Guiding Growth: Ashish Shukla heads Cinépolis expansion

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Ashish Shukla is director of expansion at Cinépolis India. His main tasks are to adapt Cinépolis’ international best practices in cinema operations to the Indian environment and increase the footprint of Cinépolis in India. In his previous role as head of exhibition, he had complete P&L responsibility for the cinema sites. 

Prior to joining Cinépolis, Shulka was head of infrastructure and development at Bharti Retail, a strategic partner with USA retail giant Walmart. During his tenure, heapplied his retail and real estate knowledge to remove infrastructure bottlenecks for the venture and helped its entry into the Indian retail market.

Prior to Bharti, Shulka served as CEO of Indian theatre circuit PVR Cinemas, where he was piloted key initiatives and helped the company achieve a national rollout.

In an e-mail exchange, Shukla discusses the evolution of Cinépolis India and his role in its growth.“Cinépolis is a global multiplex company with 42 years of experience,” he notes, “operating across 13 countries with more than 4,300 screens. 
Globally, we are known to operate large-format cinemas, known as megaplexes. We work very closely with mall developers and international partners to execute these projects. To bring such large formats into India and to make developers believe in the company’s ideology was one of the major challenges in our initial years. But with time and the rollout of a few initial projects, Cinépolis has established a strong brand preference in the industry.”

Shukla says the size of the company’s megaplexes “gives Cinépolis flexibility to operate more shows in a day, giving patrons flexibility to choose movie timing. Our strategic collaboration with global visual technology company RealD supports us in providing immersive and enthralling 3D movie experiences to our patrons across the country. With ten percent more leg-space than any other existing cinema chain, we are proud to provide the best legroom in the industry. With the introduction of the 4DX concept to India, with large screen sizes and 100% digital projection, we take pride in providing amazing customer experiences.”

Shukla is especially excited about the relatively new 4DX experiences. “4DX is a revolutionary technology which combines environmental effects like fog, water and lightning along with the augmented motion of the seats synchronized to the movie on the screen.Initially we only had Hollywood movies which were converted for 4DX screens. With the increase in awareness and excitement of this revolutionary concept, we started to convert and show Bollywood movies for 4DX screens. ABCD 2 was the first Bollywood movie showcased on 4DX screens. In the future, we have plans to open more 4DX screens in India.”

India, Shukla admits, poses special challenges Cinépolis doesn’t always face in other regions. “Multiplex growth in India depends on various partners and developments in the entertainment sector. Slow growth in the real estate industry is one of the major challenges compared to other territories in which Cinépolis operates. Other challenges we face are slow licensing and government approvals to launch a multiplex. Understanding the Indian market and addressing the regional constraints were the major challenges we faced in the initial years of operation.”

But there’s also great potential in India. “India is a developing market for the multiplex industry,” Shukla observes. “We are largely underscreened compared to the developed countries, and this indicates a high growth opportunity for Cinépolis. Among all regions, South India has a high growth potential with successful regional content and enthusiastic movie-watching consumers. In the last four months, Cinépolis has opened three new properties in South India with a total screen count of 24.”

But “Cinépolis has ample opportunity to grow in all territories. Major cities and tier-two locations are very exciting options for the multiplex industry with the increasing disposable income in these markets. Our presence in such places has already cemented this belief in terms of financial performance, making such markets a perfect destination to grow.”

Overall, Shukla is proud of Cinépolis’ impact on the cinema business in India. “We have brought international standards to the country. With the best 3D movie technology, introduction of 4DX to the Indian market and largest legroom in the industry, we provide the best of experiences to our patrons. We also serve freshly prepared gourmet food at our Coffee Tree, which no other chain can boast about.”

Shukla also has high praise for the man at the top of Cinépolis India, Javier Sotomayor.

“Javier was partly responsible for me onboarding the Indian journey. My interaction with him about the organization during my initial days was quite informative and inspiring.

His leadership has guided the company to achieve two pillars, ‘Cinépolisation’ and growth. With his rich experience of establishing Cinépolis in four regions across the globe, we have been able to smoothly imbibe the Cinépolis culture in this country. His fun-loving attitude, self-charged [approach] and culturally adaptive persona are a few attributes which I admire the most. He is also a strong proponent of rigorous planning and strict process adherence, a DNA which we altogether strive for under his leadership. With his focus on work-life balance, he has established good practices to make Cinépolis a great place to work.”