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‘More the merrier in the business of food’


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Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, joint promoter of FoodFood, India’s first 24x7 food channel, talks about its marketing strategy, distribution plan, challenges and competition in the segment.


After the advent of satellite television in India, food and lifestyle shows did not grab much attention from advertisers and broadcasters for a long time. Some shows did succeed, but could find space only in the non-prime time segment on television. But things are vastly different today, with a growing demand for food-related shows. Advertisers have started spending a decent share of their budgets on food and lifestyle platforms.


After running a successful cookery show on Zee TV’s Khana Khazaana, celebrity chef Sanjeev

Kapoor tried hard to convince advertisers and broadcasters about the importance of food and lifestyle and an emerging market in India. Not many agreed with his idea of starting a 24-hour TV channel solely dedicated to food, so he took a bold step and started FoodFood as a joint venture between Malaysia’s Astro All Asia Networks, Mogae Consultants and his company Turmeric Vision Pvt Ltd.


Today, almost seven months after launching India’s first 24-hour food channel, Kapoor believes that there is a huge market to explore through food, which remained marginalised for long. Talking about the channel’s growth plans, Kapoor, joint promoter of FoodFood says, The experience so far has been very good. In a sense, it has been like a dream because not many people believe that a 24-hour channel dedicated to food and lifestyle can work in this country. So, everybody was sceptical. But the response has been fantastic till now. Rather, it has been more than the response to established channels, including those who have been around for 10 years. If we talk about viewership numbers, we are three to four times higher than channels that have been there for years,” says Kapoor, who feels cynicism among broadcasters has gone down substantially with the success of food-related shows on television. Participation of viewers in such shows has also added a lot of positivism. “It has worked well until now and I think the initial scepticism has virtually gone down. It will be unfair to talk about growth if you have just started. Firstly, we have just launched, so I think our initial numbers are good. Hereon, we plan to consolidate our position and then look at growth. In each business, continuous growth is needed and required so that growth will be there,” explains Kapoor.


While a lot of experimentation is yet to be done in this category, competition seems to have been growing with domestic as well as international food shows catching eyeballs. FoodFood, which launched with the certainty of monopoly in its segment, believes that there are challenges ahead to retain viewers and expand business. “There are certain business challenges which will always be there. As a speciality channel with mass approach, we are a new category. So anybody who is a pioneer always faces the challenge of educating the market. In the role of a person who is educating, it is always tough,” says Kapoor.


He also claims that in the food and lifestyle programming domain, the demand is higher than supply. He calls it “fulfilling needs of users who want to participate more and more in food-related activities through television, digital and print media”. Yet, it was not easy for Kapoor and his team to define the USP to strike the right chord with viewers. “There are two key things that define our USP. Single biggest USP as of today is brand Sanjeev Kapoor. As we move forward, we are in the process of creating 10 more Sanjeev Kapoors. So it would be people at the core, whether in front of the camera or behind it. That will always be our USP. Such high quality people, whether they are hosts or employees, would create products, services, a show, a publication or anything else of value,” claims Kapoor.


On another front, shows like Star Plus’ Masterchef India and Zee’s KhanaKhazaana have been successful in grabbing attention, as also food and lifestyle shows on channels like TLC, NDTV Good Times, etc. They have impressed advertisers with good viewership. There is slowly a growing requirement to differentiate quality of shows by compartmentalising the content and defining target audience. Kapoor, however, dismisses any competition. “At this time, anyone to do with food and lifestyle category all across the spectrum in our area of business is our friend. We don’t view any of them as our competitors, because all of us need each other to grow in this category. I would say that with shows like Masterchef or food shows on TLC, Sony or NDTV Good Times, we are at a stage in this market where ‘more the merrier’ rule will benefit the most. I firmly believe that if people start seeing each other as competitors, they would harm each other more than they will benefit.” Marketing strategies for shows have been different, just like a variance in the response of viewers.


Kapoor believes that it is about making your brand the ‘best’ rather than making it different. “I don’t think we need to worry about differentiation. We know our content and users. We are looking at our core values and propositions. We only look at working on our core values and delivering that and making sure that we do our best rather than looking at what is different than what we are doing. Users are not looking at what is different, but what is best,” he states.


Broadcasters are also roping in celebrities including film stars to make shows a success. Akshay Kumar hosted the first season of Masterchef India on Star Plus, which triggered reality shows in food and lifestyle categories followed by Madhuri Dixit Nene hosting a reality show on FoodFood for aspiring chefs of India. Kapoor explains, “Our top show hosted by Madhuri Dixit Nene is already on the air and we are engaging a lot of people through it. Celebrities do have a lot of value. If we look at the food category, the number of celebrities is limited. Nationwide, mine was the only known name. There were a few local names also. We are looking at consolidating regional brands and making them national entities through our efforts. We will also be engaging other film celebrities. Through our programmes, we will also be involving national and international celebrities. We have a clear plan on that.”


FoodFood has also initiated a number of campaigns on various platforms. It has launched a publication dedicated to food and created TVCs as part of digital and outdoor strategy. Kapoor calls it a goal of gathering food-loving people to consolidate them into a food- loving community. There are many mediums which are now seeing a rising number of food-loving people joining the bandwagon. “The bigger picture in our minds is the business of food. TV is one of the mediums. The whole digital space is important to us. We are in the process of making a robust digital strategy as we speak and that’s something we would like to reach out to more and more people. I think online, TV and other platforms are on the cards, but we are also trying to reach people offline with different products and services of which we have launched only a few. We would be expanding in these two categories. The way to monetise for each medium is different. For TV, may be subscription and ads or integrations; for offline, selling of a product or service; for DVDs, through sale of DVDs. Each category will have a different strategy.”


The good news is escalating viewership numbers of food shows, which have not seen downfalls or fluctuations in recent times. “As we say about food in Hindi, “Log baate karte hain salad ki, aur khate samose hain” (People discuss salad, but eat snacks). How can you excite people about this reality? Not to say that you promote samosas, but how do you do things which touch people? There is reality in the channel and that’s why we have strong viewership ratings,” smiles Kapoor.


Feedback: rahul.dubey@exchange4media.com

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