Fund for making movies with a cause excites US investors (With Images)

June 13th, 2010 - 1:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Taare Zameen Par By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 13 (IANS) A unique fund to help talented Bollywood directors make movies with a cause has generated a buzz among investors in the US, say two former Indian investment bankers who are behind the venture.

“It’s seen as a great investment opportunity,” Vicky Dhir and Aditya Mehta, founders of Cause Entertainment Fund, told IANS in an e-mail interview.

“Investors in the US have really liked Cause Entertainment Fund, as the venture floated by DM Capital Advisors to help ‘art become an instrument of social change’ is known, with investments in films like ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘3 Idiots’ - commercially successful yet supporting a cause,” say Dhir and Mehta.

“They have appreciated the structure we have built around the model to generate both social and financial returns and provide an investment opportunity in a dynamic industry like Bollywood, adopting a risk minimisation and value generation approach.”

Dhir and Mehta, who have been on a tour of the US since June 1 to generate interest among potential investors, cited an Indian doctor couple lauding their mission to bring entertainment without two of what Mahatma Gandhi called the seven social sins: Pleasure without conscience and commerce without morality.

“Feel you have ensured, perhaps for the first time in the Bollywoood world, that we live up to to these core principles of entertainment, pleasure and commerce,” doctors Surendra Kheraand and Manjaree Daw wrote in a letter to the duo.

From high net worth individuals and corporates to foundations and charitable trusts, potential investors have been attracted “by the balance in the business model and its positive externality in the world around us,” say the two.

After visiting New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Florida, Dhir and Mehta plan to fly out to Dubai, Bahrain and Kuwait to woo more investors.

There have been questions too, Dhir and Mehta acknowledged, with investors primarily concerned about the risks “this industry has been infamously known for.”

“However, after hearing our presentation out, reviewing the management team and advisory board and getting their arms around the structure and the risk-minimisation that we have adopted, most are very comfortable that this team can generate the returns we are showcasing,” they said.

Several producers and filmmakers too have already “approached us, but we have a very strict green-lighting process and so far we have approved only one project”, Dhir and Mehta said without revealing the details.

For their venture, Cause Entertainment has eight themes: healthcare, environment, social justice, economic justice, institutional responsibility, education, peace and tolerance, and human rights.

After successful careers in investment banking, private equity, hedge fund industry and Vicky’s MBA at Oxford, Dhir and Mehta “wanted to embark on an entrepreneurial path that combined our expertise with passion and value generation for the society around us.

“We were clear that whatever we do should be a step, maybe a small one, to change the world around us and prove that financial returns and social returns complement one another.

“We felt cinema was a mass medium and after a year of research, and building a structure around a concept that was incubated in Oxford and support from veterans like Uday Singh (former CEO of PVR and Sony Pictures), we are now ready to go,” Dhir and Mehta told IANS

“The interest was generated in the promoters by the sheer fact that we brought to them a fresh perspective and approach and it did not take long for them to be convinced that by the magnitude of their experience in the domain area, this was achievable and together as a team we can make a marked difference.”

Echoing their thoughts, Uday Singh, the corporate board member, said: “Not everyone can be a Gandhi but we can make a difference in our own small way through the power of cinema. We hope to leave the world a better place through Cause Entertainment.”

(Arun Kumar can be reached at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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