BookMyShow: The Indian Ticketing Disruptor

The company survived the Dot-Com bust and the financial crisis and now refuses to bow down to the ongoing lockdown upheaval.


“We found peace in nature”- A common topic of discussion among people sharing their profound experiences after returning from a backpacking trip in South Africa in 1999, except for one person who “found a business idea”.

Ashish Hemrajani was enjoying peace while sitting under a tree at a beautiful location, listening to the promotion of rugby tickets on a local radio channel, when a business proposition hit his head. Little did he know that it would grow to become one of the most prominent players in the entertainment industry.

The 24-year-old entrepreneur had so much faith in his idea that without a second thought he sent the ‘I quit’ message to his boss to give himself that push of pursuing his idea. Hemrajani returned home with a business model in his head to disrupt the informal ticketing industry with the Indian market as his bull’s eye. Hence, the birth of bookmyshow.com.

Genesis of Ticket-Booking Transformation

Hemrajani soon turned his bedroom into an office space and launched his first internet venture – Bigtree Entertainment Pvt Ltd, the parent company of BookMyShow – in 1999.

He roped in his friends Parikshi Dar who took the technological domain by its reins, and Rajesh Balpande who took over the finances. “The three musketeers” started the company to streamline the ticketing market. BookMyShow was initially branded as ‘Go For Ticketing’. In 2002, the company was renamed ‘India Ticketing’ before ending up with the current name in 2007.

The start-up was focused on making movie ticket booking as simple as possible before diving into selling tickets across every segment in entertainment. They had it all covered from concerts, stand-up shows, open-mic, flea markets, plays, sporting events, and workshops. Planning to visit the planetarium? BookMyShow got your tickets ready in a few clicks! That was the kind of branding the start-up undertook.

Through the website and mobile application (which was launched in 2012), users were easily able to view show timings, read reviews, watch trailers, book tickets and much more.

The company’s unique selling point rested in breaking free from the traditional process of waiting in line and the disappointment of hearing the words “Sold Out” exactly when you were an inch away from the ticket counter. BookMyShow made it possible to reserve a place at an event or a movie for yourself from the comfort of your couch. We will unfold how the company’s offering and motto expanded beyond just booking tickets with ease.

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The start-up was focused on making movie ticket booking as simple as possible before diving into selling tickets across every segment in entertainment.

A Bumper Hit after a “Flop Show”

Every ticket comes at a price! When the trio launched the start-up, selling tickets online was a little too foreign to India. The reasons ranged from low internet penetration and digital transaction/banking services or general lack of awareness of digital mediums for everyday services.

On the other hand, lack of e-ticketing softwares in multiplexes was also a significant concern and added to the start-up’s woes. At one point, they did business by sending people out on bikes to deliver the tickets to customers.

Under such challenges, the business model of the start-up was losing its long term stability and had to be called off. The company had also invested in call centres across 12 cities with around 150 employees.

This was coupled with the bloodbath of Dot-com crash in the US in 2000 which had reached the Indian shores around 2002. As the internet became a bad word, investors began backing out. BooMyShow had to close down offices, except Mumbai and Delhi, with its employee strength coming to mere 6 from 150.

Imagine if the founders had decided to shut down and take up regular jobs. They rather braved the storm and decided to stick along and continue the business. As soon as the waves came down, the founders decided to pick up the pieces and started to invest in building the infrastructure around entertainment first.

The number of multiplexes between 2002 and 2004 were also gradually developing across the country. The founders decided to cloak themselves as “programming arrangement suppliers” that provided computerised tagging programming (e-ticketing software) to multiplexes.

They soon learned that freebies, no matter how good, are not sustainable. So, they began charging for the same. Besides installing these software, the start-up also ran customer care service for the multiplexes amongst others similar offerings.

The Dot-Com crash brought in some positive transformation in the Indian market as well with better internet and visa card facilities.

It took almost five years for the start-up to reap the benefit of this strategy of building up the infrastructure while waiting for the demand to pick up to eventually build a consumer brand on top of that.

Hemrajani learned from the past mistakes and kept pushing forward. Eventually, in 2007, Network 18 made a hefty investment. This was followed by another 5 rounds till 2019 and the start-up managed to raise over $224.5 million.

The Diversification

BookMyShow gradually generated profits and was worth Rs 24.1 crores in 2007. By 2010, the company was the market leader in the online ticketing category. As more and more e-tickets were processed, the profitability kept improving. In July 2012, the company sold a record of 1 lakh tickets in a day and over 2 million tickets in a month.

It was the right time to scale up as the investors lined up. BookMyShow knew that its USP could bring more people to the cinemas and multiplexes, thus, it initiated tie-ups.

In 2013, the company signed a five-year partnership deal with PVR Cinemas, adding 250 new screens to their list.

At the time, 20% of PVR’s ticket sales were generated through its own website. With the tie-up, the multiplex aimed to capture the audience that was not present on the PVR digital platform. Hence the partnership was a perfect marriage. BookMyShow’s analytical ability to target the right content to the right users and marketing initiatives around alternative content was a key point to this partnership.

