Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Vision: Freeing the South Asian DVD Rental Industry

Dear Movie-lover,

I am extremely excited to announce the "Free DVD Rentals Forever!" service. This is an exciting time for the all fans of Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and the many other *wood film industries in the South Asian market. Soon fans all over the world will have access to all their favorite content. iTalkies, will break all barriers that keep you, the fan, from watching these movies, be it cost, be it availability, be it accessibility.

With the "Free DVD Rentals Forever!", we will make movies on original DVDs available to our customers at no cost. This is unlike any service in the world. There is no duration after which the service will turn into a paying service. There is no requirement to refer friends and family to continue to get free movies. You just simply get free movies! You will get free movies from the time you sign up. We will only stop sending you free movies only if you ask us to.

You are probably wondering why iTalkies is willing to do this?

Well it is because we see a problem in this market. The problem, simply stated is: the DVD Rental business for Indian and other South Asian movies in the US is currently bound by a few shackles. This means that you, the consumer, is not getting the best possible service from the companies servicing the industry. We see these shackles everyday when we find our friends and neighbors downloading or renting DVDs that are pirated. This is because they are not able to find original content readily. Either there are no South Asian DVD rental stores nearby or even if they are there, the rental stores just don't have a large enough collection to satisfy the customers needs.

There is also a low level of trust between consumers and business in this market. Consumers are unable to get service comparable to large American corporations from the providers in this space. Usually this is because the companies servicing this market segment do not have the volumes necessary. Though this is something the consumer should not care about. Thus a lot of businesses and consumers have been hurt in the bargain. Consumers don't get the service they expect. The businesses, on the other hand, usually fold without ever being profitable as they are stuck trying to provide service in a loss leading market. They usually start small, hoping to eventually get sufficient volume to optimize the operation and then enough to meet the customer's service level requirements. Only once they are beyond these two volume levels can they even thing about getting enough volume to actually make a profit.

So what are we going to do about it?

To help bring the Indian and South Asian movie rental industry out of the doldrums, iTalkies is taking a leadership position by offering the "Free DVD Rentals Forever!" service to the Indian and South Asian community at large. We hope the extreme value and convenience of our offering will establish trust for a large number of sign ups. In return, it will provide us the volume required to meet your service needs. In fact, we are confident that it will eventually provide us with enough volume that we will be able to provide service that is much better than what our American counterparts provide. We will also then be able leverage that advantage to provide you with other unique services and features.

The full details of the “Free DVD Rentals Forever!” service plans will be provided once it is launched. Though pre-registrants can be rest assured that the service plans will not have any hidden charges or fees. We intend to roll out our service first in the United States, but we welcome pre-registration from all over the world. I will be monitoring any feedback provided and will do whatever it takes to provide service in areas or languages not currently in our roll-out plan. Please do tell all your friends about our upcoming service, regardless of where they are, so that they can also pre-register for our service. It will help us offer better service to the community as a whole.

For those that have just stumbled upon this post and want to pre-register for our "Free DVD Rentals Forever!" service before its too late, click here.


Shaiwal Singh


Anonymous said...

I am a long time iTalkies customer and just received a mail/spam about your free service.

Your blog post really does not explain anything.

How exactly is providing a free lifetime international service of DVD rentals a valid business strategy?

The only thing I can think of this is a scam and it makes me very afraid and wary of remaining a loyal customer of yours.

CEO, said...

Thanks for your comment. As stated in the blog post, the initial roll out will be in the US.

It would be unwise of me to divulge all the details of my company's business strategy, including any international strategy and loose my competitive advantage in the bargain.

You are welcome to remain on the fence while we attempt to provide you with real value. I respect your choice and decision.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the anonymous comment, I can't see how this business model is sustainable. Needless to say this makes me uncomfortable too. I don't know who offers original content for free-your company would be possibly the first. Unless you have backing from theaters/production houses to fight piracy-i can only hope that is the case. I would be wary of continuing my membership too.

CEO, said...

Thanks for the candid feedback.

Phew! Im glad that the business model is non-trivial for someone else to figure out.

Just so that I am clear - could one of you anonymous writers clarify what exactly you are wary of? The service suffering as it becomes free? On that front I can only assure you that that wont happen. After all the whole aim is to improve the service level.

And no this is not a scam. I guess that is probably what people thought when hotmail started giving email for free... But it happened anyways and now almost no one pays for email anymore. Unfortunately, compared to free email this business is a little more complicated and we cant just turn on the free switch by just provisioning a few servers and hard disks. That is why we are being extra careful and planning the roll out based on the feedback received on the pre-registrations.

Anonymous said...

Wow! this sounds almost unbeleivable, but given that I have been a member of italkies for a while and have been pretty satisfied with them - there is no harm in waiting to see how their new service will work.

Navindra Umanee said...

I like your existing service very much and I have even recommended it to several people in the past. So I had hoped your old business model was working out for you because it has been an excellent service so far.

Unfortunately, based on this bizarre new initiative I have to assume that it just wasn't working out for you and you have no choice but to try something else.

It's not that your new business model is "non-trivial" to understand, it's that it's not apparent that there is any business model here at all... which makes it all seem very shady and makes the future seem unclear and uncertain for iTalkies.

Hence, my own discomfort.

Perhaps your announcement was pre-mature and incomplete?

ravi said...

This is great! About time somebody did this. Im not sure what the fuss is about, but I am quite intrigued by how they will do it.

Navindra: Yes, their announcement might be a little premature since they dont provide much details of how their new offering is going to look like, but to me it looks like they are still trying to polish the details based on the questions that they have asked. To me this shows that they are really trying to do the right thing up front.

CEO, said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Seems like the biggest feedback so far is that everyone would like to get more details of the plans. We will try to provide them as soon as we can.

We have gathered a fair amount of feedback already on the pre-registration and survey. This will definitely help us get our plan settings right and also help us plan our roll out geographically.

I am glad and grateful that you, our customers, have voiced your concerns. It shows me that you really appreciate our service.

We are certain this is a viable business model at the volume we expect this service to operate at. The more feedback and pre-registrations we get the better as it will mitigate any volume risk of the business model.

NIKI said...

I think this is great guys....when someone thinks of being innovative and is not willing to reveal plans....think happy to hear this about italkies and am happy also to note that people in it "think different " and actually go that extra mile. Cheers guys...keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I, also, am one of those who question the long term viability of a plan like this. Do you think you'd lose interest if you charged for the service from the outset? I, for one, wouldn't mind paying $10-15/mth to get unlimited rentals like Netflix exclusively for Bollywood movies. I subscribe to Netflix and the wait to get a Bollywood flick is ridiculously long for new releases. Why not just charge from the beginning and build up the inventory to support the possibility of low-no wait rentals? Either free users will suffer from long waits or will not have selection.

Anonymous said...

EDIT: Nevermind! I just saw that your site has a Netflix type paid service. Awesome! Do you have a 2 week trial period or anything? Curious about the wait times for some of the new releases!

shaker said...

registered anyway.. well.. if it is a scam.. what anybody has to lose? if you are worried about your email id, pl use an internet email id (they are free .. thnx to sabir bhatia!).. may be movies will be free one day :)

Anonymous said...

There are 2 business models that people can make money - subscriptions or via inserting Advertising. Movies on TV have been doing this for years !

Do the Math people! Watch Ads on your 'Free' Movies!