Online DVD Rental Club Reviews

Posted on September 20th, 2006 in Musings by truthandhappiness

I love watching movies. Especially tamil movies. I get the kicks by watching a movie in the theater as soon as it is released. After my first child was born, it wasn’t  easy for me to hit the theater as often I would like. After the second child the situation got even worse. We tried renting DVDs from grocery stores, but with two little ones around, we found it difficult to watch a movie and return it the next day. Just then I started exploring the option of an ‘desi-netflix’ kind of company. I can get DVDs home, no driving, no coming back empty handed, no late fees. 

I found a few, I have rented from most of them. I thought it will be a good idea to write a review. Hope this helps those looking for online rentals clubs.

I wouldn’t touch them with a 10 foot pole. Though they were atleast $5 expensive than their peers, I signed up with them because they had a decent collection of Tamil DVDs. I picked the basic membership, $25/month. My welcome letter stated that I will be charged every month till I cancel.

The first set of three movies arrived in the same cover, with one single prepaid envelope, which meant that Iam supposed to return the three movies together. Every set of three movies took one week to reach me from their shipping center. It took me a week to watch the movies. After I shipped them back it took one more week for them to update my account. This meant that in a 4 week period I spent atleast three weeks waiting for movies to arrive. Also they do not have any auto email program that lets you know that the movies were shipped/received, so we have to wait in the dark and frequently check our account to make sure that the movies were credited back to our account. So I emailed their customer service suggesting that if they shipped the movies separately, it gives the user a lot of flexibility. I could watch a movie ship it back and by the time Iam done watching the other two a new movie would have arrived. There was no response. 

A month after my initial signup date, DVDs suddenly stop arriving also I was no longer able to sign up in to my account. So I assumed that may be my membership with them was for a month and I registered in another movie rental club. I sent them an email and a fax to confirm this. As usual there was no response from their customer service. 

4 months later I was checking my credit card statement and was shocked to find that my credit card was charged by IndiaHutHouse every month for the past four months. I had to send a stinker email and a fax to their non-existent customer service and threatened to pursue legal action if I don’t hear from them. Only then I received a response that they will refund my money back to me.

VERDICT – IndiaHutHouse, pure pain. A perfect marriage of lousy business model and pathetic customer service.

They have a wide variety of movies audio books and video games but limited selection of Tamil movies. Their customer service is good, if you email them, they have the courtesy of responding to the query. They ship the movies in individual envelops with prepaid return labels. So we will always have something handy. Provided the movies I requested were available, they were delivered to me within 2 working days.

The cons were they have very limited tamil movie collection. In the two months I had membership with them, their tamil movie database was never updated. I don’t know about other regional languages. Also they seemed to have limited copies of new movies. There was always a minimum 3 three week wait for new movies. If you cancel in the middle of the month, there is no refund for the balance unused membership.

VERDICT – Try if you are looking for Hindi movies/video games/children’s DVD.

They do not have any movies other than Hindi movies and kids VCDs/DVDs. So I have never tried them. But I loved their website. In the world of customer service anonymus, Pyasa was one of the few websites that had a customer service phone number listed on their website.

VERDICT –  Reviews required.

They have a good collection of South Indian movies. I have signed up for an Indiamovieclub membership right now. They have two plans. One is the netflix model where you pay for a month and can rent unlimited number of movies. They other plan is a ‘pay as you rent’ plan. They offer it under a different company name(Desicompany). Those of us who don’t watch more than 4 movies a month, the latter plan might be a good idea.Though they are by the same company, their databases are not synched up. So you have to register separately.

In the ‘pay as you rent’ plan offers a choice of renting out two DVDs at a time or three DVDs at a time. They charge $4.00 or less rental plus $1.00 shipping. They ship two DVDs together and you have to return thr DVDs together, which is not very attractive. They allow you to keep the DVDs only for one week. You get one free DVD for every two DVDs you check out and two free DVDs for every four DVDs you check out.

Their other plan is the one in which you pay for a month and rent unlimited number of DVDs. I signed up for the 6 DVDs/month at $12.00/month plan. Looks like they ship two DVDs together and require us to return the two together. Iam not too thrilled by this restriction though.

