Interview with Shruti Jain, Co-founder & Director of OMTV, World’s first Indic Storytelling App

Shruti Jain

An exclusive interview with Shruti Jain, Co-founder & Director of OMTV, World’s first Indic storytelling app

Shruti Jain, who is born and brought up in a city like Mumbai, in a middle-class Marwari family, where educating a girl was still considered very aspirational, Her father, with four daughters, thought of going against the social norms and educating his daughters and making them capable enough to support themselves and be independent if needed.

Growing up, she always used to hear her relatives complaining about how her father was giving her and her sisters unnecessary freedom by allowing them to study in professional courses and pursue higher education and post-graduation.

Her father was a self-made man as he always believed in achieving something in life but without taking undue advantage of people and money. Mr Surender jain always stayed away from luxuries even though he could afford them so that his children could value what they had.

As Shruti grew up in a joint family, they always had more than 3-4 people besides their family members staying with them in the house; they were their relatives who came from various parts of the country to achieve something in the city of dreams, Mumbai and she has seen the struggle and respects family values.

She grew up in a business household and was always eager to join and assist her father in his endeavours. She proudly claims that she has inherited all of her characteristics from her father. In her school/college days she excelled in math and accounting hence She planned to pursue a master’s in business administration .

During her college years, opportunity knocked on her door, and she pursued a BMS (bachelors of management studies) in finance and passed the CFA alpha level from ICFAI. Being from a Marwari family, it was time for her to marry, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to pursue her passion for finance after marriage because Marwari Bahus (daughter-in-laws) were never allowed to leave the house to work and earn.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting OMTV? What motivated you to venture into this unique space?

Shruti Jain: In a religiously inclined nation like India, there is no default destination to satisfy the demand for cultural content. Whether it’s mythology, history, values, or culture, everything remains scattered. Whenever Indians come across such content, they eagerly embrace it.

However, due to modern demands and global exposure, parents often struggle to allocate time for their children’s cultural education. OMTV aims to become the one-stop platform for everything related to Indian indic culture. This way, children can gain insights into our heritage and learn things that might otherwise elude them.

Effective communication plays a crucial role. A child might not be inclined to watch a regular TV show but would likely engage with an animated series. Moral stories will be presented in animation format, catering to children.

For the youth, inspirational tales of historical figures such as Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Swami Vivekananda, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bappa Rawal, Guru Gobind Singh, and others will be showcased. Creating a socially aware society holds the potential to shape a brighter future for our children and our nation.

The decision to establish a platform stemmed from a defining moment. During the pandemic, my grandmother wished to watch the Rath Yatra, an annual event in Puri Jagannath. Due to restrictions, the gathering was smaller, and she hoped to catch it on TV. Despite scouring various satellite channels, we couldn’t find it. Online platforms also came up empty.

After thorough searching, we stumbled upon it on a random DD channel, 256. This experience made me realize that a spiritually and religiously inclined nation like India lacked a central platform for such content.

There was no easy way to find shows like Ramayana, Mahabharata, or Vikram Vetal, and older productions were similarly scattered across the internet. My own struggle indicated a larger problem – many others were likely facing difficulties accessing this content.

This moment of realization led to a discussion with Nitin, who agreed that it was a unique and untapped idea.

Notably, the consumption of religious content in India surged during the pandemic. Recognizing this as a fertile space, we saw limitless possibilities, which eventually birthed OMTV.

The concept of an Indic storytelling app is quite innovative. How did you identify the need for such a platform, and what challenges did you face during the initial stages of OMTV’s development?

Shruti Jain: India wasn’t discovered when Vasco da Gama arrived; it boasts an unbroken civilization spanning 5000 years. The West discovered India during imperialism, causing a loss of our cherished heritage and glory. Life operates in cycles, and we’re destined to regain our status as the “Golden Bird” and the world’s leading economy.

The question is how long it will take to achieve that. We are familiar with the metaphorical “Golden Bird,” but restoring our pride and glory requires significant effort. Positive developments are underway, such as the restoration of Gurukuls and temples, constitutional changes, and academic improvements. Yet, this progress largely neglects the content space, especially long-format storytelling.

Numerous influencers and YouTube channels touch on Indic pride, but consider this: can you name a platform that offers comprehensive Indic content that imparts knowledge and instills a sense of pride? Storytelling is the most effective medium to convey thoughts or messages. When knowledge is conveyed engagingly, it leaves a lasting impact.

Many might not have read the Ramayana, yet they remember the televised Ramayan series. With the aim of disseminating knowledge and instilling pride, we envisioned a dedicated platform encompassing all aspects of India’s storytelling heritage. This led to the creation of the world’s first Indic storytelling app.

