The journey of ZengaTV towards a full fledged mobile TV company – In talks with Abhishek Joshi, CEO, ZengaTV


Launched back in 2009, ZengaTV is a one of its kind of mobile TV services with live video streaming for TV channels, other entertainment, reality shows and news content. It provides free streaming to users for its content and its primary source of revenue includes advertisements and content redistribution.

ZengaTV was the exclusive, mobile, live video streaming provider for IPL T20 in year 2009 where it streamed Live IPL T20 matches on mobile and managed the delivery across 140 countries. It had also delivered the Live IPL in 2010 on Youtube and it holds the exclusive rights to Viacom 18 Channels like Colors TV and MTV.

Iamwire caught up with Abhishek Joshi, CEO, ZengaTV to understand how is it working, its revenue model and way forward for Live Video streaming service providers in India.

Tell us something about ZengaTV?

ZengaTV was founded in 2009. We started our line of business with IPL as the exclusive mobile partners for IPL worldwide and were delivering to 140 countries at that time. That was our entrance in the mobile video streaming sector. Post that we did IPL for two years, than we managed Viacom 18 (which is colors and MTV) for 3 years. From 0 channel base in 2009, we have now moved on to 140 live channels, we have rights for 18,000 movies which also include Hollywood movies and with this, we have 40,000 music tracks. Right now, we have 22mn unique visitors per month out of which 18 mn plus are on mobile which generates over 300 mn video views a month, that’s the spectrum we operate and it is free to the end user service. We do not do subscriptions and also its free to the user. However one has to go to the website and download the application and start streaming content for free.

What opportunity you saw in 2009 that encouraged you to come up with this and partnered with IPL directly? What value proposition you presented to IPL?

We started working on the technology sometime back in mid 2006, it took us two and a half year to develop the technology because its all in-house. We realized way back in 2006 that the video is the way forward and we were always excited to do something on the video front. Having said that, to stream that video either on mobile or internet your bandwidth has to be strong, while at that time 3G was not heard off and the video content had to be streamed on 2.5G network. Also if you travel in other countries either to the developed countries despite of having 4G when you walk down to roads, 4G falls to 3G and 3G to 2.5 and it goes up and down.

We started working on technology which helps videos to stream at 2.5G and that was the germ of the idea. When we were ready with the service, the platform IPL came to us and we had an opportunity to partner with them because we were the only one who were up to the video streaming on mobile, as there was no one else. Infact we introduced video streaming in India for the first time and IPL wanted to do something new so we partnered with them.

We were also powering the IPL Youtube streaming for one year and were also handling and for them.

Who is backing Zenga?

Zenga is not yet invested, it’s a self funded company. Thankfully, its the only company in the space that is profitable, and we are profitable in past two year on the track, Shabir Momin is the founder and the CTO, Vikramjeet Roy is one of the partners of the company.

How do you say you are profitable, what’s your revenue model?

Up till last year, advertising was not our core revenue model. But since last year, the advertisement market has actually opened up and people have started investing in mobile and video platforms. Infact we are the first one to introduce pre-video ads in India on mobile, i.e. when you load the add there is a video ad to be played. The different value propositions which we give to the advertisers and brands is the core reason why they have been investing on us, ad model is one revenue source. Secondly, we have also partnered with some of the telecom operators from which we get the share of data revenues.

We directly do not work with the operators, neither we work on the subscription model, we have our own platform where viewers come and we stream for free, unlike other players who work with operators and charge subscription fees. Over the years when we grew through a certain size, operators came to us and they started to ask for relationship with us. Later they started giving us a share of data revenue in terms that if you are an operator and you are surfing on Zenga from mobile, you are consuming data and we get the share of that data being consumed.

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We also do content re-distribution, the content over which have exclusive right to, we re-distribute it to some players.

How are partnerships been done with the channels? Is that the channel which wants you to stream or you have the exclusive rights for streaming?

It actually works both ways, exclusivity in certain cases and non exclusivity in most of the cases. If i have to explain “who i am?”, i would say, “I am Tata sky on mobile with advertising rights”, thats the definition of me. Even Tata sky doesn’t have its own advertising rights on channel to sell.

You can insert your own ad slots in real time? Are you suppose to sell those ads to advertisers first of all?

Yes, we have rights to insert ads and sell those ads to advertisers or brands.

Times Internet had rights for IPL this year, and as compared to previous IPL streamings, was it good? What would you like to say about that?

Bandwidth availability will be an issue in India for some times to come, till the time someone stands and say I will bring 4G. Technically speaking, 3G is just the upgrade on 2.5G, its not the natural 3G. Till the time your bandwidth goes up, the streaming quality will always be sub-standard. Even if you stream Youtube, it will always be buffered, it actually is true for avid part of the country. Also we are browser friendly and stream in 2.5G, as the majority of viewers come from small towns.

Tell something about the other players you are competing with. What is the global spectrum about the technology you are dealing into?

