The end of Induna and physical film releases in India
Induna, a Kolkata-based e-commerce platform for buying DVDs and home media, announced early Friday morning that it would be shutting shop. The shuttering was announced in an email to the site’s customers, and on the firm’s social media pages. The site will not accept orders beyond March 20, it said.
In the years since its launch in 2007, when e-commerce was starting to find its footing in India, Induna emerged as an aggregator of film DVDs— and later Blu-Ray disks— for film enthusiasts in India, offering shipping everywhere from small towns without extensive film libraries to countries where DVDs were not locally available.
In spite of rampant piracy in the form of physical disks sold by unauthorized vendors, the site continued to operate, serving up everything from big-budget films to more independent films that would be hard to find elsewhere.
The company did not shy away from the reason for its shuttering: streaming on OTT platforms had put more films within reach of more people without having to buy physical disks, and film producers in India are increasingly skipping physical releases altogether.
“With various other new means of consuming cinema, and the cessation of DVD releases by almost all production houses, it had already been unviable to run affair[s] at Induna for a while now, [and] we have now reached that point when we bid goodbye and say thank you to you all for being along with us in this most momentous ride,” the site told users in its farewell email.
In other words, the death of the physical media format for film releases spelled the end for Induna. The site even weathered a 2016 blocking in India, after the producers of the comedy Great Grand Masti reportedly objected to an automated listing on the site announcing that the film’s DVD was ‘coming soon’. (A copy of the film headed to the Central Board of Film Certification’s now-disbanded appellate tribunal was leaked, apparently leading its producers to obtain blocking orders for sites that may not have even hosted a copy of the leaked cut.)
The site’s inactivity long signaled the circumstances it faced. Its last promotional email boasting of new additions to the site’s catalogue was sent in 2018.
The gap is understandable. The average internet speed in India in 2007 was, according to one count, less than 1Mbps. The average speeds today, according to the Speedtest Global Index, are over 37 times faster on mobile networks, which are less than half as fast as wired connections. With low streaming subscription prices and fast internet, the media distribution baton has been firmly passed on to OTT services.
The death of the physical media model for distributing films was, however, not inevitable— the United States still sees physical releases for most large films and some TV series that are produced in the country, as do countries like Japan.
The Japanese home media market is so alive, in fact, that it is the only country where a physical version of S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali is available in Blu-Ray format. In spite of the franchise’s success, it didn’t get a Blu-Ray release in India, settling instead for a DVD release that is largely out of stock on most online marketplaces. A Twitter handle named @isRRRoutOnBlu, meanwhile, is keeping a close watch on whether Mr. Rajamouli’s newest film, RRR, has a high-quality physical release on the horizon. The film has been nominated for an Oscar, but its producers have not yet announced whether it will receive a physical release.
Unlike in Japan and the United States, however, the Indian market for legal physical media releases was already burdened with surging levels of physical piracy. Ernst & Young estimated in 2009 that film piracy was so big in India that it was costing over 8 lakh jobs and $4 billion in lost revenue.
Even Moser Baer, which tried to beat the pirates at their game with legal but affordably priced disk releases of Indian films, failed to gather steam and filed for bankruptcy in 2018. The company’s assets were taken over by Los Angeles-based Vinpower Digital, which announced in 2021 that the brand would be making a comeback— but no more films are coming out under the Moser Baer brand. Its disks are blank.