During the initial stages of development, we garnered significant support for the idea, but sadly, financial backing was scarce. While numerous like-minded organizations offered emotional support, running this venture requires a monetary aspect.

This isn’t solely a devotional or religious app where payments are made for rituals. The concept resonated with everyone, yet the expected business ecosystem support was absent. Consequently, we carved out our own niche and began the journey of fundraising. Gradually, we’ve started monetizing the app as well. It’s a long journey, and we’re just at the outset.

Could you share some insights into the content selection process for OMTV? How do you ensure a diverse range of stories that cater to different tastes and interests within Indic culture?

Shruti Jain: Our guiding principle at OMTV is encapsulated in our tagline, “gyan bhi garv bhi,” which means that knowledge and pride go hand in hand. This philosophy underpins every aspect of our content strategy, be it content selection, social media posts, or creative outputs.

We firmly believe that a sense of pride (garv) stems from a foundation of knowledge (gyan). Therefore, our primary focus is on educating our audience.

In our pursuit of content selection, we apply this principle rigorously. Whether it’s our thought-provoking Gita stories, engaging Chair or Puppet stories, or even series like Kakori Kand and Vayoo, we examine whether the content embodies both gyan and garv.

It’s important to note that the range of subjects on OMTV is vast, spanning from modern to ancient, documentaries to podcasts. What ties them together is the inherent message of gyan and garv rooted in the Indic heritage. When this message is seamlessly integrated into the entertainment value of our content, the result is not only enlightening but also inherently pride-inducing.

Our particular focus on youth and children arises from the observation that these demographics are, at times, becoming disconnected from our cultural roots. We recognize that this disconnect isn’t their doing, but often a consequence of influences from parents, the education system, and the media.

To address this, we’ve taken up the responsibility of presenting our culture in an aspirational light, much like globally beloved franchises such as Harry Potter and the Avengers. Just as these franchises offer content with utility that resonates with aspirations, OMTV endeavors to do the same.

We cater to a broad audience, ranging from kids to the elderly, by offering an array of content, including puppet stories, animation, web series, classic shows, films, bhajans, and music, all of which uphold the essence of Indic pride.

In essence, OMTV’s mission is to bridge the gap between knowledge and pride, by curating and creating content that educates while instilling a sense of cultural pride. This approach ensures a diverse and engaged audience, all united by their appreciation for the wisdom and heritage of the Indic land.

OMTV has gained significant attention for promoting and preserving Indic languages and cultural heritage. How do you envision the impact of your platform on language revitalization and cultural awareness?

Shruti Jain: Our aspiration is to become the voice of India, a genuine embodiment of Indic values and culture—akin to the Google Doodle showcasing Indic culture. To achieve this, we must remain faithful to the quintessence of India, which lies in its unity amidst diversity.

India stands as perhaps the most diverse nation globally, with an array of cultures, religions, and languages. Yet, the remarkable feat of binding this diversity into a cohesive thread underscores the greatness of India.

Capturing the pulse of India necessitates the vital role of language. Consequently, our goal is to be accessible in as many languages as possible. Thanks to AI technology, this aspiration is now more attainable.

Although this is a work in progress, we actively practice what we preach. For instance, in our show “The Chair,” participants are encouraged to speak in their native languages, fostering a sense of pride. Currently available in Marathi, Hindi, English, and Kannada, we are in the process of dubbing it in all Indian languages. The aim is to transform language from a barrier into an enabler.

We are equally committed to restoring Sanskrit as a language of communication. Given its aptitude for machine learning, where each word holds a single meaning, why hesitate to embrace it? Just as Hebrew was revived with the concerted effort of ten individuals, why not restore Sanskrit—a language intrinsic to this land and one of the world’s oldest?

Our show “Learn Sanskrit” provides our audience with an opportunity to learn and subsequently implement the language. Sanskrit should evolve into a shared language of communication across India, devoid of disputes.

Historically, people traversing from south to north or east to west communicated in Sanskrit. Somewhere along the way, we lost this sense of pride, and it’s our duty to address and restore it.

Sanskrit isn’t merely a language; it’s a cultural identity. Popularizing its usage will undoubtedly contribute to genuine cultural restoration.

Technology and digital platforms are evolving rapidly. How does OMTV leverage these advancements to deliver a seamless and engaging user experience to its audience?

Shruti Jain: Absolutely, we are deeply rooted in technology. In fact, we refer to ourselves as a media tech company rather than a mere OTT or entertainment platform. This choice stems from our belief that technology is the conduit through which we communicate our ideas to the audience effectively.

Allow me to provide an example: we’re actively working on numerous technological innovations that set us apart from competitors. Our primary focus is on efficiently conveying our ideas to end-users. For instance, we’re developing an AI-based avatar of Krishna, which will be launched soon.

