Evam Entertainment – Case Studies on Marketing Management

14

Evam Entertainment*

If I can make theatre sell, I am a superstar.1

Karthik Kumar, Co-founder, Evam Entertainment Pvt. Ltd

One early morning, Karthik Kumar, the co-founder of Evam Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, was listening to a few new soundtracks downloaded from the Internet. He was wondering what Evam could do to sustain theatre enthusiasm and make theatre accessible amongst the others forms of entertainment. The company wanted to build a strong business brand and focus on how to make a difference to their audience and also reach out to the society through their different innovative initiatives. The young brand wanted to create sensation in theatre circles and sustain business based on creativity.

In 2006, Evam nationally launched the box-office approach with its own financial risk of the entire production. It was then that the company realized box office was neither about growth nor the way to grow business. The letdown of this approach kindled Evam to revolutionize to a new model. This case analyses Evam’s competitive advantages, drawing emphasis on the remarkable synergies Evam has created across its various businesses. This case evaluates the growth strategy of Evam over the last few years. So, how will Evam be competing with the emerging forms of entertainment? What exactly is the ‘Magic of Evam’? How are they going to sustain the magic for long?

INTRODUCTION

For over eight years, Evam has been a pioneer in unique ‘theatre entrepreneurship’ energetically endured by youngsters for the youth. Evam Entertainment Pvt. Ltd was established by a pair of theatre-obsessed MBAs, Karthik Kumar and Sunil Vishnu K. in 2003, and is a successful enterprise run by young management and media professionals who now operate across a range of products in the live art space.

This young ‘happy factory’2 proudly acclaims the use of theatre to make people’s lives happier and to fill them with lightness and a sense of purpose. In the trade of storytelling, Evam serves to make the world happier with its quality entertainment, in the form of live English stage plays, corporate workshops, student interactions, theatre festivals, drama of sound and lights and cinema in future. The company puts up original productions as well as adaptations. Apart from performing at festivals, Evam also manages the only English international theatre festival in Chennai—Metroplus Theatre Fest pioneered by The Hindu.3

With 20 popular plays, more than 500 shows, some of the achievements of Evam in the last eight years of their existence include being featured as CNBC ‘Young Turks’ in 2007, getting nominated for the top 25 Pepsi MTV ‘Youth Icons’ 2008 and getting shortlisted among the Top 30 finalists of Tata-NEN Hottest Start-ups in 2008. Adding to these credits, Sunil Vishnu, CEO of Evam, was the Indian finalist for the Young Performing Arts Entrepreneur 2009 Award. These achievements obviously brought Evam into the limelight.

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IN INDIA

The size of entertainment and media (E&M) in India is presently approximated to be ₹ 353 billion and is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 19 per cent over the next five years.4 The TV industry continues to rule the E&M industry by acquiring a share of over 42 per cent, which is expected to increase by a further 9 per cent to share about 51 per cent. The share of the film industry, which at present stands at 19 per cent, is not expected to change drastically over the next five years. Print media, which stands at over 31 per cent, is projected to lose some of its share in favour of the emerging segments (refer Exhibit 14.1(a)).

Live Entertainment

This fragment of the entertainment industry, also known as event management, is growing at a fast and steady rate. While this industry is still developing, Indian event managers have clearly demonstrated their capabilities in fruitfully supervising several mega national and international events over the past few years. The growing number of corporate awards, TV and sports events are a source of motivation to this sector. With incomes increasing, the financial capacity of people to spend on wedding, parties and other personal functions has increased. However, topics of concerns such as high entertainment taxes, lack of excellent infrastructure and the unorganized nature of most event management companies, persists and confines the potential growth in this segment of the industry (refer Exhibit 14.1(b)).

