Nakim Uddin is one of the founders of QFX Cinemas, a company that has redefined the movie-going culture in Kathmandu. Uddin, who is also the president of Nepal Film Association, recently talked to Onlinekhabar’s Nabin Aryal about his company, the film industry, and QFX’s future plans. Translated excerpts:
The Indian blockade and the the Madhesh movement have taken their toll on business as a whole in Nepal. What effect did these things have on the film industry?
After the earthquake last year, we faced problems for around a month. After that the industry picked up pace. The Indian blockade also troubled us. Although the blockade did not have any impact on footfalls, there was no power to run our halls. We did not get fuel to run back-up generators. We were looking at closing QFX and other halls in the country if the fuel crisis persisted. But even as the blockade has been lifted, we still haven’t been able to get fuel easily.
Your company QFX has been opening multiplex after multiplex in different parts of the country. Has the multiplex-going crowd increased significantly in Nepal?
Yes, in the past few years, many multiplexes have come up in Kathmandu. Many multiplexes are also coming up outside Kathmandu. This shows that the number of people who want to go to a multiplex to watch movies is increasing. In the case of old cinema hall, the number of people going there has been on a decline. If you just consider the number of people who come to QFX halls, we see an increment of 10-15 per cent every year.
Could you tell us which are the places where QFX has its theaters, and places where new one are coming up?
To some extent, the multiplexes have catered to the needs of the movie-going crowd in Kathmandu. But there are places where we have not been able to run multiplexes. Outside the capital, multiplexes have just started to come up. Take for example Lalitpur. Lalitpur still does not have a multiplex. That is why we are opening a QFX in Pulchowk. People living in Patan are excited about it. Similarly, we are going to open a QFX in Thamel.
We have not been able to do much outside Kathmandu, but there are other companies that are opening multiplexes there.
“In the case of old cinema hall, the number of people going there has been on a decline. If you just consider the number of people who come to QFX halls, we see an increment of 10-15 per cent every year.”
How many screens does QFX have now?
QFX now has eight screens. Jai Nepal is the only single screen hall that we operate. We have two screens in Kumari, three at Civil Mall, and two in Narayangadh. The Pulchowk multiplex has three screens, and the one in Thamel will have three more.
What plans does QFX have to serve cinema lovers outside Kathmandu?
Yes, we do have plans to take QFX outside Kathmandu. To tell you the truth, QFX is still a small company. We are still taking baby steps. There is a lot to be done here. But the main constraint that we have to deal with is the finances. In Nepal, there is no other option to get a bank loan to expand your business. In other countries, businesses have different financing options, there are venture capitalists and private funds. Due to lack of infrastructure and adequate credit facilities, it his very difficult for us to expand our business.
We do receive a lot of offers from outside Kathmandu, but because of our financial situation, we are not in a position to go on rapid expansion. That is why we are going to adopt a franchise model. The QFX in Narayangadh is a franchise.
We have also received offers from investors in Sikkim, Bhutan and Cambodia to open franchises there. Just a few days ago I met a Korean investor who wants to take the brand to Cambodia.
So when will QFX go outside Nepal?
These days, we are busy with the Lalitpur project, so we do not have the time and the resources to jump right away. The multiplex in Lalitpur will come into operation in around two months. We will then concentrate on our expansion plans.
“We have also received offers from investors in Sikkim, Bhutan and Cambodia to open franchises there. “
Do Nepal’s laws allow you to invest outside the country?
The government is working on a draft film industry policy. The existing laws do not allow FDI in the film industry. We have been lobbying for a change in the law so that foreigners can invest in Nepali movies, and Nepalis can also invest in foreign films. If the draft is approved without changes, then we will be able to invest outside of Nepal as well.
Who do you think is QFX’s closest competitor?
We do not think about this. Till now, we are in growth mode, and I don’t think we have any competition yet. There are many companies that are running single screens, but I think we are the only company that has embraced the corporate culture and come out with a vision to make its presence felt throughout the country.
Could you tell us about your long-term plans?
Whenever we undertake something, the ultimate goal is not just to make money. I think the true parameter to measure our success would be how much we have been able to expand our business. Our aim is to have at least one QFX in all major cities in Nepal such as Pokhara, Butwal, Birgunj, Nepalgunj, Biratnagar, Itahari, Birtamode and Dharan.