Netflix (NFLX -0.66%) dreams of getting its next 100 million subscribers from India. The streaming giant has been trying hard to make a dent in that market with a slew of different strategies, and they seem to be working.
The Times of India reported this week that Netflix's regulatory filings in India show eye-popping revenue growth of 700% in that country during the company's fiscal 2019 year, which ended in March. Even though 2019 numbers are up against a fiscal 2018 "year" that only included seven months (due to when the Netflix India business unit was created), that's still impressive growth.
Netflix steps on the gas in India
The streaming video powerhouse generated revenue of 466.7 crore rupees (or $65 million at current exchange rates) in India in fiscal 2019. Its net profit came in at 5.1 crore rupees, or just over $710,000.
These raw numbers may look less than exciting considering that Netflix has generated nearly $19 billion in revenue globally over the past 12 months. But investors shouldn't discount the importance of the company's growth in India given the massive potential of the market.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, revenues in the over-the-top video streaming market in India are anticipated to hit $1.6 billion in 2023, which would require a compound annual growth rate of 21.8% between now and then. The market is currently worth around $600 million, which gives Netflix a more than 10% share of the market, based on the revenues it generated in the last fiscal year.
More importantly, the latest numbers show that Netflix has made remarkable progress in the Indian market. It had generated revenue of just 58 crore rupees ($8 million) in the seven months of its fiscal 2018 year.
So, it would be safe to say that Netflix has managed to make a mark in India despite the premium price of its offering among a crowded field of rivals selling low-priced plans.
What's working for Netflix?
Netflix has stepped up its game on the content front in India. The company has commissioned a host of new local-language films and original series for this market, as Indians reportedly consume 90% of their online content in local languages. This strategy of producing more market-specific content is working, as last fiscal year's revenue growth indicates.
Not surprisingly, the company will continue to produce more India-centric content to win over customers. In April, Netflix announced plans for 10 new original films through collaborations with established Indian filmmakers. By the end of 2020, Netflix plans to bring 15 new Indian films to its platform. According to the company's internal estimates, 70% of Netflix India subscribers watch at least one movie every week. Over the past year, the number of films watched per user every month has gone up by a whopping 50%.
But producing more India-specific content isn't Netflix's sole strategy for boosting its subscriber base there. Earlier this year, Netflix introduced a lower-cost, smartphone-only plan -- a wise competitive move in a market where its regular monthly fees can match the annual fees of its rivals.
The tactic seems to be working. Netflix has reportedly added 300,000 to 400,000 new customers since this plan became available in July. It's estimated that the company had between 1 million and 1.2 million subscribers in India in March.
Of course, Netflix is still miles away from achieving dominance in India, but it can't be denied that the company is making progress. Its production of more India-centric content and its willingness to find ways to compete on price should pave the way for long-term growth in this enormous market.