By consolidating the available text on the Gita and Lord Krishna into one accessible place, users can pose questions about various life issues—be it fear, relationship struggles, health, or any other concern. The AI avatar of Krishna will provide answers rooted in these teachings.

Furthermore, our vision extends to AR, VR, and the evolving metaverse, all contributing to an immersive experience of the divine for the audience. The concept of “darshan” holds immense significance in India, where we often rely on physical presence to perceive the deity.

Could technology recreate this experience for those who cannot travel extensively, whether due to distance or other constraints, such as the recent impact of COVID-19? This exemplifies the breadth of our technological endeavors.

We’re actively pursuing a range of innovations, maintaining alignment with the latest advancements in technology. At present, we boast a robust platform accessible via iOS, Android, web browsers, and Android TV.

By covering multiple ecosystems, we ensure easy access for our audience, facilitating engagement on the go. Our commitment lies in leveraging technology to its fullest potential, offering our audience a captivating and seamless experience.

Building a successful startup requires collaboration and a strong team. Could you tell us about your team’s role in shaping OMTV and driving its growth in the competitive digital content market?

Shruti Jain: Rome wasn’t constructed overnight, and similarly, we’re in the early stages of crafting OMTV with immense team effort. Our backbone, Nitin Jai Shula, is the founder who acts as our central figure, around whom we all orbit like planets revolving around the sun.

Nitin boasts 15+ years of experience producing shows in history and mythology genres, infusing his visionary impact on society. His youthful approach harmonizing with historic content yields a magical formula.

As the co-founder, I oversee the company’s execution and operations. With a decade of business branding experience, I engage in operations spanning from finance to legal matters, essentially being the company’s backbone.

Shweta Misra, our Programming Head, contributes significantly. She’s pivotal in curating content to fulfill our vision, working directly with the creative team to craft show narratives. A National Award-winning writer herself, she enriches our content space.

The technological facet, handled by Deepak Joshi, the CEO of Phando Technology and our CTO, is paramount. He spearheads tech discussions, recently joining to execute our tech vision. We recognize that audiences grant us mere seconds to engage through our app’s UI and UX. All tech innovations are his responsibility, which he handles adeptly.

Parinda Singh advises us on brand strategy and marketing. An ex-employee of Zee TV and Star India, she’s been part of significant media launches in India. She comprehends the brand and provides a contemporary perspective, grounding her insights in data points, which helps us understand positioning and competition deeply.

A new addition to our leadership is Eika Banerjee, an ex-CEO of Future Group. She hails from a banking background, but her spiritual inclinations led her to embark on a cultural journey with Ekam Foundation dedicated to Indian heritage.

She oversees growth strategy, ensuring effective and impactful expansion. With her extensive experience and diverse interests, we anticipate reaching new heights.

Guided by a team so well-placed in the digital medium, we’re confident that this ship will navigate far and effectively.

Marketing and reaching the target audience are crucial for any digital platform. What strategies have you employed to spread awareness and encourage users to explore the diverse content on OMTV?

Shruti Jain: Absolutely, the digital revolution has reshaped our world, and particularly post-pandemic, digital dominance is indisputable. TV advertisers are shifting their focus to digital avenues, as digital presence has become a necessity.

Virtually no profession remains untouched by digital promotions. There are various strategies to adopt, and while we’ve certainly experimented, we’ve come to recognize the value of working with experts. The foremost expert is Google.

For our marketing and audience reach, we’ve partnered with Google due to their extensive data insights. Google AdWords and the Google Marketing team collaborate closely with us, ensuring effective audience outreach.

Moreover, we’re actively present on various social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and short video apps. In today’s landscape, it’s essential to be omnipresent across media platforms, reaching audiences wherever they are.

As previously mentioned, we hold data in high regard, given our data-driven background. Consequently, we conduct numerous market surveys and dipstick analyses, continuously testing and refining our strategies.

Recently, we conducted a survey centered on youth engagement with spiritual content, identifying key areas of viewership and consumption patterns.

While significant work remains, influencer marketing is on our radar. With our flagship show, we intend to delve into all aspects of digital presence, anticipating a substantial impact on audience engagement. The influencer economy is evolving rapidly.

It has shifted its focus toward the inclusion of the right individuals who hold influence over specific target audiences. This brings an element of trust and credibility, fostering a deeper connection with followers.

Traditional brand ambassadors are becoming outdated, as macro and micro influencers have surged to prominence.

In the dynamic realm of digital marketing, we’re attuned to these developments and are committed to maximizing our digital presence’s effectiveness.

OMTV’s impact goes beyond entertainment, touching on education and cultural preservation. Could you elaborate on how OMTV contributes to these areas and its potential to influence positive change?

