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Every Breath You Take

PVR Ltd has become India’s first entertainment company to revamp and retrofit central air purification systems powered by Nirvana Being to combat indoor air-pollution. Sanjeev Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR, and Jai Dhar Gupta, Founder of Nirvana Being, talk to Bhakti Mehta about this innovative step

Bhakti Mehta (BM): Sanjeev, what prompted you to take up this initiative and collaborate with Nirvana Being?

Sanjeev Bijli (SB): I think the problem of pollution has escalated in the last two years. The #Myrighttobreathe campaign has caught everyone’s attention. When the reality hit home, people went out and brought air purifiers and installed them in their homes, bedrooms, dining areas, everywhere. We too wanted to do something about this but we didn’t know there was a technological solution out there till we met Nirvana. We didn’t know one could take this step in commercial complexes like theatres, hospitals and other public places.

So, we got to talking about this and I wanted to know if we could do something on these lines with cinemas. At the end of the day, people sit in a cinema for three hours. If we can provide clean air for them during those three hours, statistically their life span increases by 15 minutes. That’s how we got into this discussion and thought we should refit our auditoria with air purification systems. As a result, our PM levels are far below those of the air outside. They are 6-10 versus about 120 outside. That’s a huge difference.

BM: What logistics did you look into when this idea was being conceptualised?

SB: There was a long technological study done by the Nirvana team and our team. This is an initiative we started about six months ago. It has taken us this long to study the whole system. Nirvana came in with their engineering team and we shared our ideas with them. Then, we gave them our layouts, our DHU systems and other material they needed. This made it easier for them to retrofit our systems with the air purification technology.

The systems took a couple of months to be installed and after that we wanted to ensure that they were working properly. We were monitoring readings for another couple of months and we found out that there was a noticeable difference in the air quality inside. Once that was established, only then did we decide to go ahead and launch it. We did a pilot here with the PVR Director’s Cut theatre. Since we are certain that the air is definitely purer inside, we will start rolling it out to other cinemas as well.

The audience will be able to track the quality of air through an option in the PVR app. That will tell them how much better the air is inside the smog-free theatre compared to the air outside. It is only when they see this that the difference will become palpable, which will help them appreciate it and spread the word.

BM: Will this system be available in all the screens at a PVR multiplex?

SB: It will be present in all the screens under the PVR multiplex chain. This is an issue we feel very strongly about. It is ridiculous that the air we breathe is going to be fatal for us down the line. Actually, it already is. I see my mother suffering so much and she has air purifiers in the house. It is something that impacts everyone.

We will roll out this technology, especially in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The first phase will get underway soon. It takes a while for the systems to be set up, so we have started here in Delhi and we will target Mumbai next. This first experiment took a long time because we had to figure it out but the equipment for the Mumbai set-up has already been sent and we should start installing it at PVR’s Versova, Andheri property soon. It should be up and running in the next two weeks.

BM: Are you planning to monetise this in your theatres? How cost-effective will this be for PVR?

SB: There will be no change in ticket prices. All we want to do is tell out audience and other people that for the same ticket price, you get to live longer. For me, I think it has just become a table stake. It is not about charging more or less for it; it has to be given to everyone.

Jay Dhar Gupta (JDG): It is interesting that you ask this question because, when I first met Sanjeev, our first meeting for this initiative, I asked him if he wanted to monetise this clean air technology. He said no, we just have to do this for the audience.

We have only just started to take steps towards addressing this issue, but down the line, maybe in a few years, it will be as essential in cinemas as our sound and projection systems. We make sure that in all properties, the sound system is good, the projection quality is good, but this is more than that. This is the air we breathe. It has to be more than good because you are sitting in a theatre for three hours.


BM: What do you think of PVR taking this step?

JDG: It is thought leadership by PVR. We all talk about air pollution and the quality of air we breathe but how many of us have actually done something to act on it? I personally suffer as my lungs are permanently damaged. When I spoke to Sanjeev about this, he was very clear that this was something they wanted to pursue. I have spoken about this initiative to others but these guys were in after the very first meeting. They were all in. I think this step will encourage other businesses, not just in the entertainment sector.

SB: We didn’t know there was a technology to address this issue. It is very frustrating when you are faced with a problem and cannot do anything about it, especially in a city like Delhi. From October to February, the newspapers are filled with stories about smog, about the My Right To Breathe initiative etc. The good thing is that even though winter has passed, a time when smog is prevalent, the initiative has not died down. People are still gunning for it and I am happy that we could make a contribution to it. People need to understand that there is a technology partner who can help you with this.

JDG: I don’t see this technology as a luxury or something that is nice to have. When we know what we know, which is that outdoor air is 30 times worse than it should be, and that indoor air is 5-10 times worse than that too, this cannot be a luxury. This is now a compliance issue for our health and safety. My pitch on this is clear. This is about responsible business and occupational health and safety.

BM: There have been many celebrity faces attached to the PVR name for such initiatives or launches.

SB: Yes, we have had celebrities attached to our programmes before.

JDG: But, this time, we need some mothers. (Laughs). We need to get passionate and devoted mothers who will support this initiative for their kids. We should get them here.

SB: We don’t have anyone right now. Maybe, when we launch in Mumbai we will get someone because they are more accessible in Mumbai. Right now, we are going solo.

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