Nine years after the online movie ticketing portal, BookMyShow (BMS), stepped into what was a scanty and largely offline business in India, the company is looking to widen its reach. It is pushing into new businesses - sports ticketing and creating special event experiences with teams and leagues - and foraying into international markets, hoping to ride smooth on the strength of the trust its brand has built in India thus far.
Currently, 60 to 65 per cent of the company's revenues come from the movie ticketing business, while the remaining, 35 to 40 per cent, comes from events and sports ticketing. Over the years, the latter has become more prominent, perhaps driven by the number of tournaments that are being held in the country, even for non-cricket sports. Rajesh Balpande, co-founder at BMS explains that this is the best time to be in the business since India is moving to a multi-sport/multi-league culture.
"The sports business is an important part with so many leagues coming up. We have had the first mover advantage and have been involved with almost all the leagues through the sports association or the teams. For example, in the IPL (Indian Premier League), we are the ticketing partners for Mumbai Indians and for seven out of the eight teams in the ISL (Indian Super League). For the ongoing World Cup T-20, we have worked with the BCCI," says Balpande.
Sport is also giving the company an opportunity to travel outside the country. "We have already undertaken online booking for tournaments outside India within the sub-continent and now plan to go international. We have a distinct advantage in this case, since transactions happen in dollars overseas but the cost for us remains in rupees," he adds.
When it started out BMS was focused completely on movies, plays and entertainment. What drove it into new territories?
One reason is that the early mover advantage that the portal had soon wore off. It faces competition not only from other ticketing portals but also from the large multiplex chains such as PVR and Inox which have built their own 'click-and-book' systems. And these chains are pushing sales aggressively through their online portals and mobile applications. For aggregators like BMS, this poses a unique problem as they are competing with the service providers themselves. To an extent, their dilemma is similar to that being faced by many online delivery start-ups who find themselves being pushed out of the market by the grocery retailers themselves.
Of course, in the case of BMS, the market is very different and it still is the leader in the ticketing business. But there is a need to widen its revenue sources to make up for the inevitable slowdown in growth from its mainline business. Also, this is particularly true for the movie business in India where the number of screens is growing at snail's pace. Hence the scope for growth, in terms of number of screens served is also diminishing.
Sports open up a new pathway in the ticketing business and BMS gets an opportunity to engage with the teams and leagues as a partner and not just as an online aggregator. The sports leagues are keen to develop robust e-ticketing platforms and would like to move the bulk of their business online. BMS has the expertise to work with them in this space and the involvement is already beginning to bear results, the company says. Online booking for events like the IPL has gone up since BMS came on board says Balpande. The share of online booking for the IPL team Mumbai Indians has gone up from around 20 per cent to more than 50 per cent in the five years that BMS has been the ticketing partner.
BMS provides services beyond just booking tickets online. "We provide options for delivery - pick up or doorstep delivery. In both cases the customer can track the status of the delivery, very much like when one orders merchandise online. Gate management is another service we provide. You can say we are there to help customers from the time they decide to book a ticket, right up to when they are seated at the venue," says Balpande.
However the business of sports ticketing is fraught with challenges. For one, BMS has to actively work on promoting the non-cricket leagues to increase stadium attendance. It is more than making the tickets available online, BMS has to play the part of marketing and branding partner in such cases.
For cricket too, BMS has to work hard on matches being played among teams other than the star countries. At the same time for popular events, it has to ensure that the customer experience is not marred by site crashes and other glitches. In case of the ongoing T-20 World Cup, the portal introduced a lottery system or what it calls 'queuing' to ensure the site does not face crowding when the tickets open for booking. BMS called for customers to register for the matches - India games and the semis and finals, as part of a lottery. After a week of registrations, the company organised an online lottery, which allowed the winners seat allocation in the games, according to their price preferences. Each registration was eligible for two tickets. This not only made the actual booking lighter on the systems, but also created hype around the matches.
BMS will continue partnering with its business associates - the teams and leagues to market the events, and will use the data collected from its backend for this. In the meantime, it is constantly on the lookout for more sports event to tie up with and expand the scope of online ticketing beyond movies.