In an era when technology is changing every other minute, Famous Studios has been a name that has stood strong and successful through it all. Established in 1946 by Jagmohan Roongta, Famous Studios is now in the able hands of his grandson, Anant Roongta.
Anant completed his ISC from The Cathedral & John Connon School, then went to the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, for a BA in Marketing and Finance, and then to Aston University for an MSc in International Business. After returning to India in 2008, he worked at Famous Studios for about five years. But deep down, he wanted to do something more challenging. This led to him founding Fanatic Sports, a sports tourism company, with his cousin, Raghav Gupta. Also, his passion for the aviation industry led him to working with GVK for a year, where he took care of non-aeronautical revenues, especially advertising.
After learning the dynamics of the Indian business world at Fanatic Sports and GVK, Anant finally decided to return to Famous Studios in 2017, bringing fresh energy and perspective to the family business.
Reminiscing Famous’ growth years, Anant says, “I was about four years old when my father, Arunkumar Roongta, quit his steel business to join my grandfather at Famous Studios. I have seen my father struggle and build the entire post-production business and then create an excellent ecosystem for the advertising industry. Back then, there were seven-eight big producers, including White Light and Equinox, which grew in size and stature, along with dad. He supplied them technology and they brought clients. It was a great relationship, and that is when we saw Famous Studios pick up steam.”
He recalls when the popular song ‘Koi Kahe’ from Dil Chahta Hai was shot here. An entire nightclub set was created and “the three champion actors”, as he terms them, would be walking up and down the driveway, laughing, talking and having a great time
Making Famous famous
In November 2017, Famous Studios joined hand with FoxyMoron, one of India’s pioneering organised digital agencies founded by Suveer Bajaj and Pratik Gupta, for the creation of a digital content lab. Speaking about the association, Anant says, “After returning to Famous Studios, I called Suveer, who is a close friend, and he told me that there was a huge demand for brands looking to churn out digital films at breakneck speed. I suggested that it would be a great idea to collaborate and create a zone where they could shoot using the studio’s facilities— our cameras and the entire production and post-production workflow—and then give them the advantage of delivering content back to the brands much faster than anybody else. That is how it all started. We have worked together on a couple of projects and are pitching for jobs to brands, as we speak. We are also planning on co-producing content together, which would eventually lead to a different business of Intellectual Property. It’s still early days, as collaborations take time to flourish. But it’s heading in the right direction.”
What makes Famous Studios stand out amid the fierce competition is how up-to-date they are with the latest technologies and equipment. Anant says, “It’s our philosophy to invest in the best equipment, so that it’s ready for the client to use. At our creative facility in Santacruz, Mumbai, where we have our post-production facility, everything is Version 19 or 20. If a new version is out, we have it. For example, today, players such as Netflix and Amazon want 4K content, and thus want studios to invest in 4K technology, so that the final delivery happens in this format. We have recently invested in it and upgraded our entire system, which allows us to produce content and deliver it real-time in 4K.”
Famous Studios and Autodesk, an American multinational software corporation, have a credible association too. Anant shares, “We go back 20+ years. We were their launch customer, in a way. We share a very special relationship with their Canada-based head of Media Entertainment wing. As of now, 75 per cent of our technology is supported by Autodesk, whether it’s hardware, software, or training. Year-on-year, they have delivered good products to us, enabling us to create content of that stature and deliver it to our clients.”
Anant’s better half
Anant is an avid sportsperson, guitar player, loving husband to his lovely wife, Neha, and a doting father to their beautiful kids, Anika and Krishiv. Neha Roongta, nee Goenka, is a jewellery designer and connoisseur. The Goenkas originally hail from Laxmangarh in Rajasthan. However, she grew up in Hong Kong and completed her junior school there, following which, she went to a boarding school in Mussoorie. She then went back to Hong Kong for her high school and then to the US for her Majors in International Business from the University of San Francisco and Minors in Computer Science and Economics from UC Berkeley. Of course, all this was very different from the world of jewellery and designing, her love for which was kindled when her father, Sohan Goenka, pushed her to pursue gemology from the Gemological Institute of America.
Today, Neha has an exclusive store called Neha Roongta Fine Jewellery in the Famous Studios building itself. Talking about her inspiration, she says, “Inspiration is something that triggers randomly. If you see something and it inspires you, you then want to design something around it. It could even be something as small as a pretty butterfly and you would then want to create something around it.”
Speaking about his future plans, Anant says, “First, we want to increase our reach by producing more content for brands. We want to increase the scale of our visual effects business and set up a new team that will focus only on feature film content and then web series. Currently, you have about eight-nine top-of-the-line production houses that are appointed by Jio or Netflix or Amazon to produce content. They are given mandates by them to produce content for the next five years. So, when you produce ten episodes of 40 minutes each, you need someone to process that work in post-production. We want to take up work from there too and are rebuilding a team, accordingly. In terms of new business, we want to invest in different types of content. It will be coproduced by Famous Studios, so that we can retain a percentage of the Intellectual Property. In some cases, we will invest in the entire project. Building an Intellectual Property and owning content is the next big thing and everybody is following the same path.”
Anant continues, “The second thing is to slowly invest in setting up media and tech labs to open different avenues for different businesses in enterprise solutions such as augmented, mixed reality, virtual reality, AI and Blockchain. Planning this will take six-seven months, as it’s a different ball game and a separate business altogether.”
Famous Studios has come a long way since its inception in the 1940s to keep pace with both competition and the fast evolving world of entertainment. As for the future, thanks to Anant’s business acumen and future outlook, the house seems all geared to retain (and further grow) the iconic status that has kept it famous for seven decades.