The company had expanded in over 200 cities by 2014. As investors -SAIF Partners, Accel Partners and Network 18- stepped in, the company upped its targets to expand its reach and continued to develop the infrastructure around. It successfully expanded to global markets like Malaysia and New Zealand and aggressively forged new partnerships, especially in sports like Formula 1, Indian Premier League, Aircel Chennai Open, Super Fight League and Yonex Badminton Championships.

The company did not resort to traditional advertising. They reached out to the masses through digital mediums itself. They knew that’s where their audience lived and breathed.

One-Stop Shop Gateway to Entertainment

During 2016-17, the company went on an acquisition spree. The list included – Local food and restaurant recommendation engine Burrp, HD video-on-demand platform Nfusion, online movie ticketing platform MastiTickets, DIY platform Townscript, social media analytics start-up Eventifier, fan relationship management (FRM) solutions provider Fantain Sports and so on. There was a pattern. BookMyShow has started to move way beyond a hassle-free ticketing platform.

It has expanded its vision to become- one-stop destination for entertainment!

Over the years, BookMyShow has gained the advantage of having a deep insightful understanding of users or the target base of any event organiser. Hence, it was in the best possible position to expand its offering to hosting and managing events to bolster its revenue streams.

Its services started right from designing a microsite and a mobile app for an event to event marketing that includes promotions, social media marketing, database marketing to name a few. In short, they created an end-to-end ticketing solution which allowed event organisers to choose from a host of services – right from online services and exposure, on-ground services to consulting services.

Some of the biggest examples are the annual Supersonic Music Event, the Justin Briber concert, The Global Citizen India Festival, IPL, Sunburn etc.

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Over the years, BookMyShow has gained the advantage of having a deep insightful understanding of users or the target base of any event organiser.

Exclusivity Factor

While booking tickets to events on BookMyShow, there are numerous things one might notice. Right from the banners advertising the upcoming blockbusters to a cafe around the corner hosting an open mic event. BookMyShow provides a wide range of choices to customers.

From a business perspective, organisers receive numerous solutions like generating user interest and hype for the events through BookMyShow. This is in addition to the software solutions that the company provides to cinemas. BookMyShow has exclusive access to Vista ERP APIs used by cinemas and multiplexes. These APIs are integrated with the backend of its app to display the real-time availability of movie tickets.

The company makes money through ticketing revenue and non-ticketing revenue. Ticketing revenue includes internet handling fees and commissions on ticket booking. The company charges a convenience fee on the price of the tickets and retains the difference.

If it is a non-movie event, BookMyShow gets a commission from selling tickets to such events. Non-ticketing revenue refers to money made by promotion of a company’s artwork (not restricted to films and short films) for “interest creation”. The company collaborates with BookMyShow and takes advantage of the massive page views to promote new artists and their offerings.

Consumers like anything which is easy-to-use, not too technical and yet appealing. BookMyShow, since the beginning, has maintained a simple user interface, making it easy to navigate. The events are properly categorised with filter options. Their alliance with various payment gateways is a win-win proposition as users are able to avail discounts, offers and reward points. It also cashes on the advantage of selling tickets in various languages, attracting a wider audience.

BookMyShow, One Platform For Online Bookings

Survival of the ‘Tickets’: Going OTT Way

When the Dot-Com came crashing down in 2002, BookMyShow stood its ground. When investors pulled out and Hemrajani had to switch to offering software solutions, the business did not close down. The company has refused to bow down time and again against every blow that has come their way.

Now they are facing yet another punch – Covid-19 pandemic. The entertainment industry has been hit hard, with many forced or mulling over to bring the shutters down as the lockdown diaries continue.

The financial reports of the company weigh heavy on them. In 2020, BookMyShow reportedly laid off or furloughed 270 employees in view of the pandemic. Even to date, the company has been renegotiating with vendors, partners and landlords and implementing as many cost-saving measures.

Tough times call for ‘creative’ measures. It noticed a shift in user’s consumption habits for entertainment during the lockdown and implemented agile strategies to keep up. They introduced virtual in-home entertainment offerings in India and other global markets. BookMyShow recently started a pay-per-view model. Users will be able to pay for content from the BookMyShowlibrary, offering over 600 movie titles. The service is called BookMyShow Stream.

The platform will now compete with many other players like Apple TV and Google Play for streaming theatrical releases in India, in addition to OTT players like Netflix, Disney Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video.

In April 2020, the company engaged almost four million people with streaming events online and a lot were free. The platform had opened pre-booking for Zack Snyder’s Justice League from March 6 and sold over 31,000 streams in pre-bookings. Within three days of launch it made history in India on the channel. The numbers show crossed over 100,000 streams in just three days.

BookMyShow Stream became the fastest Transactional-Video-On-Demand (TVOD) platform in India to cross 100,000 streams sold within just one and a half month since its launch.

BookMyShow is agile in its approach and response to customer needs and this is one of the greatest reasons why it has made it as a successful player in the industry so far even after numerous knockdowns.

Erica DSouza
Erica DSouza
Erica is an intern with Dutch Uncles, she has worked with digital marketing agencies, financial organisations and start-ups on various creative writing projects. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Media Studies from CHRIST.

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