Interview by Nitin Tej Ahuja, Publisher, Box Office India
To understand the size – and the potential still untapped – of the Indian market, ponder over this: India’s Internet user-base (350 million) is more than the entire population of the United States, but 3 out of 4 Indians still remain unconnected. Similarly, there are more mobile internet users (160 million) in India than there are Russians on the planet. Yet that number represents only 12% of the Indian population.
As India’s oldest and predominant online ticketing platform in the entertainment space, BookMyShow.Com, a venture of BigTree Entertainment Private Limited, knows a thing or two about the lay of the land. Ashish Saksena, COO-Cinemas, BookMyShow, chats with Box Office India’s Nitin Tej Abuja on how things are and where they are headed.
How would you characterize/describe the current online ticketing scenario in India and what is the level of acceptance by both exhibitors and consumers?
Online ticketing has shown immense promise in India in the last few years due to a combination of factors which include increasing internet penetration and adoption of smartphones. BookMyShow was the first to recognize the potential in this space and has steadily expanded its footprint across the country despite challenges that are posed by this category. The growth of ticket sales on BookMyShow has more than matched the growth of admissions for the Indian film industry. With online penetration of more than 30 percent for main multiplexes and about 20 percent in smaller towns/cities, BookMyShow currently delivers 30-40 percent sale of tickets for India’s theatrical business on its platform, depending on the film genre, which has helped BookMyShow get more recognition and acceptance from exhibitors as well.
What are the key benefits for exhibitors to align with an online ticketing platform like BookMyShow?
Over the years, BookMyShow has established itself as the preferred ticket booking platform for its users by offering them unmatched convenience through features such as seat selection, show timings and seat availability, reviews and ratings by users etc. Therefore, exhibitors are well aware of the traction that their cinemas will receive through BookMyShow. In addition, besides being the alternative platform for ticket sales, numerous benefits get extended to exhibitors such as exclusive discounts and offers. BookMyShow continues to innovate and has recently started offering pre-sale of Food and Beverage items for cinemas during ticketing booking. This is extremely helpful to the cinemas as not only they received confirmed pre-bookings of their meals and combos but also helps them reduce the queues at the concessions, offering an enhanced user experience.
What are the key opportunities and challenges that online ticketing is faced with?
The online ticketing space continues to have immense untapped potential. Not only the reach of online ticketing can be expanded to cover Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, opportunities of innovating in this space are also tremendous. We have already started offering our customers a chance to pre-book their meals and combos at the cinemas and are seeing good response from the movie goers. More such avenues are being explored. In addition, BookMyShow is not restricting itself to movie ticket bookings. We are an entertainment ticketing brand offering ticketing services for movies, sports and live events and concerts and continue to grow.
The challenges are mostly related to internet penetration in the country that facilitates online bookings of tickets. However, with increasing adoption of smartphones and Government initiatives such as ‘Digital India’, these issues are being resolved. Also, a section of users remain to be a little wary about making payments online and using credit/debit cards which poses a hindrance that we are looking to address shortly.
India still remains an under-developed market from an internet availability and digital literacy perspective. How much of a roadblock is that for you?
We look at internet penetration as a short term challenge as a huge amount of effort is already underway to improve connectivity. The bigger challenge is to the convince people, especially residing in Tier 2 cities and towns, that making transactions online, using credit or debit cards, is absolutely safe. Having said that, awareness levels are definitely increasing, and we feel that digital literacy is not a problem anymore as we have seen acceptance and growth coming from these cities which were, until sometime ago, not even considered a viable option for online sales.
Going forward, how do you see online ticketing evolve and grow in the near and medium term futures?
The sale of online tickets along with F&B on the online platform is expected to grow by three times in the next 12-18 months when the initiatives –internal as well as external will come into effect. BookMyShow also expects share of online ticket sales will jump to more than 50 percent for the cinemas and that the contribution from India theatrical revenues from online platform will grow to 45-50 percent in this time period.