Brief History About Theatre Industry

Between c.550 and 220 BC in Athens, the theatre industry began to develop into an entertainment business where people would pay to see its activities. It was more than enjoyment for friends and family. It had become an art and a competition to win fame and respect. During transition and medieval theatre period, that lasted between 500 and 1050, mime, pantomime, scenes or recitations from tragedies and comedies, dances and other entertainments became very popular.5 Morality plays came into view as a distinct dramatic form around 1400 and prospered until 1550. Theatre in the early 19th century was dominated by melodrama, light comedies and romanticism, while later part saw the conflict. In the 20th century, the theatre performances worked on modernist and postmodernist movements and included various forms of political theatre. In the 21st century, theatre became a well-known art form. There are community theatres all around the world and different kinds of people are getting interested in joining theatre, apart from enjoying it. New plays are being enacted everyday, and anyone can write a play and put it on. Movies are the bigger version of theatre, but nothing can seemingly beat the mother field—live theatre and the rush of either watching it or being in a show.

How It Began

It all started with Sunil and Karthik, who met while studying at the Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmedabad (MICA) and discovered their mutual passion for performing theatre. They setup a theatre outfit called Sankalp under Mallika Sarabhai’s theatre space, which performed in colleges and staged three plays successfully. They put together the creative aspects needed and had to work on the other aspects such as marketing, sponsorship and logistics. That served to be a great learning experience and towards the end, they realized that they had revived and sustained a brand, which, although based on creativity, was a successful business venture. Meanwhile, they hatched plans of starting a profitable enterprise based on theatre.

Based on the experience from Sankalp, they proceeded to do their final thesis at MICA on the feasibility of creating an entertainment company with theatre as the core offering, for which they travelled to 12 cities across the country and met eminent personalities of cinema, TV and theatre industry like Naseeruddin Shah and Sanjana Kapoor. They proposed their idea to them and got feedback from them only to learn that there were only a few people who got financial success making a career in theatre, and it was difficult to make theatre a successful business.

However, they believed that this trend could be changed. They decided to take up work for a couple of years, save money for the capital and then tread in the risky path to fulfil their dreams. They were still desperate to be on their own and kept flaming the fire inside by meeting very often to keep talking and discussing with each other. They saw a business opportunity where none saw and they refused to be discouraged by past accounts of failure in theatre. The duo then decided to take the bold step and give it a shot, and finally Evam, named after Sankalp’s first play, was born. With ₹ 0.15 million as their seed capital, the first-generation entrepreneurs, Sunil Vishnu and Karthik, zeroed in on Chennai as it the best place to launch, based on their market research. They also realized that Chennai did not have a theatre culture like Mumbai and Bangalore, which meant less competition and lesser mental block about theatre. Technically started in March 2003, Evam launched its first professional play in English, Art, in September 2003 in Chennai.

As they started building a team, one of the first people they took on board was a friend, Preethi Sanjeevi, who was working in Bombay in the corporate sector. They persuaded her to work with them and she continued with them until she moved to Singapore a few years later. However, even today, she remains linked with the brand and spearheads the overseas efforts.

Then they went on a hiring spree, placing ads in newspapers calling young, energetic people interested in theatre. As they were building their team and they themselves did not have a relevant work experience in the field, they looked out for people with a positive and optimistic attitude who wanted to do something unique, and believed in the power of fun. These qualities to this day are called PUFF values at Evam.

The actors were recruited on a freelance basis. A large number of resources are part-time and they work with theatre companies. Evam provides them training. To start working with Evam, college, post-graduate students and even employees from the corporate sector work on an internship with Evam for a year and a half and do all kinds of work right from production to HR to marketing. Most of them have their first jobs with Evam and are made to take responsibility of live acts even while they are being trained. The youngsters operate as young CEOs, managing the show with help and inputs from the more senior members. ‘Almost none have previous experience in theatre or marketing or management when they join Evam, and evolve an understanding on the job. We call them the Rebel CEOs!’ says Karthik in an interview.6

Today, Evam has a strong team of around 40 professionals and youngsters. With 14 full-time employees spread across Bangalore and Chennai and a part-time executive team of around 25, Evam’s office in Chennai is always abuzz with activity and discussion. Evam currently operates in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, and will soon extend to Pune and Coimbatore. ‘We have proved that theatre can earn money,’ said Vishnu.7 In eight years, their audience has grown five-fold and they have performed across Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kharagpur, Delhi, Mumbai, Pondicherry, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Coimbatore.

