IMC 2013: Need to keep pace with digital: Nitin Paranjpe

15 Feb,2013


By A Correspondent


The 7th edition of the Indian Magazine Congress lived up to its reputation of being a landmark event. The wait was worth it as stakeholders, marketers, industry captains and foreign dignitaries made their way to the venue at ITC Hotels for the start of procedural sessions, and the IMC 2013 kicked off with an inaugural address by the CEO of one of India’s hottest brands.


Nitin Paranjpe

Nitin Paranjpe, CEO & MD, HUL told a packed gathering about the need to do away with the old and be custodians of change for the betterment of the business. This, he reasoned, was possible only if one were to inculcate a reality that’s now become an indispensible part of the way we do business – namely digital.


Cautioning the audience, especially advertisers, on the trends prevailing in the Indian marketplace, Mr Paranjpe said that the industry was seeing a tectonic shift in the television viewing habits of consumers today. “With an array of alternative streams available to communicate with the consumer, advertisers will find it challenging in the way they want to communicate with consumers,” he said.


In a hard-hitting statement, Mr Paranjpe said that the 30-second commercial will no longer be as effective a form of advertising given that the consumer has an array of options before him to access content. Even media agencies and also media owners in some sense will have no say in telling consumers what to watch or not, he cautioned. “The issue today is that is that we are in a pretentious mode or are rather not willing to confront this reality. The sooner we wake up to this reality and stop pretending to not know the better prepared we will be for tomorrow. The core is: if digital is going to play a huge role going forward then we need to do things to help us stay relevant.”


Advocating a way forward for the business community, Mr Paranjpe added that the topmost priority for most business houses will be digital capability and finding new business opportunities. “AT HUL, we have taken a huge first step towards familiarising our employees with the opportunities that arise from digital and are spending significant amount of time and money in training them to be future-ready.”


In order to facilitate a smooth transition into the future that will largely digital, Mr Paranjpe disclosed that it will be essential for owners to ink tie-ups with specialists who can offer skill-sets in a manner befitting to the business. “We have to be realize that transformation and change need different forms of commitment and we have to be ready to facilitate that. I am not so much worried that we are still not doing enough for the business but what gives me sleepless nights is to see rapid changes transpire around us every single day, especially from digital.”


Imploring business heads to rethink strategy, Mr Paranjpe said that that to be future-ready businesses will have to bring about a change in the business model. “A recent finding that I came across revealed that where the trust quotient was concerned, business houses and politicians were competing in the last rung. It is surprising but true that we are still not trust-worthy to be seen as beacons of change for our consumers. The thing is that we are judged by the outside world as having a self-serving attitude; this needs to change,” affirmed Mr Paranjpe.


Sharing with the gathering another reality, Mr Paranjpe said that the truth is that we were forced by the government to include CSR as a mandatory practice but had we self-regulated ourselves earlier to this reality we wouldn’t have required an external source to impose guidelines for us. “What can be inferred is that the model of doing business tomorrow cannot be what we are doing today. This will be the mother of all changes.”


On the implications that digital has brought about in the marketplace, Mr Paranjpe shared his own organisation’s example as he said: “Two years ago the decision that we took to make our employees digital-savvy was met with some scepticism but we’ve learnt a lot along the way and are better prepared to be agents of change of tomorrow. What is required is to have in place a mechanism to be future-ready. We are used to the mentality of ‘easier wrongs and harder rights’ but we will have to keep working on building our talent and skill sets.”


Signing off, Mr Paranjpe said that it was important to see what would be the implications of these decisions on the revenue models of business firms. “At the end, that is what matters to every organisation. But then the good thing is that change offers opportunity. If we are change-ready we could achieve a lot more in 3-5 years than double that time it may have taken us to reach our goal.”


Prior to Nitin Paranjpe’s keynote address, Association of Indian Magazines President Tarun Rai welcomed the delegates as he shared a few inspirational experiences confronting the magazine industry in India. Admitting that digital will drive the future for the industry, Mr Rai asserted, “The pace of change in technology has been humongous. This change has been a good thing to have happened for magazines especially with the launch of tablets about two years ago. It has been a huge area of opportunity for magazines as now magazine content can flow nicely onto the digital screens. The way the digital magazine market has been growing has been huge in India. Digital has been provided us a new revenue opportunity and a new reader reach to magazines and its content.”


Elaborating, he said, “As India’s digital market is growing the way the market is growing and people’s aspirations are growing faster than the economy, and their disposable incomes there is going to be need for more magazines catering to the niche and lifestyle segment. Even in the traditional format, magazines are going to grow rapidly. Coupled with that is the added opportunity that comes from digital. This is the most exciting time to be in the magazine publishing business.”


Tarun Rai

The challenge for the business, Mr Rai said, is that there is a need to develop skill sets pretty quickly. “The learning curve has to be very steep and short because the editorial team led by the editor has to repurpose content. One just cannot go from a magazine to another platform in a simplistic way. Also, the ad sales has have to be able to monetize these platforms with advertisers. Right now, I do not think that in any parts of the developed world the right models of advertising monetization have happened on the digital devices.” Addressing another challenge, he said, “The third challenge is for the marketing team to be able to utilize the opportunity of the multi-platform brand that we have created. Earlier this opportunity was available only to an event. But all that has changed with digital gaining prominence over the past few years. Finally publishers have to make sure that there is a business model; you do not want a situation where resources are being diverted into multi-platform at the cost of printed magazines. We have to make sure that it makes business sense as well.


“The good news is that it is finally a good time to be in the magazine business,” averred Mr Rai.


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