Dia­logue: Om Omar mar Ahmed

Syed Omar Ahmed, CEO, NewsOne, talks to Slo­gan in this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view.

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With over two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the me­dia, Omar Ah­mAhmedm knows how it hap­pens… He has worked with CMC, Telebiz, Busi­ness Plus, TV One, Sa­maa TV, Waqt TV and is now back at Air­waves Me­dia (NewsOne). He con­tin­ues to make­mak an in­ven­tive con­tri­bu­tion to the me­dia in­dus­tryuindu as the Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of Air­wavesa Me­dia. Since he came back in April 2014, he has been be­hind some rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes in the or­ga­ni­za­tion. How chal­leng­ing is it to run NewsOne?

Chal­lenge is what I love to take. Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to launch dif­fer­ent TV chan­nels, the most ex­cit­ing part of my per­son­al­ity is to ac­cept chal­lenges. In an in­dus­try which is still fairly new and where big groups have kind of taken much of the space, it was most chal­leng­ing to be part of NewsOne with the aim of bring­ing it among the top news chan­nels. I would say, by the grace off Al­lah, this is a chal­lenge that I have ac­cepted though I may not have achieved the goal en­tirely. I cer­tainly am mov­ing on the path to suc­cess.

Run­ning NewsOne is a chal­lenge I love. In tele­vi­sion, es­pe­cially news chan­nels, there are two as­pects… per­cep­tion and place­ment. There are some chan­nels that have ace per­cep­tions but gen­er­ally they do not have qual­ity con­tent. There are some who have ace con­tent, are cred­i­ble but since they lack the “movers and shak­ers’ of this medium, they are usu­ally at the end of the race. So, by ac­cept­ing NewsOne again (I had the op­por­tu­nity to launch it but I later moved on), with a goal and turn­ing it around gives me a kick and sat­is­fies me pro­fes­sion­ally. Yes, I would say it’s the right choice I have made. What ex­actly are your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties?

Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties!! Well, this is one job where I can say that you don’t need any writ­ten job pro­file. When you ac­cept to be the cap­tain, you need to re­al­ize that you are now re­spon­si­ble for your squad. Their ac­cel­er­a­tion, their de­cel­er­a­tion - you need to have own­er­ship of all that. Hav­ing said that, I don’t mean that I have to do ev­ery­one’s job but I surely have to run the show. I be­lieve in giv­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to peo­ple and let­ting them han­dle it at their pace and with their ca­pac­ity. But I am there with help, fa­cil­i­ta­tion and ad­vice - if they want it.

My re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are the tasks that I have. I set goals and slowly and grad­u­ally

‘...we have pro­gram­ming that caters to all seg­ments of so­ci­ety. I am ex­tremely con­fi­dent that our news is au­then­tic and we do not sell sen­sa­tion for money or rat­ings.’

I achieve them one by one. Since I have had the op­por­tu­nity to run a busi­ness in the past, I man­age my job like a busi­ness­man who sets goals and wants to make it a profit-mak­ing ven­ture, both in terms of mar­ket as well as peo­ple.

When I joined NewsOne, I had im­mense re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. I had to go down to the mi­cro level to make things hap­pen. With time, I am glad that things are fall­ing in place. To­day, the prime re­spon­si­bil­ity that I have or feel I have is to make NewsOne a chan­nel that is vi­able, has good place­ment, per­cep­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion and reaches out to the masses with the prime ob­jec­tive of cred­i­ble, au­then­tic in­for­ma­tion. Al­ham­dulil­lah we have pro­gram­ming that caters to all seg­ments of so­ci­ety. I am ex­tremely con­fi­dent that our news is au­then­tic and we do not sell sen­sa­tion for money or rat­ings. To­day, I feel proud as there has not been any in­ci­dent that we had to apol­o­gise for re­gard­ing spread­ing wrong in­for­ma­tion.

How much lib­erty do you have in for­mu­lat­ing the pol­icy at NewsOne?