According to Pavithra Ramaswamy, producer, who has been with Evam since the year of its inception, the philosophy of Evam—‘you are your dream’—becomes a personal philosophy and this is one of the organization’s greatest strengths.

THE EVAM BUSINESS

Evam’s business model, unlike the usual event-staging model that most theatre groups use, allowed them to work intensely on sponsorship for three months, during which they lined up their sponsors for the whole year. This endorsed them to focus on the productions, and touring, for the rest of the year, and be autonomous of city-specific sponsors. The business model that had evolved when they had started was working fine for them.

In 2006, Evam was trying to challenge the cycle of grants that theatre seems to bleakly survive on. When asked about grants, Sunil explained: ‘We are always looking for grants. Why not make it work for a living? Maybe we at Evam are able to think of it as business because we come from a marketing background. We treat Evam as a media, for sponsors to treat it as a means to reach a brand to people.’

Evam’s largest steady sponsors in the last four to five years were telecom brands. The regular sponsors are financial products—private banking or insurance firms, and this was because live art forms had a heavy audience. The sponsors lifestyle products, real estate, but largely—real estate. Some of the brands Evam has partnered with are Standard Chartered Bank, TCS, HSBC, Royal Sundaram, Citibank, Mehta Jewellery, Motorola, Nestlé, BPL, The Hindu, The Times of India, The Park and Airtel among many others. Evam had even created special customized corporate theatre content for brands such as Ashok Leyland, The Times of India and so on.

For one of Evam’s shows, Nippon Paints sponsored and when asked about the unique choice of sponsors, Aparna Narayan said, ‘Nippon has recently launched a campaign also included—“Emotions of colour” and since our plays have lots of colours and eye catching costumes they have decided to sponsor us’.

Largely an end-customer business as far as ticket buying is concerned—but loyalty programmes and CRM help them monetize them more profitably and provide them better services. Sponsors and partners are people who we foster regularly and keep making sure associations are win–win on equity and revenues.

Aparna Narayan, Manager HR & PR, Evam8

In 2008, Evam launched nationally with the box office approach at its own risk, where the production cost was borne by Evam and the revenues that were generated from the play showed that it was a box-office hit. Evam performed its plays in 14 different cities across the country within its own financial means. There was a considerable setback and Evam’s activities slowed down. Evam did not have a heavy corporate backing in these difficult times. It is then Evam realized that box office was not about growth and not the way to grow business. Evam now felt the dependence on sponsorships and grants that mark most theatre outfits was not for Evam.

Evam wanted to actively build its brand and advertise for different products which are pre-paid. A lot of expenses were cut down in the last few years until Evam received a funding of ₹ 40 lakhs from an angel investment for its venture Sideways Training Company in 2011.9 The company provides training to corporate houses using theatre as a medium and has served to increase the revenue. Now, Evam is back on its feet, and is able to plan well for 2013–14. Learning by making mistakes is the safest injury to reach one’s own phenomenon, says Karthik.

The funding which was considered to be significant helped Evam and theatre as a sector to change their business model from a patronage-based, to a revenue-generating model.10 ‘We are moving away from the sponsorship model’, says Karthik Kumar, co-founder of Evam. The investment served to enhance Evam’s expansion plans. Sideways Training provides on a 125-hour certification course for engineering students with a fee charged between ₹ 15,000 and ₹ 20,000. Evam’s future proposals will be crafted in the next two years and Kumar is hoping to make a turnover of ₹ 100 million in 2013–04.

On the split-up of the project costs typically incurred for a show, 30 per cent of the costs goes into booking the auditorium, 20 per cent goes for set hiring, that is, light and sound setting, 30 per cent goes into marketing and promotions and remaining 20 per cent goes into actor payment and theatre payment. The properties once made for a play is re-used. The investments for properties are one-time and are included in the production costs.

