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In Conversation with Dr Shriram Nene, Founder Of Dance With Madhuri

Along with his better half, Madhuri Dixit, they created RnM Moving Pictures which is a platform-agnostic, digital media and content creation company, with the goal of creating a global village for culture where everyone comes together to celebrate life. It runs an online dance learning initiative with the brand name “Dance with Madhuri” (“DWM”). It is the world’s first celebrity backed online, gamified dance initiative that allows you to learn in a fun and social manner.

1. Brief us about your business model like how did the idea come to start and how does it work (step by step procedure)? 

We envisioned a program which would allow people to learn from the masters and pursue their dreams, in a fun and social way. Ultimately, it could create career opportunities and give them alternate skill sets. The user engages with the academy by enrolling online. They are asked about their specific interest, level and amount of experience. From there, we have a set of courses, which are created in-house and teach 35 disciplines of dance encompassing 250 hours of content. The user also creates a profile, follows other users, and is followed. The idea is to create a community and make this a movement by socializing and gamifying it.

Initially, it was offered for free with a sponsorship and advertising business model.  Subsequently, the program was monetised through subscriptions on our main portals, and apps and on DTH. Additionally, we carried the content across 4 DTH carriers as joint venture, VOD(video on demand) channels. Finally, we closed the loop by offering on-ground classes in schools all over India with choreographers and students who had been discovered and learned on the platform. 

It became self-sustaining, profitable and ebidta positive in 2016, three years into its run. However, the profits were reinvested for growth.  The user base and subscriptions have been steadily increasing and represent 50% of users from India and 50% outside India.   This took a dramatic jump from March of 2020 onward.

RnM Moving Pictures is a company started by Madhuri Dixit Nene and Dr. Shriram Nene, with the goal of creating a global village for culture where everyone comes together to celebrate life. It runs an online dance learning initiative with the brand name “Dance with Madhuri” (“DWM”). It is the world’s first celebrity backed online, gamified dance initiative that allows you to learn in a fun and social manner.

2. What are the unique key points of your company/academy?

Brand, Content and Construct

  • The brand, Dance with Madhuri, is a domain authority in the field and gives huge opportunity to learn and be discovered in this genre and others.
  • The content and classes are carefully curated and created by the best teams owing to the founders 30 years of experience in film and dance.
  • The construct has the ability to carry the product to 1million concurrent users per second as well as over 4 of India’s largest DTH’s with 100million user reach, and in school, and events throughout India.

3. How are you different from the existing competitors?

We were one of the world’s first celebrity backed, ed-tech platforms for creative arts learning. From ideation to execution, the platform’s vision was to democratize learning and allow everyone to learn anytime, anywhere with the masters in a fun and social way. As one of the first innovators in this area, we have a significant amount of experience in product development.  Our main brand is present in 206 out of 209 countries, globally with users coming on a daily basis.  We are constantly exploring how to make the experience better.

The platform today offers more than 30+ global styles of dance which rarely other platforms offer, we also have the best masters and choreographers personally training you on 1-1 basis. It has a combination of real time and recorded classes for users’ convenience and can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. There is also a two way mechanism for users to interact with trainers and participate in the evaluation process to get certified eventually.

Dance with Madhuri is a true global platform started from India and is now present in more than 200 countries. It is also available across biggest DTH players like Tata Sky, Dish, D2H and Airtel.

4. What is the funding status and monetization model?

The “Dance with Madhuri,” platform was privately funded and has been profitable and ebidta positive since 2016.  The founders have continued to reinvest and grow market share by innovating in edutech.  As we see a scalable model working, they are actively having discussions with strategic investors to find synergies.

Today the Business Model is spread across Content Syndication and Licensing, Online Subscription for recorded and live classes, Advertising/Sponsorships, On-ground training (Schools/Colleges/ Corporates/Weddings) and lastly Train The Trainer(T3) programs

5. What challenges are you facing in running your business?

 We see challenges as opportunities.  The initial challenge we faced in India was with low bandwidth and high cost per gb in delivering video via mobile.  Our international business grew very quickly as it did not have these restrictions.  We innovated and incorporated bandwidth responsive scalable streaming algorithms to give the user the best experience.

6. How has been the people’s response so far?

The response has been amazing, and we are humbled by it.  We did not know if we could teach a physical skill online, but it is clear from the user uploads of content and the comments, that the users are really enjoying the products. 

As stated, the company has been thriving and self-sufficient with free cash flow since 2016.  More recently, we have experienced some tailwinds from the pandemic with a 5x growth on the digital side. Dance With Madhuri has subscribers in over 200 countries, worldwide.

7. What are the traction details (like users, app downloads & other achievements of the company)?

At present we have more than 2.5 million users across the globe. More than 12 million minutes of content has been watched across platforms. There have been more than 1.5 lakh app installations and Dance With Madhuri available on all major DTH players like Tata Sky, Dish, D2H and Airtel. 

8. How do you look at expansion?

We are looking at both vertical and horizontal expansion. With vertical expansion we will be looking at introducing real time and interactive live classes, long term certification courses and we are also looking at doing strategic tie-ups with partners in markets like the US, Middle East and of course India to market the platform.

We are also looking at Horizontal expansion to adjacent domains like Music, Acting, Film Making, Speech & Drama, Gourmet Cooking, Sports, Health & Lifestyle.

We are still in the planning phase with the Horizontal vertical, but we are moving quite rapidly in that direction.

9. What are your marketing plans?

Our marketing efforts are currently focused at increasing the user base and subs, with key focus on the India & US markets. We are also exploring looking at a possible association with communities both online and offline across the world.

We are looking at creating unique digital experiences/ IPs and using them as a marketing engine to attract new subscribers and engage with existing subscribers via contests, free content giveaways etc. Example – 2020 Garba Experience (an online Garba contest), Celebrating Dance Heritage (focusing on Indian dance forms) etc

10. What has been the biggest learning so far?

 We were not sure if we could teach a physical skill online.  The “aha” moment came when people started to learn and upload their performances onto the platform, confirming the methods, brand and product.

The biggest learning has been to see the manner in which users are successfully learning different dance forms through an online medium which was limited to physical schools earlier. There is a clear sign of increase in interest from dance enthusiasts all over the world willing to take creative learning, seriously.

11. What is the market size and opportunity?

Internet Users in India             700 mn
Users with Active Internet Usage       350 mn
Households with Active Internet Usage 160 mn
Assuming 5% are interested   8  mn

Market Size @ 15 USD/User         

USD 120 mn
No of Indian staying Overseas 18  mn
Assuming 10% are interested 1.8  mn
Market Size @ 60 USD/User USD 108 mn

So Total Market size is approx USD 200 to 225 mn

Along with the growing market size, the opportunity for DWM is very clear with increasing interest from users all over the world to learn dance online breaking the traditional stereotypes. We are not only going wide & focussing on making the mainstream Indian/Western dance forms accessible for everyone to learn but also going deep to our roots to popularize traditional folk dance forms like Chhau, Garba, etc. 

Source: Business World

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