I work with a group that be­lieves in dis­cus­sion and not dic­ta­tion. Tahir A. Khan and Seema Tahir Khan, who are among the pi­o­neers of this in­dus­try, are peo­ple who be­lieve in their team. It’s more of a fam­ily, I would say. Poli­cies are dis­cussed and many a times they do not need any con­sent from the top boss. It’s not like run­ning to and fro to the bosses for de­ci­sions. One thing that I have en­joyed here - the com­pany has put faith in my abil­i­ties and there­fore they be­lieve that what­ever poli­cies I for­mu­late would be for bet­ter­ment and not for my per­sonal gains.

Are you sat­is­fied with the cur­rent sce­nario con­cern­ing TV chan­nels?

Not re­ally. But I am a pos­i­tive per­son. I am al­ways op­ti­mistic and be­lieve that things will im­prove with time. If we look back, when we had just one state-owned tele­vi­sion, to the present times, there is so much dif­fer­ence. Tele­vi­sion is so vi­brant. It’s slowly get­ting older and, with time, TV chan­nels are turn­ing out to be more cre­ative and ma­ture.

How do new TV chan­nels com­ing on the scene im­pact your chan­nel?

I al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate this growth. It’s nec­es­sary to keep your­self fo­cused and pro­vide a more com­pet­i­tive field. No new chan­nel comes with the ob­jec­tive of destroying an­other chan­nel. In fact, the im­pact keeps you at­ten­tive at all times. It gives you room to fur­ther raise your mark. Some­times this be­comes dif­fi­cult as the chal­lenge is not

only to keep your­self fo­cused but also to carve out a niche in the mar­ket.

Isn’t the ad­ver­tis­ing cake get­ting smaller?

Of course it is! Firstly, there is the re­ces­sion and then there are more part­ners in the pie. Yes, the cake is cer­tainly be­com­ing smaller. But then, that’s what one strives for. You have to make your prod­uct the best in or­der to at­tract the ad­ver­tis­ers. Hence, the cre­ativ­ity and hard work is al­ways in its ki­netic mode! This part of my job ex­cites me more. I un­der­stand the ad­ver­tiser’s psy­che, as I started my ca­reer with this pro­fes­sion. In the limited pie, it’s not only the prod­uct that one has to watch but also strate­gies that are re­designed to get you your best pos­si­ble share!

Hir­ing trained staff has al­ways been a prob­lem for TV chan­nels. What is your ex­pe­ri­ence?

Yes in­deed, it has been a prob­lem, but to a cer­tain ex­tent. There are some who are thor­ough pro­fes­sion­als and know the busi­ness and it’s good to have those gi­ants as part of your team. But then, there is a lot of tal­ent avail­able in the mar­ket. I be­lieve in giv­ing chances to those new­com­ers. If I see tal­ent in some­one, I have no in­hi­bi­tions in hir­ing the per­son. I don’t go just for big names. The best way is to cre­ate big names - pro­vide them the op­por­tu­nity and let them float. As a cap­tain of the team, you need to ex­ploit the best abil­i­ties of an in­di­vid­ual. That’s what I have been do­ing. It’s eas­ier to get rid of your hu­man re­source but it’s al­ways wise to use the hu­man re­source in the best pos­si­ble way! There are now a lot of in­sti­tu­tions where me­dia is be­ing taught. We need to make space for th­ese young­sters as many of them will be­come masters of tele­vi­sion!

Does it help to be part of a big­ger group which in­cludes an ad agency?

I think it makes your job more chal­leng­ing as the mar­ket thinks we will eas­ily get our share though that’s not true. Be­ing part of a group that in­cludes an ad agency means that you have to keep the level up there. To­day, if NewsOne does any­thing wrong, the en­tire group car­ries the bag­gage. So its more chal­leng­ing to main­tain your place. It cer­tainly also help but only in terms of faith. The mar­ket knows us and we don’t need to go around ex­plain­ing who we are. So, yes, the con­fi­dence level is cer­tainly there!

Are there any fu­ture plans that you can talk about?

Well, we have made a lot of plans with the prime ob­jec­tive of ris­ing on the lad­der. There has been a lot that NewsOne has come up with and there is a lot that we will of­fer to our au­di­ences. In a nut­shell I would say that the plan is suc­cess, sus­tain­abil­ity and ex­pan­sion.

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