Managing venues is the biggest challenge that Evam faces today and is not likely to change in the next 10 years, adds Karthik.11 The simplest halls in the United States or the United Kingdom manage their own audience, its own ticketing system and its venues with respect to maintenance and promotions. The revenue is shared between the theatre and the performing group. Only a few such theatres existing in India have such features; Rangashankara in Bangalore or Prithvi in Mumbai are among those kind of theatres. 40 per cent of the cost in any project goes into managing the venue, mentions Karthik. However, Evam performs a large number of corporate shows at unconventional venues for the ease of performing, logistics and technical feasibilities.

A combination of tickets selling, to exploring unconventional avenues for content delivery—for corporate, audio storytelling, workshops, has been the means of monetization.12 Create content and then explore it across mediums and formats, has been the revenue model, says Aparna.

Registration for workshops is the greatest source of revenue. Applied theatre in the form of corporate shows is another source and is the fastest growing revenue source since 2011. The next major chunk of revenue comes from ticket sales. Evam had a merchandising brand which it felt was not very reliable. Sponsorship was a predominant model in Evam eight years ago, when they launched. Currently, sponsorship makes 10 per cent of the overall revenue.

The organization now stands on the threshold of exponential growth in terms of revenue. In 2006–07, the company made revenue in the range of ₹ 11–50 lakhs and profits in the range of ₹ 1–5 lakhs. Profit as a proportion of revenues was anywhere between 2 per cent and 45 per cent in FY 2006–07. In FY 2007–08, it was between 6 per cent and 29 per cent. The jump from fourth to fifth year with revenues hitting ₹ 15 million from pure theatre, was by far the most challenging task for Evam.

Evam Brands

To name a few, Evam performs live theatre shows of plays such as Python Hyssssteria, The Odd Couple which was a comedy about opposites, Art, Love Letter, Oh My God!–3 men v/s 1 God, Hamlet which was a spoof the original play, DT &Q (Doubles, Triples & Quadruples), Always Look on the Bright side of life which was a wacky comedy, And Now Something Completely Different.

Evam also stages adaptations of novels like Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel Five Point Someone where Bhagat himself played a role and it unfolded a whole new audience. The intention behind the adaptation was to make a new young audience enjoy theatre differently and make them believe that theatre can be a part of their daily lives, says Sunil Vishnu.13 Evam partnered along with Radaan Mediaworks, signed in with a popular London production—Broadway and brought in 39 Steps, which is an Alfred Hitchcock novel on hilarious comedy. The show was premiered across four markets in India.

Evam performs Happy Factory14 corporate shows, HR training modules, stressbuster shows, student interactions and forums and Brandrama, where brands get the chance to tell their stories using live theatre. It also creates live theatre art-based methodology workshops and specialized HR training modules for corporates. In Happy Factory, the facilitators hold workshops within workspaces, to energize and supplement personality development. Since theatre is all about being comfortable with oneself and their body, Evam’s workshops help people to explore themselves, and feel more confident and happy. The facilitators adopt what they call the ‘theatreLIVE’ methodology, which includes role playing, story-telling, body language exercises and customized games. These workshops are conducted across industry and educational institutions.

We have workshops to help your people—resources energize, great fun, live stage plays, for pure stress busting entertainment and special shows—wherein we create customized content for your brand.15

With clients ranging from colleges, schools, NGOs and corporates, we promise one thing whatever be your agenda…A day with us and your life will never be the same again!

Cut was Evam’s initial movement to democratize theatre, make it more comprehensive and participative. Cut was not just a workshop, but it was also about gaining a perspective and a sense of being to become a better performer, a better communicator at workplace and a better person. The notion was to create a theatre society with no elitism, no hierarchy, no discrimination and make theatre a part of life.

