The past few years have seen widespread adoption of various information and communications technology (ICT) solutions across the media and entertainment industry. Organisations across the industry are increasingly deploying new-age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), machine learning, (ML) and blockchain, among others, in an effort to improve their business efficiency and deliver better quality services to their customers. Saurabh Varma, CMO,INOX Leisure Limited, shares his views on the key ICT trends shaping the sector, significant technology adoption and the challenges faced along the way…

What are the key ICT trends shaping the media and entertainment industry?

The cinema experience has only been getting amplified and enhanced with the consistent use of ICT. The fact that more than 50 per cent of the ticket bookings now happen over digital platforms reflects a very healthy trend. INOX allows its patrons to place their food and beverage orders online. Patrons are keen to get themselves enrolled in our databases to keep themselves updated on weekly movies, events and timings through various digital platforms. This enables us to study the consumption patterns and dynamics, and allows us to curate customised offers.

What are the ICT solutions deployed by your organisation and how have they benefited business performance and efficiency?

Movie theatres use digital technology to distribute or project motion pictures. We have generated user interface (UI) templates and reports that give instant information to film producers, distributors and actors who track their films on a daily and even an hourly basis. We are known for this proactive reporting tool in the film trade fraternity.

INOX has also been taking giant strides on the cinema exhibition technology front, with some decisive and ground-breaking interventions. The launch of India’s first MX4D® EFX Theatre at Inorbit Mall, Malad, Mumbai, ushered in a new level of cinema 4D technology, providing a totally enveloping environment, where viewers can feel the action on the screen from the built-in motion and effects in the seats and on theatre walls.

It is heartening that by using ICT we have made entertainment more accessible to our guests with special needs, providing them with a two-channel infrared headphone for the hearing impaired (HI) audio and visually impaired narrative (VIN) audio. The sound controls of this device allow users to mix the HI and VIN audio so that users can modulate the sound reception according to their specific needs. This headphone is designed both for hearing and visually impaired.

We have also acquired closed-captioning glasses. These glasses receive captions/ subtitles via infrared technology. The engineered optics make the captions appear as a distant virtual image.

How is the growth in video consumption and emergence of multiple platforms transforming business requirements of enterprises in this industry?

First, video consumption habits have increased the appetite of the movie-going audience who are consuming content in all forms and also accepting different genres on the celluloid screen. What seemed like a risk a few years ago is now being backed by bigger studios, as consumers’ minds have broadened by watching global content brought to them from various genres, cultures, languages and diversities.

Second, INOX’s marketing strategy had also shifted from text or static still-driven marketing campaigns to video-based slick creative campaigns with high shareability and a potential to go viral. Such has been the impact of our video-based campaigns that even the actor fraternity now equally contributes to executing and participating in the video campaigns that we make. This creates a wider reach among our movie-loving social media follower base.

How has the adoption of new-age technologies such as big data analytics, AI, IoT, blockchain and ML been transforming the industry? What are your future plans regarding these?

INOX has kept an open mind to all kinds and forms of technology that help us tap and understand our existing and new consumers. Consumer habits are changing fast and new-age technology is helping us tap those behavioural patterns more aptly, quickly and in a realistic form. We can now slice and dice data, and create and offer compelling propositions to consumers through a combination of genres, days, time, films, and hundreds of such other permutations and combinations. These future technologies have also helped us manage our cinemas, spread across 68 cities, through a dedicated Network Operations Centre, which works 24×7, ensuring business continuity, uninterrupted consumer experience, and data and information flow for our business-to-business stakeholders as well. We are always open, and constantly on the lookout, for technology interventions, that enhance and amplify the grand cinema experience that we are known for.

What are the key challenges in the deployment of new technologies and the existing IT and telecom infrastructure management?

From an ICT perspective, the most interesting challenge for us is to “humanise” each and every technology intervention of ours in a manner that the basic emotional need of “entertainment” remains intact or gets serviced in an enhanced manner.