Setting Strategies: Devang Sampat adapts Cinépolis standards to India

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Devang Sampat holds the title of business head, strategy, at Cinépolis India. His main task is adapting the parent company’s international strategies and goals to the Indian market.

Sampat has been directly associated with India’s film exhibition industry for more than a decade, specializing in corporate strategy and planning. He previously served with the multiplex chain Cinemax for ten years. During his time there, he was instrumental in piloting key initiatives in marketing, business development and operations, and his contributions were instrumental in leading the national expansion of the chain.  

“I had worked in a family business environment for more than ten years before joining Cinépolis,” Sampat recounts. “Working for a multinational organization where decisions are based on logic and facts was a cultural shock, but at the same time a much-needed shift. The combination of working in both a family organization and a professional environment gave me an excellent edge to handle the business and provide strategic input.

“Over the course of 42 years, Cinépolis has adopted the best practices in the industry,” he continues. “Implementing them in India was a major task. Understanding the regulations and limitations of a fairly strict Indian policy and finding out solutions in adapting the international standards of Cinépolis to the country was the biggest hurdle in our initial years. The complex multiplex industry and regional challenges made it more difficult as we replicated global Cinépolis practices across India.”

At the same time, Sampat sees a wealth of opportunities in India. “Indians love watching movies, and going to cinemas is the most preferred destination of entertainment outside of the home. India produces more movies annually than any other player, making it the perfect opportunity for Cinépolis to grow in the long term. The multiplex industry is still in a nascent stage compared to other developed countries. India only has eight screens per million people, whereas developed countries such as the USA have 125 screens per million people, indicating a high growth potential for Cinépolis.”

Sampat continues, “While Cinépolis was doing its homework on India, it became clear that the multiplex sector had a great edge for international players to invest in India. As soon as Cinépolis started operations and expanding, existing operators got clear directions to bring up their service standard and the overall industry benefited.”

But Cinépolis has a leg up on the competition, he believes. “Cinépolis is the only international multiplex chain operating in the country. With our years of expertise across the globe, we brought the most advanced technology to the Indian cinema industry. Cinépolis can take the credit for making the cinema industry fully 2K digital by investing in 100% digitization of screens. We also use movie polling to understand patron preference and do programming based on that polling, resulting in higher flexibility for patrons and ultimately increasing attendance.

“We are also the first multiplex chain to launch a loyalty program in the cinema industry. Twenty-three percent of our ticket bookings are done by our Club Cinépolis consumers. So a customer-focused approach started in India, and the industry gave more importance to increasing customer satisfaction at the multiplexes.”

Marketing plays a key role in the Cinépolis strategy. “Over the years, we have established consumers who prefer Cinépolis as their destination to watch movies. We plan multiplex marketing initiatives to cater to the varied needs of Indian consumers. Every year we execute a 3D film festival and a regional film festival, which are targeted to the regional and niche consumer segments. And with the growing penetration of the digital platform, we have been teaming with online partners and increasing our presence on digital platforms to gain more customers.”

Sampat notes that “India is a varied market—we have major successful films from Bollywood and equally established regional content. Consumer preference and behavior with varied financial potential impact the way we strategize. We define pricing and marketing strategies based on regional characteristics but strive to provide the best experience to each consumer across the country and maintain the international standards of Cinépolis Mexico.”

Sampat says he has continuous interaction with his bosses in Mexico. “Specialization is one word that comes to my mind when I think about my interaction with the parent company. Each individual is very professional and focused in their approach and wants to help each other. They have a high level of ownership and expertise in their area and work together to grow the business.”

Cinépolis India managing director Javier Sotomayor also exemplifies those qualities, in Sampat’s view. “I have always heard God is found in the details and Javier Sotomayor is all about that. Even with his hectic schedule, he is always focused on details and giving his guidance to the team. Streamlining the India operations to align with Mexico was smoothly executed under his leadership within a year’s time. His aggressive goal-setting ability helped in acquiring a cinema chain in India, and the same chain is also now following the international standards of Cinépolis.”