Evam’s latest venture Sideways Training, uses art-based methodologies such as theatre, dance, music and play to provide corporate and educational training to corporate houses using theatre as a medium and has conducted workshops for IT majors like Google, Cognizant and Sify. Evam uses dance-based, theatre-based methodologies to snap into sales training, brand internalization, team building, leadership and innovation which are totally out of the box. In Evam’s terms, this is also called applied theatre.

First Rush, is a theatre workshop for people who want to try out theatre. First Rush created a movement of theatre and popularized it among people. It gave people a chance to get on stage and experience the magic of a live performance. Apart from acting, under the leadership of an external director, they also got to design costumes, sets, stage settings, properties and even market the show and take charge of selling tickets. In the last six months, five batches have graduated and they have started their own amateur theatre groups and have started performing their own plays in the market.

Evam teamed up with Airtel and conducted a youth drive called Airtel Theatricals, with the objective of promoting the spirit of entrepreneurship and self-belief amongst students using theatre as the catalyst. Students from more than 45 colleges in Tamil Nadu exhibited not only their theatrical skills by writing script, presenting a 30-minute play all by themselves, but also their entrepreneurship skills by running the whole event like a business, by marketing, pricing and managing sales of tickets for their show. The event gave the theatre enthusiasts an opportunity to create and present something through team work and more importantly, undergo a learning experience.

Evam also owns Muchos, an eccentric sub-brand which deals in fun, crazy, jolly and innovative gifting, both personal and corporate.16 Evam also conducts dramatic classes in summer for teenagers and theatre workshops for kids. Evam has recently launched itself in stand-up comedy too. Evam’s ‘Comedy Knights’ show was an urban comedy act where the performer shares their experiences with a funny twist.17 ‘Urban Turban’ was a platform that shared urban stories with a sense of humour and was a slice of urban reality and desi Indian stand-up comedy.

Vishnu and Kumar are looking to take the theatre concept further, by exploring the idea of how theatre can directly enhance workflow and quality of life. While the team at Evam admits that they still have a long way to go, they hope this is the beginning of a movement. They feel more Evams are needed for the world do realize that theatre works.

Evam’s Promotion Strategy

In the first few years, when Sunil and Karthik were building the brand Evam, they were largely focussing on riotous comedy which was the company’s biggest seller. After three to four years, people started associating Evam with comedy. The company chose plays like 39 steps and Five Point Someone which were adaptations of successful novels. The company tied up with Broadway, a London production and debuted 39 Steps, a play based on Alfred Hitchcock’s novel in October 2010. As it was a Broadway production, the audience was overwhelming. The company has been all the time looking forward for staging plays that are identifiable with the youth.18 With characters that could be easily identified, free flowing narrative and witty one-liners as the primary anchors, the play struck a chord with the student community.19 Evam is looking forward to launching its next adaptation ‘Two States’ which is yet another novel from Chetan Bhagat. Evam is in the process of tapping Chetan Bhagat’s readers as new audience with a completely new brand entity. The increasing audience is a combination of Evam buffs and followers of the play and the customer franchise of the company is growing.

Steady growth over the years, learning from the market and understanding the various approaches across cities are the key ingredients of the company’s strategy. The company takes pains to customize the product according to its market and its audience. Innovative marketing methods with low media expenses are also one of their objectives.

Evam uses guerrilla marketing and innovative means to gain attention and try to match the ambience of the retail hangouts and multiplexes, by ensuring the ambience at their shows are warm and full of human touch-points. The company celebrated its fifth anniversary at Chennai City Centre with fun-filled activities for the crowd gathered there.20 The company is looking at very interesting concepts like flash mob and live-based interesting entertainment which gather attraction. The company hired a multiplex and played a 4D trailer where there was a live actor sitting in the audience and talking back to the trailer. The company’s reliance on print media or mass media like TV is very less. Evam’s print media advertisements would be information-oriented, rather than gathering mass. The company has a public relations desk which makes it to the newspaper in the form of interesting articles.

