Starting as a trader dealing with music cassettes in 1984, when records were fading away, Mohan Chabria took a calculated approach to growth with ounces of patience and sagacity in every move that he made.
Slowly and steadily, his calculation paid off. Today, he is a successful entrepreneur who has his own label for Kannada audio and video under the branding, Anand Audio. His enterprise, Aananda Audio Video is among the respected lot in the Kannada film industry and he is letting his instinct and quality adherence to do most of the talking in the business.
He speaks to Vyas Sivanand about his initial days and his plans.
■ Tell us about your initial days in the business.
Starting off as a small time trader in music cassettes for South Indian companies in the field, my big break in trading came when I got the distribution rights of Ilaiyaraaja’s Echo, which was highly reputed.
Then on, I could make a mark in the business.
I then focussed on Telugu film audios and except for about 10 films, I think, I would have released almost all audios of films starring Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, Venkatesh, and other top heroes.
But as business avenues started opening up, I found that I had less reliable hands with me.
So, my focus was very much restricted to trading only.
But I kept trying and then Bhoomi Geetha happened for which I got the distribution rights.
I had the confidence and being in the industry for 13 years, I was able to distribute 12,000 cassettes.
In 1998, my brother shouldered the responsibility and I was able to focus on other potential areas.
I started my own label and got the rights for the movie Habba in 1999.
Music director, Hamsalekha helped me a lot and my first ten releases were for his songs.
Then on I went in pursuit of more music rights of films.
■ Why did you think of concentrating on your labels only and quit trading of others? Most people have started the same way.
They were initially traders and then they get on to have their own label.
Physical sale was coming down and lot of shops were shutting shop.
Business volumes were low and other necessary expenses were on the rise.
So, it was better to put the same experienced staff on my own label and see how I could improve.
■ How have you dealt with piracy? Even when cassettes were selling, piracy was prevalent.
Now, with the help of technology, copying songs have become a child’s play.
Though the format has changed, but as long as the music mindset is there, we see hope.
It may be foolish to think that internet piracy can be stopped but we have tried to curb it.
Holding the Digital Rights Management, we could stop several websites from pirating a song on the net.
Once it is controlled, the business could be financially strong, though it is a distant dream.
■ What are the main challenges in your business? With the general inflation, everybody has inflated.
Singers, music directors,. the entire gamut has suddenly raised their fees.
I remember, in the year 2001, we invited Sonu Nigam to sing eight songs.
He charged Rs 1,20,000.
Today, for one song, the price is not less than Rs 2 lakhs.
The time is such that because of escalating costs and expectation towards proportionate results, the producer fights with us in the name of costs.
It is a perception among producers that there is a lot of money in ringtones.
So, pricing-wise buying a film is a big challenge.
Getting the songs into the playlist is also a challenge.
I feel, content is key.
Those days, if one good song is released, there was usually a gap of 4-5 weeks for another to come in, but today, it is the problem of plenty.
The shelf life has come down.
It is a challenge to make a song popular within a specific duration.
■ How many songs have you released so far? I have 375 films in audio and 250 films in video and all are in Kannada.
I have 4000 songs which are nonfilms - devotional, folk, even Sanskrit, among others.
We are also doing physical sales for the master recording company, Sangeetha.
■ Your comments on the quality of your DVDs.
Our quality is much superior than others.
We were the first to start 5.
1 DTS DVDs in Kannada films and the first in the country to bring 5.
1 audio DVD.
■ What are your diversification plans? I have produced two films - Friends in 2001, which was a hit and Rowdy Aliya, in 2004, which did not do well.
I went into production to prove that if there are good songs, it will be successful and I could prove it with Friends.
I failed with Rowdy Aliya, because I could not gauge the music’s popularity at the composing stage.
Production may be a place for diversification and I may go for a movie which can make people laugh.