The representation of the entertainment business in Fortune India’s Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Business list has gone up this year, with as many as five women making it to the prestigious list. Actor-producers Anushka Sharma and Priyanka Chopra Jonas make it to the 2020 list, with Chopra Jonas making her debut on it.
Chopra Jonas apart, two others make their debut – Monika Shergill of Netflix, and Aparna Purohit of Amazon Prime Video, demonstrating the importance of over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms in the fast-changing world of entertainment. Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Telefilms, a regular on the MPW over the years, is the highest-ranked entertainment sector lister, at No. 32, followed by Anushka Sharma at No. 36, Priyanka Chopra Jonas at No. 37, Monika Shergill at No. 47 and Aparna Purohit at No. 48. Sharma debuted on the list in 2018.
Sharma and Chopra Jonas, apart from being well-known superstars, are also known for their business acumen. Sharma is co-founder of her content production company Clean Slate Filmz, which has had a very good year on the OTT platform recently, by way of two mega releases, Paatal Lok (Amazon Prime Video) and Bulbbul (Netflix), both of which also received critical acclaim. Having featured in several top-grossing films, Sharma is among the highest paid female actors. She has channelled that success into creating her own production house. Since the beginning, her production company has pushed the envelope with its genres. Its 2015 film NH10, a dark thriller, garnered critical success though it took time to gather momentum commercially. Sharma’s learning was that the audience for such content—which is not standard Bollywood fare—exists more prominently on OTT platforms. They attract a younger demographic which is more exposed to international and diverse content and hence would be more open to stories that are innovative and cutting-edge.
Chopra Jonas, one of the most recognisable Indian faces in the global entertainment world, is also founder of Purple Pebble Pictures and an investor in the popular women-friendly dating app Bumble. Apart from building her substantial portfolio as an actor (she will soon be seen on Netflix in the adaptation of the Man Booker Prize-winning book The White Tiger), Chopra Jonas has shown herself to be an astute businesswoman. To a large extent, this is because of her ability to understand the zeitgeist. Take her investment in Bumble in 2018. At the time, that market was led by Tinder, but she believed Bumble had that differentiator that could make it a market leader: choice. Unlike most other apps, the women on Bumble get to make the first move.
This was a game changer globally, and especially in India. Within a year of its launch in India (in December 2018), it registered over 2 million users. That number has only grown. Her other investments include U.S.-based Holberton School, a project-based alternative to college for coders and software engineers. Back in 2015, Chopra Jonas had also realised the growing demand for small-budget films with a focus on storytelling and launched her production house.
Shergill is vice president, content at Netflix India. The streaming service has built a massive presence and reputation for itself since its launch in India in 2016. Estimates put Netflix’s base in India between 1 million and 2 million. Even before the pandemic, the OTT giant had energised the Indian film industry, bringing to the forefront voices that would otherwise have been lost in the melee of Bollywood’s skewed theatrical distribution system.
With shows such as She and Masaba Masaba, to the little science fiction gem, Cargo, Netflix has carefully positioned itself as the young educated urban Indian’s go-to entertainment option. The streaming service clearly sees India as integral to its plans. Earlier, it had announced that through 2019 and 2020, it will invest at least ₹3,000 crore on content creation in the country. Apart from scripted shows, Shergill is also betting big on unscripted content, and documentaries.
Purohit is head of India Originals at Amazon Prime Video and has over 15 years in the Hindi film industry, including stints with Sony Entertainment Television, UTV Motion Pictures, and Reliance Entertainment. Today, she has established herself as one of the most influential names in the OTT space.
As the head of India Originals at Amazon Prime Video since 2016, she has developed and launched successful Indian original shows, including International Emmy-nominated Inside Edge, Four More Shots Please!, Made in Heaven, and The Remix. Since the time Amazon Prime Video launched in India in December 2016, the platform has built a diverse catalogue of Indian content and managed to gain 20% market share in March-June 2020, according to streaming guide JustWatch.