In the recent years, the trend is that most of the marketing is done online through Google or Facebook. Evam considers online marketing as one of the cost effective ways of reaching the audience. Since August 2011, the company hired a social media agency which works with the company. The agency has started advertising on week-to-week basis on Facebook. Evam started its page on Facebook in November 2011 and the fan base has increased from 2,000 to 3,650 in one month with 241 people talking about the Evam group. The company’s targeted fan acquisition on Facebook has just started. The company stays in touch with its fans through Facebook and through its Web site which will be re-launched shortly. It has been much more productive than any advertisement on newspaper or magazine. It has become a dialoguing medium rather than being a one-way information medium, which is important to a live-art theatre industry.

The Evam Buyer

Evam refused to believe live storytelling as a mode of entertainment and passing on the culture could ever go out of fashion. The company is in the business of telling stories which is used to make people understand a simple message of feeling good about oneself and understanding life, laughter and happiness. Evam customers consume their stories through live public shows on stage, human resource workshops with business illustrations, students’ forums which use the theatre method to incite ideas of entrepreneurship and during theatre and cultural festivals.

When Evam started, its first play was watched by 700 people. Today the audience has grown vastly and now stands at more than 7,000 for each of their plays. The last three plays had a cumulative audience of more than 8,500. Evam started off with performing three to four shows. Today, the company does around 25–30 shows of a play. Its current play Five Point Someone has done 75 shows.

However, according to Karthik, audience cannot be talked in terms of ticket sales unlike the business of cinema which can be explained in terms of the quantity tickets or DVDs sold and number of theatres running the film. While launching a new play, in the initial run, Evam has to book the theatre by itself, pay the revenue for the theatre, promote the play and make a box office hit, to recover the production costs of the play. Once the play makes a box office hit in terms of revenues, the network promoting the play is invited to various cultural and corporate shows or to perform at festivals—national or inter-national. Five Point Someone has performed 75 shows out of which only in 25 of the shows, Evam has sold tickets. The play is very well talked about and on people’s request Evam performs at cultural forums, theatre festivals and in IT companies. Bangalore with a audience base of 19,000–20,000 audience, shows Evam’s growing popularity.

Live entertainment delivered by a brand was virtually non-existent. The existence of dialogue between the act or, and the audience distinguishes theatre from cinema. This culture was disappearing from the performance arts. Evam revived this dying culture, especially with a younger audience who were more exposed to cinema than live entertainment. English theatre has also started growing. Evam has revolutionized English theatre in Indian entertainment industry amongst the entertainment enthusiasts.

In about eight years, there has been a generous increase and change in the profile of people watching theatre. Years ago, only older people at theatre came to watch live art form, whether the art form was classical music—Carnatic or Hindustani—or dance or theatre. Over the span of eight years, the kind of audience attracted is largely younger. ‘It is a very healthy trend happening,’ says Karthik. In the age-old segment of theatre, Evam has brought in a handful of refreshing changes—a defined target audience of young people, taking theatre to corporate sector beyond the limits of staged performances and so on.

When people consume theatre in the form of Evam play, most of them accept theatre as a live-art form and desire to do a workshop with Evam or buy an acting workshop as a corporate training module for their company. The kind of experience one gathers from doing, managing theatre and promoting a play is not just about acting and theatre, but it is also entrepreneurship. Evam’s box office ticket collection is neither a break-even, nor a loss-maker. Their model productions do not focus on revenue but is a brand-building activity, so that they actually build a certain perception about theatre and image about the brand ‘Evam’. They harness this into art, acting workshops and developmental programmes or theatre festivals that they manage.

Pricing

Evam bases its ticket prices at one price point, that makes it affordable for students. Earlier, when Evam launched, the ticket for students was sold at ₹ 100. At present, the ticket for students costs ₹ 150. The revenue from ticket sales is still small in Chennai with footfalls not exceeding 8,000 for a show and ticket prices being around ₹ 200.21 The price is fixed from producer’s viewpoint—capacity of the auditorium, production costs and investment in the project. On being asked about pricing of tickets, Karthik says, ‘Any ticket price can go from ₹ 10 to ₹ 50 or ₹ 1,500. However, we try and keep our price point that is easily acceptable by the people of 18–25 age group who have lesser sources of income. That is the only marketing logic we use in pricing’.

