Dialogue: Om Omar mar Ahmed
Syed Omar Ahmed, CEO, NewsOne, talks to Slogan in this exclusive interview.
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.