“WE NEED TO BREAK THE TYRANNY OF SAME­NESS”

From sell­ing one kind of soap to sell­ing a to­tally dif­fer­ent kind, the new boss of ZEEL has come a long way – and has a long road ahead.

The Brand Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - By Anir­ban Roy Choud­hury

Last sum­mer, ZEEL (Zee En­ter­tain­ment En­ter­prises) changed its or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture. Five ver­ti­cals were formed: do­mes­tic broad­cast, in­ter­na­tional busi­ness, live events, films and dig­i­tal. The Shubash Chan­dra-led me­dia giant an­nounced that each ver­ti­cal will have a head, who will re­port to Punit Goenka, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, ZEEL.

Soon af­ter that, Punit Misra, a HUL hand was ap­pointed as chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the do­mes­tic broad­cast busi­ness of the com­pany.

Misra joined HUL in 1996 and over the years, worked on sev­eral cat­e­gories in­clud­ing ice cream and skin cleans­ing (soaps). His most re­cent po­si­tion at HUL was ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and vice-pres­i­dent, cus­tomer de­vel­op­ment. We in­ter­viewed him about the lessons from the past, present day chal­lenges and goals for the fu­ture. Edited Ex­cerpts.

HUL to Zee – what made you veer to­wards the broad­cast in­dus­try af­ter spend­ing 20 years at an FMCG com­pany?

When you take a call like that, you do so with due con­sid­er­a­tion. What will I get to do when I join the group? That was im­por­tant. The broad­cast in­dus­try is grow­ing. Peo­ple ask me about the is­sues and chal­lenges, but I see only op­por­tu­ni­ties in the broad­cast in­dus­try. It plays a big role when you are mak­ing a de­ci­sion like this. Se­condly, ZEEL, as an or­gan­i­sa­tion is en­tre­pre­neur­ial. Though it is a well-oiled ma­chine, are there spa­ces and op­por­tu­ni­ties where you think you can add value.

You joined Zee around nine months back. How have these ini­tial months been? Were you given a brief to help you fo­cus on specifics?

I had no idea about the in­dus­try when I walked in last Oc­to­ber. That hap­pened to be a big ‘plus’, ac­tu­ally. You ask very ba­sic ques­tions. You see how best you can take lessons from your past ex­pe­ri­ence and ap­ply them in a very dif­fer­ent con­text.

The brief, more or less, was: How do we make sure we con­tinue to get fit­ter for growth in a chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment? How do we grow the view­er­ship share? How do we grow the rev­enue share? How do we drive value for the or­gan­i­sa­tion?

Of­ten, when se­nior lead­er­ship changes, there’s a clear need gap that needs fill­ing. In your case, is there a ‘wrong’ you are ex­pected to right?

Ap­proach­ing it like that in busi­ness is a prob­lem, be­cause in busi­ness, fact is, if ev­ery­thing ev­ery­one did was right then all or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als would be great and all ré­sumés would look fan­tas­tic. So, I don’t look at busi­ness from the point of view of ‘Yeh galat kiya…’ It’s im­por­tant to not re­peat mis­takes, but I am per­fectly okay with mak­ing them. Not mak­ing mis­takes is ac­tu­ally a big­ger prob­lem.

Okay, to re­phrase, what ‘op­por­tu­ni­ties’ need your im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion?

One is con­tent: What can we do to en­hance the qual­ity of con­tent? What does the con­sumer want to see? The sec­ond is: How do we make sure that in the next 10 years the in­dus­try be­comes stronger to pull in the bright­est tal­ent in the coun­try? There is a strong need to build our own ca­pa­bil­i­ties – con­sumer in­sights, data an­a­lyt­ics, so­cial lis­ten­ing – at the in­sti­tu­tional, that is, or­gan­i­sa­tional level. Then each ver­ti­cal won’t need to build these strengths in­di­vid­u­ally.

ZEEL was an early mover in the dig­i­tal space with Dit­toTV, but over the years, with the ar­rival of new play­ers, some­how it has lagged be­hind…

We are in the process of strength­en­ing and hit­ting the high notes. It’s work-in-progress, so I won’t talk much about it. Early en­try and ex­per­i­ments have given us a lot of lessons and those lessons are help­ing us now. It is all a busi­ness of con­tent; we do not see the dig­i­tal busi­ness as any dif­fer­ent from the TV busi­ness.