Evam’s venture, Sideways Training, which runs the 125-hour certification course for engineering students, prices the course fees between ₹ 15,000 and ₹ 20,000.

Evam sells its tickets through different channels. When it started off, a popular bookstore did the ticket blocking. It then realized that it was not a viable model. Evam then traded tickets through telephonic bookings and blockings. ‘Even as an eight-year-old company, we do not have enough traction to have a payment gateway as a kirana store or dukhan has’, says Karthik Kumar. Evam donate some tickets to NGOs to be sold to the poor families. Children are given concessional tickets but these events are not neccessarily child-centric. Some of the plays performed by Evam were made into movies about 50–60 years back and even elders enjoy them.

In the last two to three years, online portals such as indianstage.in and bookmyshow.com have made ticket transactions easier and e-commerce easily accessible by the audience.22 Since 2009, figuratively, 70–80 per cent of the ticket sales was made through these portals. Evam has also joined hands with bookstores, such as Landmark, The Blossoms Book House, Goobe’s Book Republic and Crossword Book Store as intermediary agencies, to promote ticket sales.23

Even though Evam sells around 25,000–30,000 tickets a year, it happens only across four busy months. ‘Ticket blocking, which is a logistical issue, for gigantic shows had been always difficult for us,’ claims Karthik.

Future Plans

Evam has plans of uploading archive content on a month-to-month basis on YouTube for creating a fan base, in 2012. In 2014, Evam is planning to Webcast live performances so that it reaches a wider audience and the company would be following the thread model for archiving the content and uploading it because Evam believes that this orientation would not reduce the audience and it will increase the reach of the live-art form.

The new product that Evam would be annexing into theatre is the children’s art workshop on theatre, dance and music to help children train in art. Evam is targeting 5–12 year old children in 2012. In 2013–14, the company wishes to launch their acting school after their 10 years of celebrations.

Stand-up comedy is one of the most significant investments of talent from Evam’s end in the last six months. Evam now has its own stand-up comedy show called ‘Evam Stand-up Tamashaa’ which was earlier called ‘Urban Turban’ and the shows are performed regularly every Wednesday in Bangalore and every Thursday in Chennai. Evam has launched 12 new stand-ups in the last six months. Evam will be performing soon at the Comedy Store. Stand-up comedy has been one of the fast-moving and growing product in the entertainment industry.

Evam wants live art to survive in very extruding fashion in near future. The overall vision is that creative talents across schools and colleges should be found and creative artists should be able to see themselves as their own managers and not just as artists. According to Sunil Vishnu, creative artists should handle their career, figure out their audience and manage the business and marketing themselves.24 Evam not only performs shows, but also manages events and engages managers on a project basis and develops them professionally. Evam is not only a creative group, but also a managing group which acts as a bridge between creativity and management.

Steady revenue is a threat faced by the company. There are not many mature revenue streams. As theatre is not a high sales business, the company makes revenue on a month-to-month basis. While investment for film funds are increasing, theatre is still not the focus of many venture capitalists because most of them feel the risk is higher when money is invested in a creative venture.25 While the audience want entertainment, theatres fail to collaborate with audience and identify their needs. However, T. T. Srinath, a member of ‘The Madras Players’, the oldest English amateur theatre group in Chennai, feels the theatre is getting intimate and flashier nowadays and audience participation has increased the popularity of interactive dramas. The advent of groups such as Theatre Nisha, Stagefright, Stray Factory and ASAP has also helped attract a younger audience and also portray the exclusive tag associated with theatre.

