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We are a mobile-based play in video streaming whereas peers focus on the web: Subin Subaiah, global CEO of Spuul

Spuul, an ad-supported and premium subscription-based online video streaming service, made inroads into India in April last year. With the target audience being Indians around the world, the video streaming firm is betting on its local content play. Headquartered in Singapore, Spuul was started in 2010 by Sudesh Iyer (co-founder of Sony Entertainment TV in India) and S Mohan (the founder of companies like Accellion and buUuk). They also roped in Michael Smith, former head of global tech initiatives at Yahoo Southeast Asia in a key role in technology. Till now the venture has been self-funded by the founders and now it is looking at raising a large-ish $20 million round early next year. In a chat with Techcircle.in, Subin Subaiah, global CEO, Spuul, talks about expansion plans and how the venture plans to tackle the growing competition in the segment.

Here are the edited excerpts

How big is your subscriber base? How many of them are premium subscribers?

We won't be able to share the exact numbers but we are growing at a rate of 30 per cent month on month. Of that our conversion rates (users who buy the premium package after using the free service for a short while) in India would be 1.5-2 per cent and outside India would be 4-5 per cent. Obviously it's higher outside India since people have more propensity to pay and they are not averse to buying online. For future growth in subscribers we will invest in marketing, and my estimate is that this conversion rate should reach 10-15 per cent in a year once we kick of our marketing initiatives.

What are the new features on the anvil?

We introduced offline sync on Android recently and would be bringing it to iOS soon. Technically it's ready but as with everything on the iOS platform, it needs a go-ahead from Apple and then it will be live.

Given that there are at least four players Bigflix, BoxTV, Spuul and ErosNow (besides the Youtubes of the world), how do you view growth for Spuul going forward? What would be your differentiating factor?

We have a few differentiators compared with our competitors. Firstly, we are a global player. We address Indians not only in India but anywhere in the world. Secondly, we only have Indian content addressing global audience as opposed to other players offering global content to local audiences. Hence we believe our reach is more. Coming to technology, our play has been mobile-based whereas others focus on web. This can also be seen by the stark difference between our app downloads and that of the others. comScore rating puts the site lower in comparison to our competitors, but that's a deliberate strategy, since we believe the future is on mobile.

Lastly, we have a sense of neutrality. Our closest competitors are all aligned to big media houses whereas we are a focused player and probably that's how it further differentiates us. This is the only thing that we do, thus the focus is greater. But all said and done, at the end of the day this is an execution play. It's how well you execute that matters.

Can you share your user base split in India and outside the country? Can you tell us how much time a viewer is spending on Spuul?

Right now majority of our users are coming from outside India. The users coming from outside India are thrice those from India. An average overseas viewer spends 120 minutes or 2 hours a month whereas an average Indian spends about 50 minutes a month.

Big players in your business internationally are looking at exclusive content and even own productions. Eros is already connected with its own production house and so is Bigflix. When can we see India's 'House of Cards'?

For original content, you need to have a huge user base and breadth of content; once you have that it's a business decision whether you want to have original content since it's really a different business altogether. Netflix has everything that is required, and Eros also has its own content, but I personally wonder 'Do I really want to make a Rs 50 crore Hrithik Roshan film when someone else is already making it and I can purchase it for a fraction of cost'? All said and done it's a business decision.

Are you looking at external funding? If yes, how much are you looking to raise? Where would you use it?

We are looking to raise a $20 million plus round. That amount will majorly go into content and marketing and as we grow the business streaming costs will also take up capital. We are hoping to raise the capital early next year.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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