#Frames2013: Unlocking M&E’s true potential for a billion consumers

13 Mar,2013

By Johnson Napier

 

That the media and entertainment sector in India is one of the liveliest and has been delivering a robust growth year-on-year is what makes it a favourite for many. Little doubt that when the economy is just about struggling to stay afloat the M&E industry surprised one and all by posting a 12.6 percent growth rate in 2012 (according to data from FICCI-KPMG).

 

There have been a stream of avenues that have led the industry to achieve the kind of growth it is seeing thanks largely to the emergence of new mediums and technologies which in turn have led to a growth in the number of audiences out there to consume such mediums. The challenge going forward would be how the industry can engage a billion people in an era when the consumer will be king and would be faced with an array of choices for consumption. The panel discussion ‘Engaging a billion consumers in the M&E industry’ saw a high-profile display of knowledge and mantras from speakers including Ravi Dhariwal of Bennett & Coleman, Punit Goenka of ZEEL, Sidharth Roy Kapur of Disney UTV, Sudhanshu Vats of Viacom 18, Rahul Johri of Discovery and Shailesh Rao of Twitter Inc. The session was moderated by Uday Shankar, chairman of FICCI Frames 2013.

 

 

Uday Shankar

Uday Shankar, chairman of FICCI-Frames 2013, began by warming up the audiences on the quality of panellists that had assembled at the session who according to him were among the best in the business. “If any change has to happen in the M&E industry then it has to begin with us (pointing at the speakers) and if we cannot do it then nobody else can and it will eventually be a failure,” remarked Mr Shankar.

 

 

 

Ravi Dhariwal

Presenting the mantras that get practiced at his workplace, Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, Publishing, Bennett & Coleman began by saying that for him it was important to concentrate on the smaller audiences, which is roughly about 1 per cent of the total population, and try and make a business model out of it. “To get this going we lay more emphasis on hiring good creative people and give them the freedom to do what they feel like. Ours is a very federal system where we let our people do what they want to do whether it is television or Radio Mirchi, TOI etc. With this, we also make it a point to hire good marketing professionals as we believe that the creative people also need to understand where the market is moving and be able to hear the voice of the customer. We try and make this combination come together to develop brands.”

 

Sudhanshu Vats

On the question on whether the industry is geared to cater to the entire range of diversity in terms of content, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom 18 Media said that the emphasis going forward would be to be able to build more of this ability and be able to segment and target. “In order to cater to a billion Indians we sharply need to segment and target them.” Pointing out to three trends that were helping the industry move forward, Mr Vats said, “The first trend is the mega-consumer trend where people generally tend to fall under the ‘collectible’ category and believe in sharing with the others around them and the ‘I’ category where people focus more on themselves and what they desire. The other trends include multiple screens that are here to stay and also the role that digitization will be playing in delivering focused content for both the mediums of television and print.”

 

 

Punit Goenka

For Punit Goenka, CEO & MD, ZEEL, the industry has just about taken baby steps and there is still a long way to go. “In fact if we are not geared for it then fragmentation is going to be the order of the day. And if do not do something about this then the consumer is going to go away.” Adding further he said, “From a television POV we have to stop calling ourselves as broadcasters and call ourselves content creators and aggregators. As in the end we will have to customise content even to the last individual. The problem is that the industry does not believe in working together today and if the entire value chain cannot work together then it cannot be done.”

 

Sidharth Roy Kapur, MD – Studios, Disney UTV said that where films is concerned what has happened in ten last 7-8 years is that commercial and parallel cinema have learnt to co-exist and also become popular too. “Films have managed to bridge the gap where you have audiences who like a Rowdy Rathore and are also enjoying a film like Barfi at the same time. And these are not two different set of audiences. I think the massive gap that we have in our country is infrastructure. In India there are only 12 screens per million viewers compared to the US who have 130 screens for the same number. So you can see the unlimited potential that exists in our country. Even the scope of catering to the outside diaspora is large but we hardly are doing anything to cater to their needs. The thing is that we haven’t even scratched the surface of where we want to go with our content and as we keep experimenting I think our job is to keep expanding the footprint and it needs to be done collectively.”

 

Rahul Johri

Rahul Johri, Sr VP & GM, India – Discovery Networks said, “Where localisation of content is concerned we have our channels available across multiple languages. The fact is that we need to have a right mix today; the way we are looking at the market is that people come to our brand to see what is happening around the world. Today about 60 per cent of the population is in the youth category and how do we engage this set of audiences that is an important TG is what is core to us. For us it is not about ratings and creating sensationalism but about building strong brands.”

 

Putting forth his observations, Shailesh Rao, Head of Global Operations, Twitter Inc remarked, “Where the Indian M&E industry is concerned I honestly think that it is one of the finest in the world in terms of creativity and diversity of content and product that’s brought out in the market. So while we have huge assets at our disposal we have to see what is it that will make us aspire to deliver more. And I think it is technology that will help us deliver that.” According to Mr Rao the way technology can  help connect the dots is in the following manner: “We have always seen broadcast and print as a push medium but I think there is a role for something like Twitter that is used to pull. We have to ask the audience what they like and communicate with them on a continuous basis. The other thing is to use technology for effective distribution. I see mobile playing a huge role in the way we communicate with the consumers, especially SMS.”

 

The panel proceeded by discussing other ways, including regulatory challenges, that would make this industry amongst the most preferred and profitable for the economy.

 

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