Competition has been increasing in the form of other modes of entertainment, like the cinema or video games, which competes with Evam for a share of the wallet and of time. Of all the active art-forms and creative industries, theatre is the most challenged by the digital age. Digital technology has facilitated the ease of consuming entertainment. Youngsters today watch a film on their smartphones or on home theatre which are available at low-end prices. The need of physically going to a multiplex to watch a film or enjoy a theatre show is dipping. Evam always stands a huge chance of being out-threatened by a giant blockbuster film or an IPL match happening on the same weekend the company is performing. Though they do not have internal competitors within the theatre industry, other forms of entertainment are their biggest competitors. But the million rupee question is, ‘Can the theatre industry in India market itself to pull the audience back?’ (See Exhibit 14.2 for an expert’s comment.)

ENDNOTES
  1. Interview in ‘I Dared to Dream’ programmed in News9 channel.
  2. Happy Factory is the nickname of Evam.
  3. ‘Seventh Edition, Seven plays’ The Hindu, 27 July 2011, Chennai Edition.
  4. http://www.pwc.com/en_IN/in/assets/pdfs/ficci-pwc-indian-entertainment-and-media-industry.pdf.
  5. History of India, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_theatre
  6. Karthik’s interview with Bhargav Ramakrishnan on http://www.hotteststartups.in/readnextquestions.do?method=fetch&businessFn=indepth&startupId=757
  7. Sunil’s interview to The Telegraph, Kolkata, http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090621/jsp/calcutta/story_11129611.jsp
  8. Aparna in an interview to Praval, http://www.icanhasstartup.com/2009/06/interview-evam-ndash-happiness-with-meaning/
  9. http://www.nextbigstartup.net/angel-investor/chennai-based-evam-entertainment-gets-angel-funding/
  10. ‘Angel Investors buy Evam Ticket,’ Times of India, 24 June 2011.
  11. Interview with the case writer.
  12. Aparna in an interview to Praval, http://www.icanhasstartup.com/2009/06/interview-evam-ndash-happiness-with-meaning/
  13. Interview with Sunil Vishnu before staging Five Point Someone at NCPA, Mumbai, http://www.mumbaitheatreguide.com/dramas/interviews/23-sunil-vishnu-interview.asp
  14. See note 2 above.
  15. Evam Web site, http://evam.co.in/happyfactory.html
  16. The Economic Times, 20 February 2009, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2009-02-20/news/27644555_1_theatre-group-rangashankara-audience
  17. The Hindu, 9 July 2009.
  18. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/point-noted/748131/
  19. The Hindu, 17 February 2011, http://www.hindu.com/2011/02/17/stories/2011021761880200.htm
  20. Youtube Video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PL7qxWWegM
  21. The Times of India, 24 June 2011, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-06-24/india-business/29698577_1_theatre-group-theatre-nisha-angel-investors
  22. The Hindu, 26 November 2010, Karnataka edition, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/article914185.ece?css=print
  23. Evam’s blog, http://evamblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/urban-turban-at-bangalore/
  24. The Hindu, 16 June 2009, http://www.hindu.com/mp/2009/06/16/stories/2009061650060100.htm
  25. The Times of India, 24 June 2011.
EXHIBITS

Exhibit 14.1(a) Segmentation of India’s Entertainment and Media Industry (2005–10)

 

Exhibit 14.1(b) Growth in Indian Entertainment and Media Industry

 

Exhibit 14.2 A Note on an Expert’s Comment on the Growth of Evam

‘Evam is refreshing in every way. I like the fact that they have been through the grind and have reached a stage where they are making money. Whoever said “theatre can’t make money” With the onslaught of TV and computers, many predicted the death of the theatre. However, in the success of Evam and groups like Ranga Shankara, we see that Indian audiences can be wooed back with new ideas, a passion for theatre and some refreshing performances. The founders seem to be a determined lot and have a good team going for them. They are at a stage where they need to scale up and would do well with some big partnerships, though they already have a few brand associations going. The innovative use of theatre as a medium for change in organizations excites me. This could be a big revenue earner if tapped the right way. End of the day, any business that can bring a smile on the faces of its audience in a world full of stress and still make reasonable money is good.’