Speaking of dig­i­tal, on one side we have sub­scrip­tion-based VOD plat­forms and on the other, there’s YouTube – open and free. Then there are broad­cast­ers armed with catch-up TV con­tent on their own VOD plat­forms. What’s the best rev­enue model here?

I don’t see money get­ting made from dig­i­tal any­time soon, glob­ally. I’d be sur­prised if money is made from dig­i­tal in the near fu­ture. A lot of peo­ple are prob­a­bly bet­ting big think­ing about the fu­ture… but when it comes to the mon­eti­sa­tion of it and the busi­ness mod­els, there’s still some dis­tance to walk. Ex­per­i­ments need to be done, you need to get the equa­tion right; cur­rently, the equa­tion is: ‘Just get the eye­balls’. We don’t know the eco­nom­ics of it yet. Those things are still evolv­ing.

And how do mar­keters view the dig­i­tal space? Of late, the spot­light is on ac­count­abil­ity and re­turn on dig­i­tal in­vest­ments…

See, to­day mar­keters are ask­ing the ques­tion: By us­ing dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, are we re­ally do­ing stuff that’s build­ing the brand’s strength over a long pe­riod of time? Fun­da­men­tally, dig­i­tal gets used a lot for quick call-toac­tion, say, a pro­mo­tion or some quick ‘coupon­ing’. You get a good re­sponse and you say it’s ef­fec­tive. But is it lead­ing to a bet­ter emo­tional con­nect be­tween the brand and the con­sumer? That is what mar­keters are start­ing to won­der. If more and more money is mov­ing into what you might call short term sales re­lated stuff, am I los­ing out in the long run? That’s what they want to know. TV will con­tinue to be main­stream – there is no de­bate about it.

And on TV, do you see the re­gional space grow­ing vis-à-vis Hindi, in terms of view­er­ship and rev­enue?

Let’s talk about view­er­ship first. The Hindi to non-Hindi speaking split is 45:55. There’s also a de­bate on what’s ‘Hindi’ and what’s ‘nonHindi’, so let’s pre­sume it’s even. So there’s no dif­fer­ence be­tween the view­ers of one state from those in oth­ers, in terms of the fun­da­men­tals.

Over a pe­riod of time, view­er­ship in the Hindi and non-Hindi gen­res should, log­i­cally, move in the di­rec­tion of the con­stituents in terms of lan­guages in the coun­try. The chal­lenge is giv­ing peo­ple qual­ity con­tent in their pre­ferred lan­guage. Growth in com­pe­ti­tion will lead to bet­ter qual­ity con­tent.

And… in the con­text of rev­enue?

The rev­enue part is a slightly dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion. Broad­cast­ers should look at rev­enue the same way ad­ver­tis­ers do.

What does that mean, ex­actly?

Say, a car brand is get­ting great rev­enue from four states. The price they should be will­ing to pay for com­mu­ni­ca­tion in those mar­kets should be com­men­su­rate to the size of the prof­its they make there. If there’s a dearth of both, me­dia avail­abil­ity and money, where will they ad­ver­tise? They’ll spend where the op­por­tu­nity is more.

How­ever, in broad­cast, the way me­dia is bought and sold (at present) has noth­ing to do with the size of the mar­ket of dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. As a new­comer in the in­dus­try, my take is – There should be value-based pric­ing. But that’s not the case to­day. So, to an­swer your ques­tion, I don’t see this ‘equal­i­sa­tion’ of rev­enue hap­pen­ing, though con­cep­tu­ally it should.

We see a dip in the time spent on Hindi GECs. Do you think this has some­thing to do with the changes in BARC’s uni­verse?

