Post videos, bag rewards (pretty big at that!) — welcome to desitara.com
Desitara.com is more than just a talent portal; it's a virtual talent agency, and a democratic one to boot.
The website was begun by Mansoor Ahamed, a young MBA from the U.K., as an online space to showcase talent in 2007 (in the form of uploaded videos), and has evolved into a whole lot more in the last three years.
“We realised we couldn't compete with youtube.com, which had the backing of Google,” he says. “So we decided to focus on a niche market — desis — and offer rewards to people posting their videos on our website.”
Those rewards have been pretty big in the last year or so — a band got a chance to perform with Kailash Kher through the website; a young Bollywood dancer from France got to perform at a fashion show in Birmingham; a singer got onto a reality show on TV, won, and is now singing for movies; and an actor has gotten movie parts in Kannada and Hindi.
Not bad, huh?
“We have our own film production company, S Lad Entertainment, and we've tied up with Eros International and Subhash Ghai Films as well, so we can get people opportunities,” says Mansoor, who started out as a short filmmaker in the U.K. after completing his MBA. “We've even tied up with Murali, who produces small-budget Hollywood films such as ‘Provoked'.”
The big tie-ups
And, it's not only movies — they've also bought a South Indian television channel in the U.K. called S4U, have tie-ups with desi channels such as Zoom TV, and are involved in a number of ground events such as a huge Bollywood roadshow in the U.K. this summer, featuring the likes of Gurinder Chadha. “Other websites spend a lot of money on marketing on TV and radio; we, instead, spend on events where we interact directly with our users and capture talent,” says Mansoor. In India, they travel extensively to college campuses in Bangalore (where they're based, in India), and to a lesser extent, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, setting up Desitara stages where students can perform, have their acts captured on camera, and uploaded to the website (a national college talent festival in on the cards). Once the videos are up, it's up to the desitara.com online community — 1,20,000 strong and growing rapidly — to vote for who should receive these attractive rewards. In true Web 2.0 style, acts that are most highly rated by other users, or those who win the regular online contests (the voting is done by fellow users, of course) are placed to the best of the ability of the desitara.com team.
It isn't all just singing and dancing either; the website has categories such as ‘Adventure Sports', ‘Magic', and, for truly odd talents, ‘Other' (featuring, for example, the person who can write with both feet — simultaneously). “We also had a Halloween contest last year, and a Michael Jackson contest recently,” says Mansoor. “The MJ contest was hugely popular and attracted users from the U.S., the U.K., China, and Japan… but both the top two spots went to Chennai-ites!”
Indeed, despite its initial aim of catering to desis, the website has grown increasingly global, with four million page views from 98 countries around the world. “Eventually, we want desitara.com to become a global brand, with local portals such as ‘Desitara Poland', etc,” says Mansoor. He does acknowledge that the name is rather desi, though, adding with a grin, “But what's in a name?”