History of the Home theater market in India

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The Indian market is slowly waking up to the joys of having a Home theater in the comfort of the house. Status indicator, the sheer pleasure of having world-class entertainment the comfort & convenience of your own home.

India has historically been a movie-crazy society with film stars being accorded larger than life status (and in some southern states, demi-god status). The influence of Movies is noticeable in daily life; with movie dialogues part of most people’s vernacular, and movie tropes instantly recognizable in peoples ongoing discussions and opinions. The Bollywood industry, and its smaller regional counterparts in various states (mainly Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Malayalam, Bhojpuri) churn out more than 2000 movies a year. The majority of the audience expects escapist and feel-good fare, and many people watch every movie that releases in theaters.
However, India is also a cost-conscious market and movie watching has increasingly become an expensive affair with a movie for two in any metro easily adding up to over Rs1000 (along with the tub of popcorn, add the time spent in queues and traffic).

For a discerning viewer, however, Indian theater’s do not offer the best cinematic experience with multiple advertisements (all poorly placed), a forced interval to throw more commercial setting, and an ill-mannered movie audience, all ensuring that the experience (as with so many other things) is a community activity, you’re forced to take in everyone’s opinion and mood without being able to enjoy the subject matter immersively. Until recently (perhaps the turn of the millennium), technology hadn’t advanced sufficiently in the Home Domain for Home Theaters to ever seriously compete with the real Theater experience, however with rapid strides in consumer tech on all fronts (Video/Audio/Acoustics) as well has falling prices with greater volumes, it was just a matter of time before the quality of your experience in a Home Theater would rival and eventually exceed that of a cinema theater.

Another key factor to consider in the Home theater market is the extremely relentless peer-driven social and buying behaviour of Indians. Once a product or a segment becomes even minutely fashionable it then spreads quickly with everyone wanting to replicate the same idea/thing in their lives as well. This leads to an outsized incentive for brands/companies which are able to get popular and reach a minimum network of influence.

For a country where spending is heavily dictated by peer-approval and validation, it took a long time for Home theaters to become a fashionable ‘thing’, through most of the 1990’s and early 21’st century most Indians had only 2 ways to display their affluence, a big house and then a car. To witness the rising GDP in India through the years, all one needed to do was check the porch of an upper middle class family, as Maruti Suzuki changed to Hyundai and Honda and even BMW or Audi!

With an expanding discretionary spend as a result of the country’s relentless economic growth over the last 10-15 years, more Indians have branched into the upper-middle class and wealthy segments, and now are looking for newer ways to flaunt their wealth and reiterate their social standing. Cars and Homes have been the primary means to fulfill the same so far, but recently Home theaters have emerged as an attractive alternative to distinguish oneself! Homeowners don’t shy away from allocating a separate room to house a dedicated Home theater, and with the emergence of Smartphones and fast internet almost anyone is now a Google search away from finding the best brands for all their requirements.