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Want a break in the glamour world, but do not have contacts? Don’t worry! Help is just a click away. Shekhar Purohit’s new startup, TalentNext, launched in Mumbai on Monday amid the presence of esteemed guests like filmmakers Karan Johar and Ashutosh Gowarikar, music composer Salim Merchant, ad man Prahlad Kakkar, founder and CEO of Culture Machine, Sameer Pitalwala, and group CEO of Balaji Telefilms, Sameer Nair, promises to connect aspiring actors, writers, directors, dancers and singers with the right production houses, media companies and individual recruiters globally.
Talent Next’s website and mobile site have two sides – talent and recruiter. The user can create an account under the category he falls in. On the talents’ side, the user has to enter his personal details, a photograph, interests and other vital information like what he is looking for. He will then need to upload a sample of his work – in audio, video or text format – on the basis of his skill set which will set his final dashboard. On the recruiters’ side, the company will need to describe what they are looking for and accordingly, the platform will provide suggestions from the pool of its registered members. The company can then connect with the person and take it forward.
“We had three purposes for this business. One is to enable casting directors to get global access to talent, second is to enable the talent to control their own destiny with complete transparency and professionalism, and thirdly, build India’s first end-to-end talent solution, right from profiling to first audition to finally being cast,” says Purohit, an MBA in strategy and finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and former managing director, India, of Lionsgate Entertainment. He has since launched startups like online digital studio Bollyverse and more recently, men’s fashion portal Dapper Don.
“The idea for TalentNext came around when a lot of my friends wanted to be in the movie industry, but they didn’t have access,” says Purohit, who has been working on the startup for the past nine months to create a robust backend technology. Underserved markets and international ones – like the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia in particular is where he expects most of the demand to come from. “We will also sign up with global production houses to cast for India-based roles,” he adds.
The platform is currently in English, but it will be translated into Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Malayalam and Punjabi in the next two weeks. The android and iOS app will also be launched soon. “People will create their profile on the website. But the continuous engagement and updates will be from the mobile app,” he explains.
To market the startup, Purohit is planning to create a talk show called Talent Talks, which would be their version of Ted Talks. Whenever one thinks of talent, one thinks of actor and actress and that’s the smallest part of our business, says Purohit. Instead, he bets big on dancers, director of production, beat boxers and tabla players.
Production houses are excited about the platform, claims Purohit. “Every film has 7-10 roles. They will use us for the last five to six roles and we will give those options at the click of a button,” he says, adding that they are also in talks with 2-3 production houses for casting lead actors.
Merchant says, “Sometimes we need a specific thumri and a singer of a particular age and this combination is hard to find in Mumbai. This platform will enable us to get access to such talent.”
“With TalentNext, casting will get a more definite structure,” adds Johar.
The platform already has over 5,000 profiles pre-registered and around 100 castings jobs. Most of the registrations are from Tier II and Tier III towns and cities like Odisha, Indore and Puducherry. “We are targeting upwards of 50,000 to 75,000 profiles and 200 jobs at any given point within the next three to six months,” says Purohit. While the service is currently free for both the talent and the recruiters, going forward, Purohit plans to make it a membership-based model for the ‘talent’ on the platform.