Monday, December 24, 2018

GST on Cinema Tickets

The Union Government of India has recently announced a reduction of GST on Movie Tickets from 28% to 18%. The Film Industry took collective credit for hard-bargaining this issue with the Prime Minister and many celebrities thanked him on social media. However, the average movie-goer isn’t too kicked.


2018 has been very average for the Indian Film Industry with many high profile, high budget Hindi films tanking like no other, notably Shah Rukh Khan’s latest outing “Zero” and Amitabh Bachhan / Aamir Khan’s magnum opus “Thugs of Hindostan”. Needless to say, the only saving grace was Superstar Rajinikanth’s 2.0 directed by ace Director Shankar, his third outing with the mega actor after Sivaji - The Boss (2007) and Enthiran (The Robot) which released in 2010. Produced by Lyca at an estimated budget of over Rs. 550 Crores (a little less than USD 80 million) - perhaps the only Indian film to have been invested so much upon. And to everyone’s surprise, the film has raked over Rs. 700 Crores at Box offices worldwide in its first three weeks of release and is still seeing full occupancies during the Christmas / New Year weekend as well. Karan Johar took up the release of the film in the Hindi Belt and has done a fantastic job indeed. 


I was at Delhi two weeks back and finished my meetings ahead of schedule and was sitting over a Cappuccino in one of South Delhi’s tony Malls. Was quite excited to watch 2.0 in Hindi (after watching 4 times in Tamil already at various theatres in Chennai). The ticket cost for 2.0 in 3D was Rs. 450 including GST. Add to that, my proposed indulgence of Popcorn, Nachos and Coffee and I would have ended up spending at least Rs. 1,000 over 4 hours. At a spur of the moment, I decided against it and went ahead with some other plans. Of the Rs. 450, I guess 28% would have been taxes. So, I would have paid about Rs. 120 as GST which would now be reduced by Rs. 40 approximately (depending on Ticket costs). 

Is reduction of GST on cinema tickets a good move? Yes. 

Will it draw more audiences in to the Cinemas / Multiplexes? Perhaps Not.

Here’s why I reckon so;

Most theatres focus on the F&B offering than the core - Movies. Multiplex chains like PVR and SPI Sathyam (now owned by PVR) focus on the “experience” of watching a movie while standalone Cinemas too have focussed on improving facilities. Sadly, reduction of GST is not enough to draw audiences. We need better content from film makers and needless to say, a sharp reduction in F&B prices. By reducing the prices and focussing on volumes, the Theatre Owners would see a significant jump in occupancy which hovers around 40% on weekdays and approx. 70% on weekends. 



GST is now reduced from 28% to 18% on Tvs - Smart Tvs which come with built-in OTT Apps like SunNxt, Hotstar, Zee5 and of course YouTube. Theatre Owners, hello there?!?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Staff Empathy - Wake up India!

Like many of you, I too saw the viral video of the Zomato delivery guy consuming the food meant for Guests on his scooter. As a benefit of doubt, I initially thought he was eating the food he had ordered for himself or his family. I never shared the video and the ensuing Memes even to my close family or friends. Something stopped me from doing it. It takes me back to 1997 when I joined my first job as a part-time employee in erstwhile Madras. Being a humid city and blessed with four seasons of Summer through 12 months, the city was eponymous to a hot weather all through the year and about 20 days of winter. So Ice-Cream as a product category was a 12-month business opportunity and no wonder, “Baskin Robbins” set-up their second store in India here after debuting in Mumbai. I would study Computing at NIIT from 7am - 9pm and pursued B. Com from 4pm - 8pm at RKM Vivekananda College. A chance glance on the local tabloid and I saw there was a job opportunity at this shop and I headed. 

I got selected but the Franchisee wanted me to work all day which I couldn’t since I had classes in the morning and evening. So, I suggested I can work part time from 11am - 3pm which he agreed to for a monthly remuneration of Rs. 300. We were a crew of 6 and had to run all errands - from receiving stocks to cleaning tables to serving scoops. Around the same time, local brand “Arun” would sell their stick Ice-Cream for Rs. 5 while a scoop of Baskin would cost Rs. 33. We had to not just convince Customers to try and buy our offering but also justify why they should pay so much for the product.
The Franchisee was a shrewd businessman in his 30s and had an idea which took us all by surprise. He suggested that each of us can take any one scoop of ice-cream daily. There was a register we maintained and we tried as many flavours. Over a few days, we requested if we could take them home instead and make the family happy which he obliged. Over the weeks, we got tired of eating daily and said we wouldn’t do it anymore. The Franchisee had hit two mangoes with this move - he ensured we never pilfered the food; he ensured the staff knew what we were suggesting to Customers and so could sell them easily.
This was my first lesson in Retail, my first job as well. Frontend Retail Staff in India, most of them find it difficult to make ends meet. Salaries of CXOs have grown multi-fold in decades, but not that of these guys. So there is always a sense of remorse (at least for some of them) that they are unable to afford the products or services. I am not taking this as an excuse for living poor, after all that’s a choice too but they do really cannot afford even basic needs at times. I feel really bad for this Zomato delivery guy for all the negative publicity the society gave him. Imagine the humiliation his Mother, Wife and Children would face from their neighbourhood? Will anyone employ him again? With our excessive media trials, we have killed a family's reputation Sigh.
We have failed as a society, yet again thanks to our "one-upmanship" and self-styled righteousness in the garb of exposing someone who was at fault. Oh, btw that guys doesn't need our sympathy. The world needs more of our empathy. Am sure you agree. 


The Retail Staff (including the delivery staff) deserve better. Better Salary, better empathy and better social acceptance. When we give them something beyond what they deserve, they will not only display integrity but also build a better society that we live in. Remember, no one was born a thief. We just become one, thanks to circumstances.