Om malik provides an introduction to jaman, which I was curious about (It is Informatica’s founder’s new company) . From the article:
“Everyone is focusing on that one square mile are in Hollywood,” says Dhillon — when there is a whole wide world whose content is in demand but is never distributed in the US. From French films to Bollywood potboilers, to the Kung Fu flicks from Hong Kong, the only place to buy (or rent) this content was ethnic grocery stores or small specialist video rental shops.
That is true, it is really an interesting market, south asians are affluent, who are also great fans of the movies coming from the Indian subcontinent. It is not just the hindi movies that are popular here, but other regional language movies from India like Telugu and Tamil also very popular. In SF bay area, those small video rental shops do good business renting these movies.
So, in theory it sounds like a great idea, but I have my doubts on it’s practice. For one, those who throng these DVD corner shops, they want their movies NOW! It does not matter if it is a pirated copy or bootlegged one, it is just that they need to watch it that day. So, all these corner shops thrive because they “cater” to their customer’s need. That’s why even with the advent of NetFlix like sites, it is not very popular among the south east asians (living in metro areas like SF bay area), because legally speaking new movies cannot be made available on these sites. More over, technology still has not advanced to a stage where in you just sit in front of the TV and order a movie from jaman. So, instant gratification is a big part of movie renting. (see the InfoWeek Survey results)
I do see good potential with niche markets that are not properly served today, e.g: a desi doctor living in a rural region of US wants to watch a movie, he might find this kind of distribution very interesting. But, then again, he is not techi :-(. Also, there are some regional languages that are not well served by these “Desi DVD” shops, e.g: I would like to watch Kannada movies, which are not distributed by these shops. So, can I hope of getting it through these online distribution channel? Not sure, because Kannada movies are doomed because the producers and distributors of those movies are overly worried about piracy that they dont allow reproduction into DVD for good year or so. That kills the interest, you’d have forgotten and there is no buzz about it. So, can Jaman cut deal with these producers from niche market (who are not usually well organized and little arrogant serving niche markets)? Thats a big question, IMO.
Majority of south asians are penny pinchers, dont get me wrong. It is just that most of us came into this country not much in our pockets, so we are always looking at the cost of each service we use, if the desi dvd store gives for $1 a day rental, we are more than happy to get it from him rather than go through the ordeal of going online and downloading the software (and it’s associated bugs 🙂 ) and the movie. Of course, as people start earning more, they do loosen up a bit, start thinking about quality and legality, but for a online market place to succeed, it needs the mass market.
At the end of the day, no new technology or methods are accepted readily, nay sayers like me are plenty and I will be happy to eat crow when Jaman becomes success. Because, I will be happy to watch a good quality movie that is hard to find in the corner dvd stores.
Good luck to Gaurav and his team.