Anant Singh - I have built great and lasting business relationships because of friendships
ANANT SINGH, CEO and chairman of the Videovision Entertainment Group, and South Africa's pre-eminent film producer, was born and raised in apartheid South Africa in Durban. He began his film career at age 18 when he left his studies at the University of Durban-Westville to purchase a 16 mm movie rental store. From there, he moved into video distribution, forming Videovision Entertainment and then progressed into film production in 1984 with Place of Weeping, the first anti-apartheid film to be made entirely in South Africa.
Singh says that his success may be attributed to hard word, dedication and tenacity. He added, "My passion was the film industry. I set about learning everything that I could about it. I was motivated to pursue my dream and when I was 22, I made my first overseas trip to a film market where I set about making business contacts."
He added that these contacts, some with whom he still does business today, gave him an insight into the industry, and mentored him as he developed his business. He said, "I have built great and lasting business relationships because of friendships." He commented further, "Success cannot be achieved alone. The business of film is a collaborative endeavour, which sees hundreds, sometimes thousands of people coming together, totally committed to producing a film. A large part of my success has been achieved with the support of others that were equally committed."
However, he said that establishing a business in the film and entertainment sector in apartheid South Africa was a huge challenge. He encountered racism at every level, particularly because it was an industry that was reserved for whites only. He said, "Banks would not provide me with credit, cinemas would not play my films and services companies would not allow me to open an account, necessitating cash payments. Despite all these challenges, I was able to enter a closed industry and make inroads, and build a sustainable business."
Unsurprisingly, Singh's illustrious career has had many highlights. These include making his first film, Place of Weeping, which was made on the run from the security police. Another was being acknowledged by his peers in the industry with the South African Film and Television Awards inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. He further enjoyed taking authentic South African stories like Sarafina!, Cry, the Beloved Country and Yesterday to the world. Yesterday was the first South African film to receive an Academy Award nomination. In addition, acquiring the film rights to Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, and adapting it for the silver screen as Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and having Madiba's endorsement of the project was a very exciting project. Singh added that being nominated for membership of the International Olympic Committee was a great honour.
Singh's tenacity is apparent in the development of eThekwini Film Studios in Durban. He said, "This is a project that I have pursued with conviction. Whilst the transaction was subject to a court challenge, we remained steadfastly committed and we were vindicated when we prevailed at Constitutional Court, which validated the transaction. It is now a reality and I am delighted to be bringing the economic benefits of the film industry to Durban."
Singh added that we have a great country with enormous potential and a proud history. We need to commit ourselves to the development of any industries, including tourism, and use the assets created to further enhance the economy as there is no better country in the world to live in. He added that he believes that the SMME sector has a pivotal role to play in the economy. "It is essential that entrepreneurs are supported with funding from government institutions to grow and develop their businesses, which will result in the creation of jobs. This model has been successful in growing economies like India and South Korea, and South Africa can certainly learn from these case studies," he said.
He also said that he is a firm believer of the concept of business with a social conscience. Singh said, "The spirit of sharing and caring is central to the ethos of our business's social investment strategy."
In his free time Singh enjoys swimming, photography, books and art, He added, "Movie going is work."