India’s crowded video streaming space will soon have a new entrant: Flipkart. The Walmart-owned ecommerce company said today that it is working to launch an OTT service in the country.
Flipkart said it would partner with existing industry players to load up on content for the yet-to-be-named video streaming service. In a televised interview with Indian daily ET Now, Flipkart CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy explained, “We are not a content company as a DNA.” When asked about a timeline for the launch, and whether it would happen in the next year or two, Krishnamurthy said it would “hopefully [happen] before” that.
The planned launch of the video streaming service suggests a shift in strategy for the company, which in recent months has steered clear of experimentation with digital offerings. In its early years, Flipkart launched a music streaming service, an ebook store, and an in-app chat service, among other digital offerings. But most of those services failed to attract customers and have been shut down.
in 2017, Flipkart said it was working on a “mega” app that would offer customers a range of features, such as the ability to book a cab, order food, and plan a vacation. A year and a half later, the app is nowhere to be found. The company did not share an update when VentureBeat enquired about it last month.
Flipkart does need to strengthen its digital offering. Unlike Amazon, which offers its Prime customers a range of services (access to a video streaming service and a music streaming service), Flipkart has struggled to match such features to its customers. A recent report by research firm Barclays, a copy of which was obtained by VentureBeat, noted that Amazon was closing in on the lead that Flipkart has in India’s ecommerce market. A Flipkart spokesperson told VentureBeat that the company may position its video streaming service as a way to expand its “loyalty construct.” In fact, Flipkart recently launched loyalty service Flipkart Plus, but it is still in the early stages.
On paper, Flipkart seems well-positioned to build a viable video streaming service. The company already maintains a partnership with Rupert Murdoch-backed Star India’s Hotstar. In July, the two giants announced a video advertisement platform, dubbed Shopper Audience Network, to allow brands to target consumers with personalized ads on Hotstar’s service. According to local media reports, Flipkart has also expressed interest in buying a stake in Hotstar.
The company’s interest in video streaming comes as Indians are showing an increased appetite for web content. Although most people in the country were once extremely conscious about spending their mobile data, things have rapidly changed in the last two years. This shift was kicked off when the nation’s richest individual, Mukesh Ambani, launched Reliance Jio, a telecom network offering low-cost LTE data to customers.
In the months since, video apps have exploded in popularity in India. Hotstar had over 150 million active customers as of July this year, and it set a global record for the most simultaneous views on a livestream. Google’s YouTube has also seen a sharp rise in its user base in the country.