Although he has the looks of a film star, Prem Parameswaran is no actor, yet he plays a vital role in the Bollywood industry as Group Chief Financial Officer and President of North America, Eros International Plc which is the only Indian media and technology company listed on the New York Stock Exchange ticker symbol EROS.
His role is important for the community too, as anything related to Bollywood affects Indians everywhere. A cursory look at the companyâ€™s profile will reveal its importance.
Established in 1977, Eros is a respected global brand name in the Indian cinema world which focuses on distributing films and other content through various mediums. Itâ€™s relatively new OTT (Over-the-Top Service) platform, Eros Now, has over 75 million registered users globally with over 3.6 million paid subscribers.
People term Eros Now as the â€œNetflixâ€ of India, which owns rights for about10,000 films from Bollywood and regional languages of India spanning several decades. No other company in the world has such a rich and vast Indian content to offer to itâ€™s viewers.
Eros Now is strategically positioned to capture the large digital growth opportunity in India. Today, India has approximately 1 billion cell phone users of which only 250mm have high speed internet, which will triple in the next 5 years. Given the launch of 4G in the country Eros is uniquely positioned to capture the growth given itâ€™s premium content offerings.
Eros has a business model that is not hit driven but focuses on the maximizing the revenue potential as well as de-risking the cost outlay. For example, Eros will make sure that pre-sales/TV syndication will offset approximately 75% of the budget of an average film. It ensures that even the flops at box office become viable for the company due to the different platforms used to distribute them.
Recent big budget movie Sarkar 3 did not do well at the box office, but with the revenue from different platforms, the movie was not a loss for the company. Small budget movies like Tanu Weds Manu 2 brought a windfall amassing approx. $50 million for about $4.5 million budget.
Eros International Plc currently has a market capitalization of approximately $900 million. Some of the companyâ€™s top shareholders include wall street staples like Capital Research, Temasak, Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co, Jupiter, Paradice, Blackrock, JP Morgan to name a few who are looking to be a part of the growth opportunity in India.
As a former Wall Street investment banker for over 23 years Parameswaran had worked at Goldman Sachs, Salomon Brothers, Deutsche Bank and finally Jefferies. He was the Global Head of Telecommunications and Media Investment Banking and had first cultivated a relationship with Eros as itâ€™s banker. The companyâ€™s Chairman, Kishore Lulla, a visionary, convinced Prem to join in the growth opportunity of the Company.
Lulla said there are three main things in India, Religion, Cricket and Bollywood and perhaps not in that order. Parameswaran said it was a fresh move for him after a successful career in the financial sector and an exciting growth opportunity. Additionally, as an Indian American, Parameswaran believed this would be nice a way of integrating his wall street financial acumen with an Indian growth opportunity. Now he aims to make Eros a multi billion dollar company.
Another target is to increase the number of paid subscribers of Eros Now to 100 million. Eros charges lower fees compared to others and also have more rich content than any other Indian OTT platform in the world. A monthly charge of $7.99 will be worth the membership in the US, he noted given the access to the best Bollywood content available.
Parameswaranâ€™s story begins with the arrival of his father Ven Parameswaran in 1954, on a boat with less than $100 in his pocket and an academic scholarship to Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He worked three jobs to make ends meat and received a masterâ€™s degree from Columbia Business School. Later she earned a PhD also. He served as secretary of the legendary Krishna Menon, Defense Minister of India and chairman of Indian Delegation to the UN. He was also president and CEO of First Asian Securities after working with Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and Morgan Stanley.
Later Ven Paramesvaran moved to Wall Street and became the first Indian family to move to Scarsdale, Upstate New York. His wife Priscilla too had come as a student. They are among the earliest political activists from the community in America. Active in the Republican Party, Priscilla founded the New York Asian American Republican Committee three decades ago, which is still very active.
Priscilla has a Ph.D. in English Literature from Fordham University and was associated with IBM Corporate Headquarters, Armonk, New York for 20 years as manager of public affairs. She also worked as a professor.
Prem, their only child, grew up as an American in Scarsdale, mainly because there were no Indian families in the area in early 70s. The parents did not insist him to learn the Indian languages or to become a doctor as is customary with many Indian immigrants. Prem thought of a legal career for some time, but soon moved to finance sector and he feels the choice was the right one.
Though his father is a Brahmin, he was brought up as a Catholic by his mother. He says that he respects all religions and thinks that the core principles of all religions are almost the same. A proud Catholic, he believes that all human beings are equal and creation of the same god.
Proud of the growing status and clout of India in the world, he says India has tremendous potential and people everywhere in the world like to be with company of Indians, who are educated, hard working and smart. Bollywood, Yoga etc are attracting people irrespective of their cultures. What the Jews achieved earlier shows a path for us to follow.
He says he never liked to put down people in the office and elsewhere. â€œWhy should we do that? I only tried to help others. I may not like some people, but that does not mean I will work against them or hate them. Life is what we make of it.â€
Like his parents he is a staunch Republican. Once his elder daughter Trinity, now 12, asked him about the difference between the Republicans and Democrats. He asked her about her grades and another one in the class. She said she has an A while the other person had a â€˜Câ€™. Then he suggested to reduce her grade to B and increase the grade of the other to B to make them equal. She said it was unfair. â€˜Welcome to the Republican Party,â€™ he told her.
Prem had been advising clients in the global telecommunications and media sector for over 23 years including mergers and acquisitions, privatizations, and public and private equity and debt financings.
Throughout his career, he has executed over 300 transactions and played a leading role in selected assignments for AT&T, SBC Communications, Reliance Globalcom, Clearwire, RCN, Vonage, Cbeyond, Paetec, Time Warner Telecom, NuVox, Grande, KPNQwest, US Lec, McLeod USA, Qwest, Global Crossing, NTT, Level 3, Frontier, Sabre, and others.
In addition, he recently advised John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino in their acquisition of the Boston Red Sox.
Prior to investment banking, he played a season of professional ice hockey in Europe.
Prem received an MBA with honors from Columbia Business School and a BA from Columbia University. He sits on the board of the Columbia University Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee and has also established the Prem Parameswaran Family Scholarship at Columbia Business School.
He is also a member of the Board of Directors of KARE Partners, a healthcare and hospital company with operations in US and India. Parameswaran believes in the Warren Buffet theory of value investing and long term growth and for that reason he joined Eros International plc.