A winning hand

Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita, founders of digital media company Pocket Aces tell us bout the gap in consumer entertainment and the power of digital distribution

March 19, 2016 04:19 pm | Updated March 21, 2016 07:50 am IST

KARNATAKA - BENGALURU - 16/03/2016 :  Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita, Co-founders of Pocket Aces, Digital Media entertainment company  in Bengaluru on March 16, 2016.  
Photo K Murali Kumar.

KARNATAKA - BENGALURU - 16/03/2016 : Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita, Co-founders of Pocket Aces, Digital Media entertainment company in Bengaluru on March 16, 2016. Photo K Murali Kumar.

From college roommates to investment bankers and later co-founders of a digital media company, Anirudh Pandita and Ashwin Suresh have charted an unconventional path to entertaining the youth of India. The co-founders of Pocket Aces, a digital media company that focuses on producing high quality original content for the web, Anirudh and Ashwin are working towards filling the gap between the content available locally and the content the youth of the country likes to watch. The duo, who grew up in West Asia and attended college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the US, went on to chart the expected career path and became investment bankers. It was an interest in the field of films and the growing penetration of smartphones and broadband that brought them back to India. “As we grew up in the Middle East, we saw entire countries being built by Indians and wondered when India would change, and over the past few years we have seen that change happen,” says Anirudh, who returned to India in 2013, two years after Ashwin.

In those two years, Ashwin, who was an active participant in the film and art scene in New York, worked with Reliance Entertainment and later helped a media company set up Junglee Pictures. “We started Pocket Aces in 2013 with the idea of getting into films, and even bought the rights to some, but soon realised the film industry was low-innovation and had too many entrenched players, we wanted to do something more disruptive,” says Anirudh, outlining the reason behind the company's shift to digital in early 2015. Soon they released the satirical sketch ‘Ban Ban’, a humorous take on the ban phenomenon in the country. “The video got over a million views in a few days organically, and that gave us the momentum we needed,” says Ashwin. The company now has two brands, Dice Media, geared towards original video content, and FilterCopy, which they claim is a portal for “all things shareable, aimed at a bored-at-work audience.” Dice has since launched a web series, Not Fit , written, directed by and starring Kerala State Film Award-winning Sudev Nair.

The lack of a premium network showcasing interesting content and absence of an outlet for the large pool of writers and content creators in the country is the reason companies like Pocket Aces are needed, according to Ashwin and Anirudh. “There are a lot of talented creators in the country who wait outside movie studios with ideas hoping for a break, and end up giving themselves less credit than they deserve. What they lack is an outlet, and the sad part is some of the most talented writers in India are not writers. We lose them to other professions because there is no defined career path,” says Anirudh.Ashwin adds that models such as Netflix’s, which pushes all episodes of a season at once, and experimenting with formats according to a show's requirements, are the need of the hour.

“People consume content differently at different times of the day, and it's our job to understand that. We now have the technology that enables us to watch more than one episode a day, and when your audience is asking for more, why not give it to them?”

According to them, the power of digital platforms like Netflix is to be seen as an advantage for independent content creators, not as competition. “We’re pretty platform- agnostic, and believe that the people who innovate most and have the best content will survive. If all the good content is spread across multiple platforms, users will get bored and download from torrent sites, which are an example of how a central library for all entertainment is the best way. Another example is that Snapchat has as many video views now as Facebook, though mostly in the under-18 demographic, so that just shows you have to be where your audience is,” Ashwin concludes.

Pocket Aces plans to launch another five web series this year, with Not Fit set to join the likes of The Viral Fever's (TVF) Permanent Roommates as one of the web-series that gets a second season.

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