Vivek Bohra is the founder of Dazzlr, a discovery platform for aspiring actors who need an organized approach to the Indian entertainment industry.
Together with QuikR CEO Pranay Chulet and acclaimed casting director Aadore Mukherjee (who has movies such as Delhi Belly, Happy New Year and Bhaag Milha Bhaag to her credit) as co-founders, Vivek is upbeat about his efforts in making life easier for those who wish to work in front of the camera.
This is an Exclusive Interview with Vivek, as a part of the #TimesStories initiative by The Times Blog.
What inspired you to launch a business in the entertainment industry?
We're in an extremely large-yet-disorganized sector of talent discovery and casting for all formats such as films, ads, tv shows, web-series, etc.
What really triggered this venture, was an incident that I was involved in. I was conducting auditions for a role for a Hollywood film being produced by an A-list Hollywood producer, and while on a video conference, the director made a statement saying that they never imagined that they would actually cast an "Indian girl from India" (he meant to say 'resident Indian', as they were all set to cast an NRI actress from Los Angeles), not because they had lesser faith in Indian actors, but because the effort and resources required in hiring original Indian talent were extremely high. He also went on to remark, thatif someone managed to bridge this gap and made their job easy and inexpensive, they would be more than happy to cast organically, since most such roles require Indian faces.
This made me realize both the potential impact and present need of a platform which can connect actors and producers, irrespective of where either party is located in the world.
When did you launch the firm, and what challenges did you face initially while going about it?
We launched our service about a year and a half ago. The biggest challenge was, or rather still is — to overcome the resistance of something as new as the use of technology for a medium as conventional as casting.
Actors still believe that attending a casting call in person and physically meeting someone is more helpful than showcasing their work over the internet – when it is actually the quality of work and "fit-match" that can get an actor cast more than anything else.
All of these things can be delivered over the internet with our product. One of our biggest success stories for us happened when two actors from Delhi got cast for a Tamil film (Singham 3).
How did your family react when you told them you wanted to get into the entertainment business?
Ironically, despite being a successful entrepreneur himself (Vivek's family runs an ultra successful production house, responsible for flicks such as Gangs of Wasseypur - 1 & 2, Tanu Weds Manu, and Ek Hasina Thi), my father wasn’t too happy when I decided to go down the business route.
I have a commercial Pilot’s license, and he has often been vocally supportive of the airspace trade. He kept saying that flying the skies would probably be a better place to be than this industry.
Of course, being my father’s son, I decided to not pay heed to his advice and instead chose to enter this highly coveted-yet-challenging space of entertainment entrepreneurship.
How important was the acquisition & targeting of a niche audience for Dazzlr? How did you go about it?
Many people think that we are a B2B venture, because we supply talent to casting directors and creative professionals. This is only partially true. The thing is, aspiring actors are not just limited to one geography, one age or even a single gender.
An increasing number of regular people (with no professional acting background) are lining up to become actors across different platforms. We have moved simultaneously in both directions - one one side, we focus on partnering with leading production houses and helping them cast the right talent, and on the other side we are encouraging commonfolk to use the platform and amplify their opportunities.
And to that end, we've been really lucky. So far, we have secured casting calls to our user-posts, from names like Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story to Long running Daily shows such as CID (Sony TV).
Are there any specific influences who have inspired you? Is there any advice from them, that you would like to share with our readers?
Pranay (Founder & CEO of Quikr.com) was the first to understand the value of such a platform, and promptly gave us all the support that we needed at this stage. Among other things, he gave me a very important piece of advice.
Referring to Cricket scoring patterns, he said:
“To score 36 runs, we need to stand on the wicket and hit six (consecutive) sixes… hitting one six, no matter how big it is, won’t get you thirty six runs.”
Consistency in excellence, is the secret.
What are the Top 3 Business Takeaways that you did not know when you first started out?
1. The most important thing that I have learnt thus far, is that in a digital business, how you react is practically more important than how you act.
2. People are constantly talking. and we must listen, adapt, respond and evolve every moment.
3. We have to know how much technology our users are comfortable with, and how much we can help them evolve without causing discomfort.
What advice would you give to your ten-year younger self, if given an opportunity?
I would definitely educate my younger self that being diplomatically and politically correct does not always take you in the right direction!
Any words of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry?
I'd ask them to remember that growth must always be the focal driving point, no matter what it takes.
Is there a product or service that doesn't exist yet, which you wished existed? To help your business?
Given our plan of introducing optimal levels of AI into the business of casting, one of the most important things that I wish for, is actually a pretty simple requirement:
Faster internet on mobile networks...!
I am keeping my fingers crossed, that this will change soon.
How much of a role does consumer marketing/publicity play in the wedding business, in your opinion?
Given that our user-base of aspiring actors is a divergent network spread across the country and across all ages... the right kind of communication and public validation of our platform is an important aspect of our growth. Just like any consumer business, marketing/publicity is a key element.
However, given the fact that we are still digging into strengthening our roots, we have consciously not indulged in paid marketing, and thus we cannot comment much about marketing 'challenges'.
Is there any special insight/story that you wish to share with our readers?
I recently attended a conclave of entrepreneurs and investors. On my chat with an investor, he told us that he only invests in industries which have a "wide influential capacity".
I popped a small question at him - "Bollywood?"
He responded with a big "No".
Moments later, someone from his office stormed in and asked him which 'discussion session' he was planning on attending, and the investor replied "The one with Salman Khan".
That told me a lot about Bollywood's invisible but widespread influence in the business segment.
The Times RapidFire
Name One book that you would recommend today, without blinking.
Answer: Parikrama – A Collection of Short Stories (By Radhika Vyas Sharma)
An original quotation for your loyal customers?
Answer: **Acting is like driving- The more you act, the better you get.
Do you operate with goals, or systems? Pick one.
Answer: Always, goals– systems are not my forte.
Cricket, or no Cricket?
Answer: Definitely Cricket.
Print, or Digital?
Answer: Definitely Digital.
And finally... what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘The Times Blog’?
Answer: Lots and lots of readers!