BREATHE: A Conversation with Vikram Malhotra the Founder & CEO of Abundantia Entertainment
Vikram Malhotra is the Founder & CEO of Abundantia Entertainment, a company formed in 2013 with the vision of being the best and most-admired creator and enabler of content in the Indian media & entertainment ecosystem.
Formerly the Chief Operating Officer of Viacom18 Motion Pictures, one of India’s largest motion pictures studios, Vikram is the name behind some of the Indian film industry’s most-loved films in the last few years. At Viacom18, Vikram built an enviable track record for the studio – from critically acclaimed box-office hits like Kahaani, Gangs of Wasseypur, Special 26, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Madras Cafe and Queen, to mass entertainers like OMG – Oh My God, Pyaar Ka Punchnama and Tanu Weds Manu, to name a few.
Led by Vikram, Abundantia created a buzz in the digital space with India’s premiere Amazon Original, ‘Breathe’. After a very successful first season, the show is currently in post-production for its second season, which marks the digital debut of movie stars Abhishek Bachchan. In March 2019, Abundantia also announced its latest venture in the OTT originals space with THE END, which has superstar Akshay Kumar leading the cast. THE END is also an Amazon Prime Original and is being heralded as India’s first global tent-pole show. There is an active pipeline of digital content under development at Abundantia, which includes a serialized drama based on the book ‘Men Who Killed Gandhi’, and a multi-season procedural series on the bestselling ‘Rita Ferreira’ books.
Prior to entering the Entertainment industry, Vikram has spent more than a decade building brands and businesses across leading companies such as The UB Group (spirits, airlines, sports), Tata Communications (retail internet) and SC Johnson – Draft FCB (FMCG).
In our EXCLUSIVE Interview, Vikram tells us about the focus of Abundant Entertainment, the growth in the Digital Space and what’s in store for Breathe Season 2….
What is Abundantia Entertainment’s main focus and objective?
Abundantia is all about creating uniquely Indian stories for a global audience. We are focused on creating content that has a distinct voice but a universal appeal.
Abundantia and I are focused on enabling talented storytellers to create content for the younger, progressive audience, for tomorrow. As a result of this thinking, we have picked up subjects, worked with talent, and marketed in manners that have been innovative and path- breaking.
Our attempt is to create insightful and inspiring stories with a global appeal that are anchored in strong human emotions and in a uniquely Indian form of storytelling.
What is Abundantia’s incubation model of filmmaking?
The objective is to create winning partnerships with talent in all areas of making film and digital content viz. writing, directing, producing, acting as well as distribution and marketing front. And for building this model, it is important that the confluence of content happens across consumption platforms.
The Digital space is quie important for Abundantia’s growth, how do you see that happening in the future?
Abundantia is a company that is created on two important building blocks. The first is that we are a company that listens very closely to what our audience is saying, which means that we have our ear to the ground and we pay attention to the trends and preferences that our audience is depicting, especially the younger audience.
The second building block, which leads us to become a pioneer in the digital space, is the fact that we pride ourselves on creating stories and partnering with storytellers that are made for a progressive audience. Accordingly, we spent a couple of years understanding the whole world, understanding what audiences like, their dislikes, and what kinds of stories will or will not work.
Taking these learnings generated over the last few years, we created our first digital show, ‘Breathe’. Nearly 40% of Breathe’s viewers were outside of India. This gave us the confidence to invest more, and build more to the extent that digital is now the new state business for Abundantia.
Subsequently, we increased our mission to create content, to create stories that are Indian at heart but have universal emotions such that they can travel the globe. ‘The End’ is one such show, which we announced recently, featuring Akshay Kumar, on Amazon Prime Video.
What are the elements that you keep in mind while creating certain kinds of content for specific platforms, and how does it differentiate itself from the rest of the online content?
We are very clear in our vision for the digital world, that we will operate in the premium storytelling phase, which means that we will work with platforms that cater to the upper-mid to the premium end of the segment. What we look for in platforms most importantly is a wavelength match of creative sensibility, and everything else follows.
Can you brief us on Abundantia’s new verticals Psych and Filter? What gaps are they filling?
Abundantia has three lines of business – Motion Pictures, digital and genre-specific.
As the market matures and specific consumer segments emerge, the demand for focused, genre-based content is set-to grow proportionally. Abundantia has always been at the forefront of reading consumer insights and supporting progressive and non-conventional story-telling. Psych caters to content in the horror genre, which is finding a growing market internationally. Filters will concentrate on the booming ‘global young adults’ audience segment, with stories that talk to viewers in their language. Horror and Young Adults are two segments that have a globally seamless audience base.
We hope to create innovative and engaging, platform-agnostic content in these verticals that will connect with audiences worldwide.
Can you talk about your new digital show ‘The End’, with actor Akshay Kumar?
After the international success of our first series, ‘Breathe, we decided to come up with a show that is Indian at heart but for the world; a show that is universal in its appeal and in the emotion that it delivers. That was the genesis of The End, which exists in the action-adventure space and will be a multi-season series on Amazon Prime.
We brought on-board Akshay Kumar, who has always experimented with newer genres and for the last five-six years, has been in the prime of his career, not only in terms of his audience appeal but also in terms of the different stories he’s been telling as an actor.
What can you tell us about Abundantia investing heavily in the OTT space?
For us, investing means investment of our time and creative bandwidth and not just financial investing. We are a company that likes to leverage our intellectual capital more than our financial capital. For us, investing means putting out our best talent, putting our time and energy in nurturing this talent and getting them to tell the best stories because this is the way of the future. Technology is now in the hands of consumers. We have been fortunate to be at the forefront of this kind of revolution in India.
What does Abundantia Entertainment have in store for the rest of 2019 and shows in pipeline?
We aim to be the preferred content partners for not just the storytellers but also for content platforms, aggregators and distributors. We would like to be India’s premier content destination across all sizes and shapes of content from three minutes to 3 seasons and beyond.
2019-20 is set to be very exciting and a busy year for Abundantia. We will be working on returning seasons of some of our shows in the digital space and a lot more development in Psych and Filters. Breathe Season 2 is under production, and we are also working on ‘The End’, starring Akshay Kumar, which is one of India’s most ambitious ventures in the digital space till date. We will soon start producing a serialized drama on the popular book ‘The Men Who Killed Gandhi’, and we also plan to create a multi-season procedural series based on Indian thriller author Vish Dhamija’s bestselling ‘Rita Ferreira’ books.
In our movies business, we are developing a film on the record-breaking math genius Shakuntala Devi, starring Vidya Balan, and a biopic on the Badminton champion and coach Pullela Gopichand. Also in the pipeline are remakes of the Hollywood hit ‘Begin Again’, and the Malyalam cut-hit ‘Angamaly Diaries’, which will go on the floor next year.