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A filmy spectacle in small-town India

Entertainment start-up Jadooz is making cinema on-screen a ‘big’ experiential one for those residing in small towns. On Saturday, Tawang in Arunchal Pradesh will get its first cinema theatre, thanks to the Chennai-based bootstrapped venture

A filmy spectacle in small-town India
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Rahul Nehra, an NIT grad, along with the well-known Padma awardee Shobana started Jadooz Media Solution in 2017 with an aim to bring the “reel world” to live in smaller or even lesser-known destinations. “We see ourselves as the ‘Maruti’ of cinema,” he says, drawing an analogy between the popular car brand and the company.

Since less than 5 pc of India can afford marquee brands such as the Mercedes and BMW or even premium models like the Innova, Nehra feels cinema viewing experience to has to break the “class” ceiling. “Of the total 130 crore population, 10-15 crore people have no access to cinema since in today’s time, the unit economics do not work,” he points out.

Outing at a multiplex that typically caters to the urban milieu would mean paying Rs 200 for a ticket or Rs 100 for a popcorn tub. “Balcony wallahs have been taken care of, whereas as the Maruti of cinema, our aim is to offer less-priced tickets, use less space, less time but offer a better return as we want to cater to those 85 pc living in tier III, IV and V locations,” Nehra says.

The model is simple: it identifies franchisees, who possess 500 sq yard space and have the ability to shell out Rs 35 lakh. “We will construct the cinema hall, make it an 80-seater theatre and operate it by pricing the ticket for Rs 100 and popcorn at Rs 50,” he says.

Jadooz has signed up with 55 franchisees for sites, of which 42 are under construction spanning Himachal Pradesh (14 sites) up north to Telangana (1) down south. “On the works are five sites in Tamil Nadu, which will get formalized by January,” he adds by Q1 of 2022, the five small theatres (typically 2,000 sq ft) will be operational in TN. Karnataka is also on the radar. For now, the entity has firmed up in places like Nepal (4), Gujarat (4), UP (8), Bihar (1), and Punjab (3). Incidentally, three of the five shopping complexes in gated communities in Allahabad, Azamgarh, and Pipariya (Gujarat) will house a cinema theatre. “In HP, shopping complexes in Shahpur, Nurpur, and Nadaun have been converted into theatres with one or two screens over 20,000 sq ft,” Nehra explains.

With weekdays seeing less than 10 percent occupancy, Jadooz’s plan to leverage the space effectively has led it to use the 8 to 11 am time slot to offer teaching programmes to benefit those living in remote locations. “English-speaking to retail to digital marketing and banking – skills are imparted in these disciplines. These courses are offered for Rs 12,000 to 13,000 thrice a week for three months usually ” he says, noting that their platform replicates the teaching environment in top-notch institutions.

Interestingly, the theatres are used for bulk bookings like in Brindavan, when 40 people watched cinema together, for just Rs 6,000. Jadooz is looking to raise $1 million and the discussions are in an advanced stage, says Nehra, exuding confidence of securing capital quickly.

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