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Sameer Nair, Abe Thomas and Suresh Menon’s ‘One’ dream

MUMBAI: What is it that links Sameer Nair, a television executive and now Balaji Telefilms group CEO; Abraham ‘Abe’ Thomas, a long-time radio executive and now Radio City CEO; and actor, comedian and TV personality Suresh Menon?

OneThe answer is One Network Entertainment (earlier Comedy One), a multi-platform network of online video content with a focus on the comic genre.

Started four years back as Comedy One, One Network today creates about 300 videos every month. It has collaborated with artists like Sanil Gosavi, David Tauro, Jose Covaco, Malishka, Varun Inamdaar, Santoshi Shetty, Ashwin Mushran and more.

It has web series like ‘Happy Hours’, ‘Aadmi Heera Hai’ (over 6 million views), and ‘Kaun Banega Roadpati’ (over 1 million views) to its credit.

It is also working with a large number of brands like HP, Porsche, Parle, Tata Sky, Videocon, Nivea, Den Snapdeal, etc. to create branded content.

How it all started?

The idea came around four years back when co-founder and MD Suresh Menon was dubbing the popular ‘Kamla Ka Hamla’ and ‘Angry Gneshan’ spoofs for Red FM.

Suresh  Menon“Doing comedy for Red FM, I felt we should have a 24-hour comedy channel and I discussed the same with Abe,” he says. “Sab TV was there at that time, but we knew that the stuff we could create would be the other side of madness and not the family comedy. So we went to Sameer (Nair), who liked the idea immediately and we got together immediately.”

However, the high cost of setting up and operating a channel was prohibitive and the plan to launch a channel was shelved.

“Launching a channel four years back would have cost us about Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) and nobody would be willing to put that kind of money at that time. So we thought online would be a better bet as that is the future,” says Menon.

That is how Menon, Thomas and Nair joined hands as equal partners to launch Comedy One Entertainment. Later, Gaurav Todi, owner of Todi Mills in Mumbai, joined the trio and offered the 3,000 sq ft office space. Todi became the fourth equal partner in the venture.

The growth story

Sameer NairThe company was known as Comedy One until they realised that the net gives the chance to do a lot of other things including daily shows, cookery shows, fashion tips, etc. “Slowly, we started working on those as well and became a multi-channel network (MCN). Accordingly, we changed the name to One Network Entertainment,” Menon explains.

Today, the company curates, creates and aggregates online video content, distributes and monetises it across multiple global platforms.

It now has over 10,000+ short-form videos across various genres including humorous, entertaining, DIY (do it yourself), and educational short-form video content (including content created on current trending topics) across 74 channels on YouTube with cumulative views of 115+ million.

“Today when we look back, we are very happy to see this dream coming true. We are slowly heading towards what we want and the online channel for brands has also become a business vertical,” says Menon.

Abe ThomasThe company has worked with several big brands, which it will continue. He adds that the idea of Comedy One being a comedy YouTube channel is working very well. “We are doing lots of spoofs and I tell them [Sameer & Abe] that ours is a ‘gags-to-riches’ story.”

Total investments and ROI

The three promoters have invested $1 million in the company over the years.

“As of now, we have already put in $1 million in the venture. For a decent episode, with decent actors, known faces and really good talent, you still need around Rs 15 lakh per episode, what I call a really sweet spot,” he says.

Regarding returns on investment, Menon says that One Entertainment has already achieved breakeven last year. “We have broken-even last financial year and are now marching ahead. We hope to see some really good revenue by the end of this financial year,” he says.

In terms of subscribers, he says that the company is seeing its subscriber base growing without even spending any marketing dollars.

He believes that subscription revenue will come on the back of interesting content. “Subscription will come in I believe. It is not that people are not spending. It may not be much, maybe a rupee for a video or Rs 10 a month. But we need to create content,” he adds.

Menon says that initially revenue was slow, but it is multiplying now. “It was slow at first, then we touched half a million dollars. This year, we are going to touch $1 million,” he says.

No funding raising plan

Elated with the response from advertisers and subscribers, Menon and company have decided to postpone fundraising plans.

“We are so gung-ho that we are not even looking at first round of fund raising. It’s just that we want to get to a certain stage before talking to investors,” he said.