In the last two to three years, internet users in rural India have seen strong growth with currently 197 million consumers in the rural market, a 49 percent growth from last year.

And what do they use the internet for? It is mostly used for entertainment, said a report by Internet and Mobile Association of India and research firm IMRB.

In such a situation, the problem of power shortage and no electricity can dampen the growing enthusiasm for online entertainment.

Talking to Moneycontrol, Ali Hussein, COO, Eros Now, said, “It is an  important market because mass entertainment is the premise, If people are ready to pay and watch it in the theatre, then they are also ready to watch content at home at reasonable costs. Hence, it is a potential market.”

And tapping into this market is Eros Now with a partnership with Veriown, an internet energy service provider which has built a device called The Connect.

Explaining the idea for the device, Hussein said Veriown found that in rural areas, people spend a significant amount of money not on food or daily needs but on kerosene to light lamps due to shortage of electricity.

“They decided to build a solar-powered battery which is able to power the LED lights which is used instead of kerosene lamps and because it is solar-powered, it is green and renewable energy. It works on a prepaid card system. The solar power allows you to power the battery for certain time duration. The cost is much lesser than kerosene,” he explained.

The product is powered by four dimmable LED lights, two USB charge ports, 40W+ PV panel and has rechargeable 15aH LiPO4 battery.

While bringing electricity to the villages was the genesis of the product The Connect, the idea to add a screen was to educate farmers about agricultural practices. However, talking to farmers and research suggested otherwise. Feedback from farmers revealed that watching entertainment was the larger need in these places.

This is where Veriown joined hands with Eros Now that is trying to penetrate deeper in the tier III and IV markets. The video streaming platform has over 100 million registered users as of March 31, 2018. And has 15.9 million paid subscribers as of December 31, 2018.

In 2017, the OTT (over the top) player had registered 60 million users and over 2.1 million paid users as of March.

A mobile application will allow users to access The Connect functionality both inside and outside the house or business, using smartphones.

“We have created a launcher on the Veriown device which allows certain amount of content to be delivered through a remote kind of server system which also partially cashes the content on the device itself. So, you don't need high internet connectivity. It is a closed enough server which allows to transfer content easily,” added Hussein.

At present, the project is in its pilot phase. “We are piloting this project in five villages in Uttar Pradesh and there is an order of close to about 10,000 devices from Rajasthan,” said Hussein.

For now, there will be select content available on the Eros Now platform on The Connect device which will be refreshed every month.

While it just a beginning, the two platforms aim to connect 30,000 to 40,000 villages by October 2019.

When availability of content is lacking, it leads to piracy and maybe such solutions could bring down film piracy.

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