Tuesday, 14 March 2017

In the Business of Movies:the journey of Akshaye Rathi

Being in the entertainment industry is one thing, and doing business for this glamorous industry is another. Ask Akshaye Rathi, who is a film exhibitor and distributor. This young and dynamic director of family-run business, Vidarbha Exhibitors (Rathi Group of Cinemas), has enjoyed a highly successful entrepreneurial journey.

It is not easy to taste success in the world of films, where the fate is decided every Friday based on the Box Office reports. And this is where the foundation of the business plays a big part. Akshaye’s company has been involved in the business of film exhibition and distribution for more than 3 decades now.  He may have become an integral part of this business in August 2010, but the company has already been running a chain of cinemas across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh under the banner of Rathi Group of Cinemas.

Reasons for Joining Rathi Group of Cinemas

A family business acts like a double-edged sword for the kids in the family. With most family members involved in the same business, the kids hear about the same stuff regularly. They are either going to get excited about the opportunities that the family business provides, or get irritated with having to deal with the same business concept that they have heard all through their childhood.

In case of Akshaye, he was always in awe of the family business. It helped that he had a considerable amount of interest in movies, which went a long way in him developing a significant taste for cinema and understanding the need of the masses.

As per Akshaye, Indian movies are meant for the masses and multiplex cinema halls do not seem viable for them. He believes that while the multiplexes do provide an enhanced cinematic experience, they are not meant for the average Indians who love to clap and whistle while watching their favourite stars or movies in the cinema halls. It is the single screens that can provide such an entertaining experience for the masses at pretty affordable rates, and hence Vidarbha Exhibitors has been catering to this audience, which forms majority of the movie-viewing public in India.

According to Akshaye, he understood it pretty early that his family was in the right business, and his long term goal was always to take this business to the next level. With such clarity he mind, he first completed his BMS from HR College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai in 2009, and then gained valuable experience as a Consultant for media and entertainment advisory services, E & Y.

Even while he was studying, Akshaye did work for Rajshri Media Pvt. Ltd. on content acquisition / management and for INX Media Pvt. Ltd. on production of TV reality shows as well as events.

Challenges Faced and Related Solutions

Akshaye was having a wonderful time at E&Y for about a year. However, the challenge for him was that his goal was to go back to his family business some day. And he didn’t wish to delay his official entry in to their family business. So, he took the plunge in 2010.

However, it wasn’t just a random move. Akshaye knew what he was doing and joined Vidarbha Exhibitors at that time, with the purpose of implementing the  family business management techniques & skills that he was going to learn from his FMB course at SP Jain, which he enrolled for during the same year.

Akshaye mentions that the design of the course helped him to take the plunge as it allowed him to learn for a while and practise the learning in real-time (for his family business) during the tenure of the course itself.   

And Akshaye came across one of the biggest challenges of a family business- the generation gap. He realized there were differences in the thinking of his father, uncle and his own. Importantly, he required to stay patient and not come across as someone who just enters the business and starts dictating terms.

Akshaye found out that being a good observer and listener during the early days proved to be a masterstroke. He gave himself enough time to not only understand the nitty-gritty of the business, but also to come to terms with the thinking of others who were associated with the business for a long period of time.

He realized that to be a successful business owner, he will first have to work at the ground level and understand the end-to-end workflow in real-time. He took his own time to prove his work and develop a sound understanding of the overall business.

Role of FMB and Value Addition to Business

In an attempt to bridge the generation gap in most family businesses, the SP Jain FMB course played a big part in helping Akshaye and his classmates realize the importance of effective communication. Communication (or lack of it) between new entrants and old timers can make or break a business. And Akshaye was able to practise this learning in real-time for Vidarbha Exhibitors.

The family business dedicated course did help Akshaye to mingle around and align his thought processes with people belonging to different industries (all family businesses). SP Jain proved to be a platform where most relevant real-time family business problems got discussed and solutions for the same were being suggested / implemented as well. Such level of networking and on-the-job learning proved highly effective in Akshaye’s journey from being a novice at Vidarbha Exhibitors, to becoming a responsible decision-maker.

As per Akshaye, his most important learning from the course was the importance of branding and brand connect for any family business. He realized that for Rathi Group of Cinemas, a strategic alliance with a known brand could make a huge difference in increasing the footfall for their single screen theatres across India. This led him to take the strategic decision of collaborating with India’s first international exhibitor, Cinepolis, in 2016.

According to this alliance, Cinepolis started operating 10 single screen theatres spread across eight cities. Akshaye termed this as a win-win partnership for both the companies, especially for Rathi Group of Cinemas, as it allowed them to look at a broader picture of the industry. This association helped his screens to be rebranded as Fun Cinemas, which is a known cinema brand in India, encouraging a shift in the context of renovation and adding amenities to properties that would eventually help in increasing footfall.

Akshaye credits this move to the learnings from course that allowed him to see the bigger picture behind associating with a brand name, and was able to get positive results almost immediately. 

Akshaye has come a long way ever since he first joined Rathi Group of Cinemas, and owes his success to the guidance he has received from his elders as well as to the enriching learning experience at SP Jain’s program for Family Business.. It goes to show that an established family business has plenty of scope to improve and expand, provided the upcoming generation is willing to learn, listen, and implement smart business strategies.

Written by Mr Tejas Savla in association with Akshaye Rathi