Shruti Jain: Absolutely, the impact resonates deeply within society, and our guiding philosophy was grounded in the concept of giving back to our community. The fundamental premise is that when each individual contributes their unique expertise, society as a whole prospers.

A well-known adage states that you are what you consume – whether in terms of food, thoughts, discussions, content, or environment. In today’s world, with increased awareness about this principle, we’ve launched the hashtag campaign #1ghantaomtv.

It underscores that whatever content your child watches on OMTV should offer knowledge and pride in their culture, imbuing them with our values and traditions.

Innovation and dominance aren’t solely about territory; they’re intertwined with culture. We fiercely safeguard our cultural identity, creating boundaries to preserve our traditions. Our culture has, at times, even sparked wars. India’s most precious asset is its culture.

According to a UNESCO report, out of the 49 civilizations that once existed, only one remains – Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism). The others have either vanished or transformed into modern religions devoid of the rich civilization aspect.

OMTV’s impact lies in nurturing this civilization, this unbroken tradition. By sharing stories rooted in our cultural heritage, we deepen our understanding of our culture, fostering a positive societal impact.

Our content propagates a way of life. Jainism teaches non-violence, Sikhism promotes selfless service, and Buddhism embodies compassion. These lessons need to be conveyed. For instance, the life and teachings of Lord Mahavir, a cornerstone of Jainism, have yet to be thoroughly explored in content.

We’re working on a series dedicated to his life and teachings. Imagine the profound impact when the teachings and life journey of Lord Mahavir reach screens. Through the power of media, this content will reach children and corners of India and the world, fostering a positive change.

The impact of our efforts extends beyond entertainment – it’s about revitalizing our cultural ethos and promoting values that shape a better society.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of content streaming platforms, what do you believe sets OMTV apart and positions it as a leader in the digital storytelling arena?

Shruti Jain: Absolutely, when surveying the OTT segment, one can’t help but notice the dominance of larger players, delivering a specific type of content. Drama series, crime stories, explicit content, action, and romance often take center stage.

This content is prevalent, but OMTV stands out as an OTT platform that offers clean, family-friendly content, devoid of the need for parental guidance. Unlike certain platforms where content isn’t suitable for family viewing, we maintain a different ethos.

A troubling trend is the glorification of villains and dark characters in various series, making them aspirational figures. This can inadvertently influence the youth to emulate these negative traits.

Wrongdoing becomes glamourized, which is concerning. OMTV addresses this by presenting aspiration stories of heroes and individuals who’ve contributed to the cultural fabric of the country. We highlight ancient knowledge and wisdom, constructing narratives around them to convey the right message to kids and young adults.

While the allure of sensational and explicit content can yield instant attention, that doesn’t define India. Our culture is inherently rich, and we’re committed to reflecting that through our content. A unique shop might not gain instant popularity like a fast-food chain, but people recognize what’s beneficial for them in the long run.

Similarly, with content, good habits might take time to resonate, but their lasting impact on society is significant.

Currently, we invest substantial time scrolling through content choices, valuing our time and avoiding wastage. Imagine accessing OMTV, knowing that no matter what you watch, your time won’t be wasted.

The Western narrative has dominated the content space, but as we’ve risen to leadership in other fields, we’ll stake our claim in the content arena as well.

We rank fifth in the economy, wielding considerable influence. In the media tech space, there’s room for an Indian story, limitless in scope, with international audiences soon embracing Indian content.

Shifting our mindset away from colonial paradigms, we must liberate ourselves to truly become “Vishwaguru” (world teacher).

This journey represents an amalgamation of East and West. Interestingly, Indians living abroad often demonstrate stronger cultural ties than those in India and significantly contribute financially. As this revolution permeates India, OMTV’s position as a market leader in the media business will be well-established.

What is your success tips for women entrepreneurs?

Shruti Jain: While I believe I still have much to learn on my journey and to truly earn the title of a successful entrepreneur, I can share insights based on my experiences in entrepreneurship. My foremost advice is to be authentic and true to your pursuits.

Women possess incredible power; we are the embodiment of “shakti” (energy). When this energy is harnessed and directed purposefully, success becomes inevitable. The universe operates on the principles of energy, cause, and effect, and I firmly believe that women have the potential to transform and shape everything.

We can build our homes, organizations, workplaces, countries, and the world at large. The key lies in channelling our inherent energy correctly; when aligned with our goals, it becomes transformative.

This is a promising era for women entrepreneurs in India, as the government offers various schemes and support mechanisms. Leveraging these opportunities can provide significant advantages. Furthermore, as women, it’s essential to support one another in any way possible.

In my organization, 70% of our top leadership positions are held by women, and our workforce is balanced at 50% women.

I’m available on my social media and via email, open to connecting and having discussions over a cup of tea (as I don’t drink coffee). Signing off with “Om Namah Shivaya.”

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