Disney president Bird said in his keynote address. He called India a cornerstone of Disney’s global strategy,
as India has 340 million children under the age of 15 – more than the entire population of the US, he said.

Sixty percent of the Indian population is under 34, and seven million Indians will enter the lucrative 20-34 age group every year for the next years for the next decade, Bird said. “Almost no other country in the world can make these claims.”

Referring to a recent Millward Brown Survey, Bird mentioned said 93 percent of Indians surveyed responded to the statement “I love entertainment” with a “strongly agree” response. Only 79 percent of those surveyed in China and the US responded with similar

Amit Mitra, secretary general of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was enthusiastic over this year’s conference. “The sheer profile of international participation at FRAMES 2004 is a clear acknowledgement of India’s growing importance
in the global scenario and the pivotal role that FICCI FRAMES plays as a gateway to the Indian market,” he told the media.

The FICCI was established in 1927 to gather support for India’s independence struggle and to support the Indian business community. Starting with a membership of 24, the FICCI grew to more than 3,000 members by the turn of the century. After gaining governmental
recognition of entertainment as an “industry”, the FICCI sought the need for a platform where major global media and entertainment figures could meet and discuss, plans and ideas to improve business.

Not everyone was impressed with the FRAMES 2004 fest, however. Aparna Bhosle, creative director of a leading TV company with offices in Mumbai, said the conference discussions were larded with generalities and lacking in insights and case studies. “Most people
I see here are busy networking, looking for better jobs with lots of visiting cards exchanged,” she said at tea on the second day before announcing in disgust, “I’m going home.”

Harish Krishnamachar, vice president of marketing for TVS, one of India’s largest two-wheeler companies, liked the idea of FRAMES. He flew into the city a few hours before his turn in a panel discussion on “How do advertisers use television to ensure better
returns on investments for their brands?”

“Such events help to crystallize thoughts,” he said, before delivering the secret of how his two-wheeler brand achieved happy returns from advertising in Indian television: his company simply turned mega movie and cricket star power into brand power.

Raja M is an independent writer based in Mumbai, India

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