At one level, I can say I don’t have any competition because no one is doing what I am doing. Even Youtube doesn’t do live content, they have a recorded content. We do both live and recorded content and other thing in comparison to other players is that we are the only player who do it for free, others are either on subscription model or tied up with the operators or have white labelled something. Apple to Apple there is no competition. I have competition from small players like Vuclip, but it only does hot clips and not the live content.

What is the valuation of the company according to you right now?

We haven’t gone for investment, so technically speaking i don’t know the valuations till the time we have an investment.

Do you think, you should rather stand still and observe the market to exit? As a number of successful acquisitions have happened lately.

Unlike many other companies, which need means to sustain everyday operations, we don’t. We need it if we have to think out of the box, think to grow and to acquire more content or more space. For example- We haven’t done marketing for Zenga till now as we need investment for that.

When we started Zenga, we use to say, “Watch Zenga when you are not in front of TV” and now after three and a half year we say “Even if you are not in front of your TV still watch ZengaTV.” Reason being we have started acquiring international content as well and a specific content channels like we have a specific Jokes TV, if you want to watch Jokes. You don’t need to wait for the specific time for Jokes to come on, you can watch them right away. We also have cooking tv, you can just go to the particular TV station and start streaming. We are moving towards specific content channels which according to us is the way forward, as people don’t have the time to wait for the TV shows and are getting choosy for specific content and that too at their own time.

You guys are here since three years, what is the industry mentality right now?

I won’t say we are three years ahead, I would say we are on the right path. If you see internationally, people have actually started moving to the content available at their own time. Appointment viewing is out of window and services like ours is actually snack in and out. So people come in and if they come across something they don’t like, they simply snack out, i.e. why the television in India is stagnating? Because its all about appointment viewing. If a particular show comes at a particular time and you don’t remember it you miss it. And with our lifestyle we don’t have time we don’t remember – hence the loop arises.

What do you think can go wrong in this model. Do you think any conversions happening across all these players?

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Conversions will always happen as its a growing industry and its the sunrise factor as we use to call it. The dotcom bubble has hit us in 98 & 99. People, companies and individuals who have strong and sustainable business plans will always survive but people who fly by night will not sustain because its an expensive place to be in and expensive content. The technology and service is expensive too. Hence cost of customer acquisition is expensive, so if you don’t have a very strong or sustainable model – the risk is high.

Please share some numbers of the revenue side and your run-rate?

We are doing well, as we are not a public listed company. All I can say is that we are profitable. Its double digit crores, so it can be 11 crore or 99 crores.

Tell us something about the team.

We are a team of 55 people, which is structured with the technologist, engineers and salespeople. Certainly we are in a sector where you need to update and upgrade every second day because its changing everyday and if you are out in race then time to come back is long.

Share something about the UI-UX you have, how would you like to rate that?

There always is a scope of improvement, and we are working to improve it. If I sit back and say that this is just right that would be a lie. There are three pillars on which the company in this sector will be successful, i.e. content-technology-&-Users. And if you have any two in place you will be successful, for example you have content and technology you can get users and vice-versa. Thankfully we have all three. We are always open for feedback and if people point out something that this is what should be doing or not, etc. we are always happy to accept and work on it because benefit is that its still a growing organisation and are not caged.

What is the most exciting thing you like about this industry?

I have been asked the same thing last year also, we are in a stage where broadcasting was in 1994-95, when C&S started operations in India with Star Plus and Zee that was the cable and satellite boom. We are exactly at the same place given the fact we growing at a much faster rate and secondly, they started in India with a borrowed content and thats what we are doing now, we are also borrowing content from broadcasters, content providers, etc but we are doing it at a much faster rate.

So do you see there is any future competition threat? Even Youtube can also start this.

Always is, even why only Youtube other broadcasters can also start this, but the only hitch is if a broadcaster starts this service they will only be stuck with their own content. We are open for all as we have given choice to users on what they want to watch, we have no competition and if the content is good you will automatically be watched.

Where do you see the company’s future two years from now?

Bigger and better places.

Looking for international expansion?

We are already an international company and are a global access platform by nature. Even if you are in US no one will stop you from watching the content for free. Earlier we use to appeal Indian diaspora abroad and from last six month we started appealing to the foreign diaspora as well. We have a Japanese and French tv as well.

What all analytics is being used to measure audiences and how you manage all this?

Yes, it is all in-house, as we are not subscription based people don’t have to come and register their name, age and all that and even if they do, they are not sure of the credibility of the information. So we track IPs and we know exactly from which occasion, handset, operating system, etc. We even know the sex ratio, socio-eco class, age, etc because all this helps to advertise. If a brand wants to advertise for say female 30-54 years old, etc. I exactly know which content to offer whom. What we are doing in other way is we are replacing television advertising for them as well as we can advertise in the same way television is, I have sponsorship rights, rights to replace real time ads in shows, all of that I can do and tell from exactly where their audience came and give them the minutest reports unlike TAM which is on a sample.

What is the cost of 10 second video on Zenga?

Its not a 10 second slot it operates on the CPM (Cost per thousand). We charge for every 1000 views, and cost is accommodative.