UPDATE ON INDIAN MOVIE CLUB REVIEW: They do have a good collection, but they ship all the DVDs toghther and I am not very pleased with it. We have three movies at home for about a week and we spend two weeks waiting for more DVDs. Another thing I suspect is that they might be making unauthorized copies of DVDs to keep enough DVDs in circulation. This is pure speculation, I have no proof.

They mostly deal with Sruthilayam DVDs because the Sruthilayam DVDs come with two movies in one DVD. They try and couple one old movie and a new movie, Pachaikili Muthucharam + Kushi kind of thing. The flip side of this is that the picture auality is so-so. Indian movie club deletes the second movie. If you try playing Kushi, it says that this selection has been removed. Come on guys how cheap can you get?! You get the DVDs in a two for one deal. Do you REALLY think some one will pay for Kushi, a movie that was released some 10 years back and watch it? Most of the times people flip through the old movie just because it is there.

VERDICT – Nothing great, but I stayed with them because I didn’t have the time and energy to cancel.

Movie Piracy

Posted on September 20th, 2006 in Musings by truthandhappiness

Some data from US census

In the year 2003, there were 396,000 Hindi speaking people in US.

In the year 2003, there were 280,000 Gujarati speaking people in US.

In the year 2004, 70,000 Indians immigrated to US.

2001 census data indicates that there are atleast 822,000 people of Indian origin in the United states.

Wow the numbers are amazing! So a business targeting Indian community in the United States has a decent chance of survival, of course, provided the quality of service is good. Right??? Wrong.

Few months back I was spending so much time and energy looking for a good Indian movie rental club and the idea stuck me.(Look for Indian DVD rental club reviews) Hey, why not start one?!! The Indian community is huge and there are not many players in the field. Theoretically the chances of survival sounded decent. So I started drafting a business plan. Seed money – $15,000; amount charged to user – $20; lesson learnt – distressing.

The first challenge I faced was to find a DVD distributor for Indian movies. I did not find any directory listings. So I called up an Indian grocery store, introduced myself, stated my intentions and asked them for their distributors number. The person who answered the phone said that he can’t give out the number because the DVD distributor does not want his number distributed. Sounded too weird to be true. So I called up few more Indian grocery stores where they rent out Indian movies to get some contacts and every one of them repeated the same thing verbatim. Any business person who wants his business to grow, who wants to increase his customer base will want some advertisement. Why would he not want his number distributed? Because most of them deal with pirated DVDs, thats why.

Finally after phone calls to Canada and UK, I was able to get contacts of Indian language DVD distributors. Now comes the second hurdle. I was discussing the idea with my friends and found out that there are sites that allows people to pay a monthly fee and download/download and burn in to DVD or VCD unlimited number of movies. I looked at their website and was quite surprised that they had brand new movies, movies that have been released only a few days back on their catalogue. Once again piracy. These websites even have a disclaimer that downloading Movies/Mp3’s/Video files are considered to be illegal and that it is the subscriber’s responsibility to dispose downloaded content after viewing them. There are some websites that don’t even ask for a membership fee, they distribute the movies for free!

Later I spoke to few of the people who are in online DVD rental business and found out that they barely manage to sustain because of piracy issues. There are quite a few online rental companies that have closed its business because they loose their customers because of piracy. Even the big movie distribution companies, who invest millions of dollars to get movie copyrights are hesitant to go behind the people dealing with pirated versions. What chances to small business men have against these people?

To the people who make a living through pirated movies, have you ever heard the story of the farmer killing the goose that lays golden eggs in order to get rich soon? What you people are doing is no different from that. One has to respect the source of their livelihood. You guys want to make money through movies, but in the long run what you guys do will cripple the cinema industry.

We Indians, fail to look at downloading free movies/renting pirated movies as theft. We do not care about the quality of the movie, just the thought of watching a movie for free excites us to no end. As long as there is an audience there are going to be pirated movies. Let us show some respect to those people who try to make an honest business by dealing with legitimate DVDs.