India startup aspires to be Goodreads for movies

Rinema is a Mumbai-based web startup that is an online medium catering to niche cinema fans across the globe. It helps users manage and discover movies and interact with other movie buffs socially.
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

"I am die-hard movie buff. Always wanted to do something related to movies. Also, have been a Goodreads user since their early days, and every time I logged on to Goodreads, I couldn't help but wish something as good existed for movies. But, never found anything," said the Grishma Udani, founder and CEO of Rinema. This is what prompted her to build her first product startup, something exclusively built for the movie industry.

According to Grishma, it's all about movies. As its tagline "Your Movies & The Next!" suggests, it helps everyone keep track of what movies they watch and discover new ones that they would want to watch. You may say this is something integrated recently in Facebook as well. Well, that's true; at the same time, there is a lot more that this startup has to offer, and it rolled out before this aspect of Facebook got much attention.

Rinema is a specific dedicated online and social library that provides all information about movies. It's a content aggregation platform for movies. It maintains a database of movies, and helps users manage and discover movies using search filters such as genres, languages, ratings, and release year. For now, it has a list of more than  200,000 movies, which feature more than 200,000 actors and directors from Hollywood, Bollywood, and other movie industries.

Users have the ability to add and edit movies to their respective accounts and thus create a huge database for movies. Essentially, user-generated content helps the application maintain a really long list of movies that otherwise could have been missed. Of course, there is IMDb, but the key in this particular product is the social content and aggregation options along with social interaction and a recommendation engine to find and discover similar movies according to users' peer group of friends. It also helps movie lovers curate their movies like a list. Besides acting as a movie management library, the platform also helps people discover new and latest movies based on their interest. Be it latest releases in cinemas or a decade-old release, one can find the film of their interest.

The movie page has detailed information such as cast, crew, story synopsis, and ratings, mostly sourced from Freebase and Wikipedia. Also using crawling algorithms, data is taken from various movie-streaming portals and is added manually for certain entries. Users could review and rate movies or follow other users like any other similar social platform. And according to the ratings a user gives, the portal suggests customized preferences and other users who have similar movies in their list.

According to the founder, the two key problems they address is organizing and discovery. However, they take a slightly different approach to discovery in terms of creating avenues for user-generated content, as they believe that the best recommendations come from people who share your taste in cinema. So, apart from the standard movie recommendations, they also recommend "Taste Buddies", which is an OkCupid-like match score for film buffs. One can then follow these Taste Buddies or directly generate recommendations from their movie collections.

Of course, Rinema isn't the first of its kind, and if you talk about movies in general, there are of course tons of websites out there. If you talk specifically about a service similar to "Goodreads for movies", there is letterboxd & icheckmovies.

However, according to Jeniffer Garlan, a movie critic and author of the book called Beyond Casablanca, there are differences that are outlined in her article and show on how Rinema differs from its competitors.

Primarily, there are two differences, one of which is usability; it is indeed much easier to use, and of course it has a much larger database with focus beyond Hollywood/Bollywood and the ability to easily add movies to the database.

According to Grishma, over 35 percent of new signups add over 100 movies to their profiles. The total number of movies added by users to their profiles is currently 180,000+, which speaks quite a lot about the traction it has generated in a short span of time. This startup was launched in private beta in February this year, and went live in September 2013. As of now, it is completely bootstrapped. As for future plans, its aim is to become the go-to site for any movie lover anywhere in the world, and also help film-makers promote and distribute films via Rinema. So the current focus is on being the best social product out there, performance and scaling. It's quite a long-term goal for sure, and it needs to be seen how much popularity it could gain among the masses.

She also added that the startup's long-term goal is to build tools for film-makers (especially indie film-makers) to be able to promote and distribute their films via Rinema. With growth in indie cinema being over 100 percent in last decade, while the number of studio films has decreased by 29 percent, they feel that indie cinema is where future is. A short-term affiliate, Rinema will soon have the ability to check availability of films on Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix, etcetera. So essentially, it plans to monetize from movie makers, distributors, and online movie portals, considering it can provide target-based customized information depending on what the trend and user interest is in terms of movies. Most certainly, a Foursquare- or GetGlue-like promotion by movie brands is certainly an avenue to make money as well.

According to Udani, the code for this product was built from scratch. It actually gives two kinds of recommendations: One is straightforward movie recommendations, as in once the user rates 20 movies, based on ratings, it finds movies similar to the ones the user has liked; the other is the Taste Buddies method, and users can then follow their Taste Buddies or directly get recommendations from their collections.

On the whole, this startup seems a pretty detailed one, and there has been a lot of effort that has gone into making the portal, especially its usability. Certainly, the private beta aspect of it helped build the product better, and it has put quite an effort in getting the traction that it has so far. What needs to be seen is its overall user base and how it moves from here on. How global will it get and how many users adopt this across the world? Considering the fact that there is already a clutter of too many social networks, how Rinema adapts itself to survive under this clutter remains to be seen. Will a mobile application and a strong mobile strategy cut it for it? Or would going the product way serve it better? To build the product, fine tune it, and then figure out the strategy to sell and expand further might help it more. It's yet to be seen, but it certainly seems that there's a lot of work for it ahead.

What do you think about this portal? Any feedback or how you think this'll shape in future?

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