Fact is, the to­tal time spent on tele­vi­sion has not dropped. It’s Hindi GECs that have seen a drop and that’s some­thing which has hap­pened at an in­dus­try level. I am sure ev­ery­one is look­ing to find a so­lu­tion to it. Is that hap­pen­ing be­cause of the ex­pan­sion of (BARC’s) uni­verse? Or is FTA play­ing a vi­tal role? We need to fig­ure this out. Also, we need statis­ti­cians to tell us whether the ex­pand­ing uni­verse is re­flect­ing view­er­ship cor­rectly. I am not very clear on this as yet. The ques­tion in – As we are ex­pand­ing the uni­verse, as we are putting more me­ters, as more ru­ral rep­re­sen­ta­tion is com­ing in, is the mea­sure­ment re­flect­ing re­al­ity or not?

Sure, but don’t you think con­tent can be a rea­son for the drop in view­er­ship too?

In my opin­ion, we need to spend a lot more time fig­ur­ing out a way to break out of the tyranny of same­ness, some­thing we see to­day. One thing works… it is re­peated ev­ery­where. We need to cre­ate more com­pelling con­tent.

As a for­mer ad­ver­tiser, how do you process the dif­fer­ence be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral view­ers? How do mar­keters view the con­sumer pie to­day?

A large chunk of ad­ver­tis­ers still look at the ur­ban viewer as the ‘mon­eti­s­able viewer’. That, to my mind, is com­pletely in­cor­rect. The con­sump­tion (of cat­e­gories) split be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral, vol­ume wise, is roughly 50-50. So in terms of the value of con­sumers, both are the same. As an ad­ver­tiser, why pay less to reach out to the ru­ral con­sumer ver­sus an ur­ban con­sumer? In fact, for most cat­e­gories, growth is much higher in ru­ral mar­kets, so as an ad­ver­tiser you should be will­ing to pay more for ru­ral con­sumers. But that’s not the re­al­ity. Rev­enue and pric­ing should be based on the value of con­sumers in a mar­ket, and not on the cost of cre­at­ing con­tent in that mar­ket.

Is re-run­ning con­tent on FreeTo-Air chan­nels, a good model?

In the longer term, FTA chan­nels will pose a chal­lenge to the in­dus­try. The way it ex­ists to­day, while there are some pos­i­tives – it’s al­ready mon­e­tised con­tent, I in­cur no cost in air­ing it and I earn rev­enue in the process – it may im­pact the other part of the busi­ness. Then, where will the equa­tion set­tle? I think this is some­thing the in­dus­try should be con­cerned about. We need to un­der­stand the right way of do­ing this. Our ap­proach is clear – we do not air a show on FTA till it’s over on the pay chan­nel. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily what oth­ers are fol­low­ing, though.

How big a threat is English en­ter­tain­ment on dig­i­tal to English en­ter­tain­ment on TV? Do you think it’s pos­si­ble for both to grow si­mul­ta­ne­ously?

The pen­e­tra­tion of English as a lan­guage is still minis­cule. It has a long way to go… the con­sump­tion of English con­tent will grow, as more and more peo­ple learn the lan­guage. Imag­ine a sce­nario in which the English speaking pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try be­comes ten times what it is to­day, at par with what it is in many other coun­tries. In the long run, I see both pipes (TV and dig­i­tal) stay­ing rel­e­vant. Even to­day, though the view­er­ship share of English en­ter­tain­ment is only one per cent (of to­tal TV view­er­ship), the rev­enue share for the same is three to four times more. So rev­enue will al­ways stay ahead of view­er­ship. The chal­lenge is – how can we mar­ket it prop­erly?

What are the ar­eas you will fo­cus on hereon?

Two ar­eas: One is ad­ver­tis­ing­based rev­enue; we are se­ri­ously un­der in­dexed and it has to grow. The fact that ad­ver­tis­ing is grow­ing at 12 per cent in a coun­try which is grow­ing at seven per cent is a great achieve­ment in it­self. So even if con­tinue to grow by 12 per cent, it’s in­cred­i­ble. The sec­ond is dis­tri­bu­tion-based rev­enue; cur­rently, 70 per cent of the rev­enue comes from ad­ver­tis­ing and 30 per cent from dis­tri­bu­tion. There is no rea­son why it shouldn’t be 50:50. ■

PUNIT MISRA CEO, Zee En­ter­tain­ment En­ter­prises Broad­cast Busi­ness

PUNIT MISRA CEO, Zee En­ter­tain­ment En­ter­prises Broad­cast Busi­ness

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