It was early 2007. Then, Hulu was Chinese for ‘gourd’ and Netflix just a DVD distribution company.
Running a digital media company for a greater part of a decade, and managing sites like MSN India, had provided me a fairly good insight into how things were evolving in the digital media space in India. I was reasonably sure that videos were going to be the next big thing and started fashioning a brand that could capture the essence of what I was chasing. And, `iStream’ was born out of a desire to build a `cool’ consumer media brand.
I shared my thoughts with Dhanu (C.Dhanukodi). I really wasn’t sure whether the idea was exciting enough to uproot him from the comforts of the Bay Area in the US. But there he was, making half a dozen trips to India in as many months and we got things moving. We also decided to tap into one of the shrewdest and incisive minds in the internet space George Zacharias, the then MD of Yahoo! India. I remember, it was George’s last day in office at Yahoo!. Couple of breakfast meetings followed and George was on board, sharing our vision.
The journey was beginning take-off in real earnest. Dhanu, by then, had shifted base to India.
In MSN, we had a partner who was willing to bet on videos and we began by serving them – our own content. And we did innovate. Even sitting, in one instance, with the executive chefs of Bangalore’s 5-star hotels, who unraveled for us the hallowed secrets of making exotic cocktails and recipes. However, we soon realized that making our own content was not an inexpensive proposition. We needed to build an ecosystem, bringing TV channels on board. Many of them were sitting on a pile of archived content; but barely had an online presence. After many months of selling the concept, and with some gentle persuasion, some big broadcasters signed up. By then we had also signed up with the biggest video platform of all -YouTube. We bet on genres like news and regional content, on a platform which was hitherto gung-ho only on cricket and Bollywood. The gamble paid off! In a relatively short time, iStream was among the largest partners for YouTube in India aggregating close to a billion video views! But was that all we set out to do? Sure, we were making money. But the idea was to be a much more than just being a services company serving third-party platforms.
By now, Hulu had grown into a household name in the US. Netflix had transformed the benchmarks for the industry with a device-centric approach. They were multi-billion dollar brands by then. We could see that others were living our dream. Time to start chasing the dream; in a more concerted, innovative fashion, we decided. We began to tread a new path – of becoming a digital media company rooted in technology; building a world class product. To build an online destination for videos that could serve millions of Indians worldwide. Of course, it was not easy. Among other things, it involved a lot of moolah.
Fortunately for us, we found someone who shared our dreams, even prompting us to dream bigger; and were willing to bet on us. The brief we kept for ourselves was simple – build a great team that could deliver a really cool product.
Today we have a made a small step towards that. Thanks to my ‘dream team’, istream.com is a reality. We have built this with a lot of passion. We do hope that you like what we serve. We are betting on `News’ as the first big thing. We will bring breaking news closer to you and that too, in more than eight Indian languages. I promise this is just the beginning. We will have more such exciting stuff, including movies and TV shows which will be soon be streamed to your devices. Unlike our bigger US-cousins, we are serving an audience that speaks many languages. Does that make our job more challenging? Yes, very much. Does that make it more exciting? An even bigger yes. But, we look forward to the challenge and the excitement.
So, here’s to exciting iStreaming times ahead.
Founder & CEO
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