Naini is a writer at Forbes India, who likes to dabble in storytelling across all forms of media. She writes on various topics ranging from innovation and startups to cryptocurrency and agricultureâanything and everything that makes for an interesting story. Before her stint at Forbes India, she worked for close to a year at Outlook Business. With five years of work experience, she co-produces Forbes Indiaâs video series âFrom The Fieldâ and hosts the podcast âTeenpreneursâ. She also emcees at events and moderates panel discussions from time-to-time. Naini is a part of Forbes Indiaâs digital team, also handles Forbes Indiaâs Instagram account and helps plan events. An avid learner, she has completed her PGDM in Journalism from Xavier Institute of Communication and Bachelorâs of Mass Media from Sophia College for Women in Mumbai. Be it at work or home, you will not find her working without her headphones and work playlist. She loves trekking and travelling, experimenting in the kitchen, watching films and reading.
After having seen zero revenue for close to five months, PVR Cinemas recently opened its doors to the public again. On its road to recovery, the company will launch its own microwave popcorn brand ‘Popmagic’, marking its foray into the F&B business. This is only the first of the many other products that are expected to launch in this segment, the company tells Forbes India. Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas said, "We are still testing out the other products till we are happy with them. We’ll not rush." The popcorn will be rolled out in North and South India first, and within 15 days, it will be available in the West and other parts of the country. Popmagic, however, will only be sold on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato and at PVR Cinemas.
Dutta speaks to Forbes India about the microwave popcorn market, and his strategies to survive alongside a strong market leader. Edited excerpts:
Q. How did the plan to move into the product category of microwave popcorn come about?
We did F&B sales of about Rs 1,100 crore last year, of which 35 percent comes from the sale of popcorn. Clearly, popcorn is our hero product since we sold Rs 350 crore worth of it at our cinemas. During the lockdown, we wanted to start a few initiatives that could go beyond the premises of our cinemas, and business ideas that could go beyond the brick-and-mortar. To take the legacy of the PVR popcorn ahead seemed like a natural extension, and we decided to take the microwave popcorn route. That’s how "Popmagic" came into being.
Q. What does the market for microwave popcorn look like currently?
The popcorn market in India beyond cinemas is fairly nascent—as per our estimates, below Rs 50 crore. We felt that this market can easily be 10x bigger in the next two to three years. Within the microwave popcorn market, Act II is the largest player. We feel our product gives much better quality as our corns are imported. We have a winner product, a great brand to back it, and we're entering the market at just the right time when it is not over-flooded. Over the years, we are hoping to grow this into a big piece for PVR.
Q. Given that Act II is the largest player in the market, what are your strategies to survive in the long run?
The product itself—apart from good quality, we have added seasoning to the popcorn to add another USP. Chef Sarah Todd helped us curate the flavours and the seasoning for Popmagic. It will be available in four different flavours. While the product is priced at a 10-12% premium over Act II, we still believe the pricing is pretty competitive, given the quality we are offering. We believe we will be able to move the market in the right direction. As per our prediction, we should be able to garner some very encouraging numbers within the next few months.
Q. Was microwave popcorn always a part of your expansion plans?
It was a part of the long-term plan, but I don't know whether we would have been able to fast track this the way we did now. There was no urgency earlier, but when the lockdown happened we started looking at initiatives that could go beyond cinemas a lot more closely. It’s because of that we could roll out Popmagic in about 3.5 to 4 months.
Q. Do you plan to expand the distribution channels from only PVR Cinemas and e-commerce to include retail stores as well?
4700BC Gourmet Popcorn, a brand we acquired five years back, is already available at retail outlets. We’re also rolling out a microwave popcorn version under the brand. It will champion microwave popcorn in retail outlets. Popmagic will be sold at cinemas and online only, to segregate our areas of competition.
Q. To what extent will this help with recover the massive losses that PVR has seen during the pandemic?
In my opinion, these are not co-related issues. The losses are on account of cinema closure and this is a new business, hence has to be given focus and time, accordingly. We will give it all the boost that it requires, and hopefully in a couple of years, it will be a sizeable business.
The cinema business is on a very firm footing and we will bounce back very soon, things are looking much better. We always knew that when we open, the initial two to three months will be tough as we need to get consumer confidence and content back to cinemas.