High Five with the Colors ‘A’ Team

22 Jul,2013

The Colors A Team (Left to right): Simran Hoon- National Sales Head, Prashaant Bhatt-Weekday Programming Head, Vivek Srivastava- Digital & Business Operations Head, Manisha Sharma- Weekend Programming Head, Sonia Huria Gupta- Communications Head, Raj Nayak- CEO, Colors, Cheryl Mendonca- Operations Head, Monica Nair- On-Air Programming Head, Romil Ramgarhia- Commercial Head, Arnab Das- Head Strategy & Research, Rajesh Iyer- Head Marketing

 

So what’s the big deal if a channel has completed five years of existence. Last year, Zee did four times that. Star Plus – in just its Hindi avatar – has been around for over a decade, Sony Entertainment Channel too has been there for long… even Sab TV has been on air for more. Only Life OK among the general entertainment channels is younger in age.

 

But the five years of Colors have redefined Indian entertainment television. In not just programming terms, but the way the business ought to be done: marketing, sales, distribution, promotions… almost every department.

 

Rather than do an interview with CEO Raj Nayak or the programming/marketing/sales heads (which we could do any time through the year), we thought of bringing you the entire core or A team at Colors. Simran Hoon- National Sales Head, Prashaant Bhatt-Weekday Programming Head, Vivek Srivastava- Digital & Business Operations Head, Manisha Sharma- Weekend Programming Head, Sonia Huria Gupta- Communications Head Cheryl Mendonca- Operations Head, Monica Nair- On-Air Programming Head, Romil Ramgarhia- Commercial Head, Arnab Das- Head Strategy & Research, Rajesh Iyer- Head Marketing and of course Raj Nayak, CEO of the channel.

 

Many of them are seldom in the limelight, and so in this interaction with Pradyuman Maheshwari, we got the Colors ‘A’ Team to share their sentiments about the channel. We did it over kathi rolls, sandwiches and chocolate mousse last Thursday, three days before Anniversary Day. Simran Hoon was on a short vaction when the lunch happened so we got her views via mail and phone. The photograph you see was shot the previous day.

 

Excerpts from the conversation:

 

Also read:

 

Raghav Bahl: The Colors of Trailblazing

 

Sameer Nair: Had it not been for the global recession, Colors would’ve been a billion dollar channel!

 

Anil Thakraney: Balika Vadhu on Colors was a game-changer

 

Mediaah!/Pradyuman Maheshwari: How underdog Colors won the great GEC battle

 

Colors ki Kahaani – Milestones

 

5 Amul ads that tell the Colors story

 

The highlights of the journey so far and what were your expectations when joined Colors?

Raj Nayak, CEO: The answer is simple, they offered me a deal that I couldn’t refuse. But on a serious note, I have been here half the five-year innings of the channel and as I look back I think it was a very courageous and bold move at that particular moment of time for any company to come and launch the 10th or 11th GEC when it was assumed that the market was already overcrowded. I think coming in as the 11th player also had its own advantages, expectations were low because whatever you do, you can only go up. It is indeed a huge compliment to my predecessors and the team that has been there since then.

 

From what I hear, they researched and studied the minds of consumers and identified the need gaps. Once done, Colors offered differentiated content and ensured that the channel doesn’t look like any other. They saw the opportunities in viewership from the Hindi hinterland and touched upon stories with social issues, set in rural india, which were never dealt with before. A complete contrast from the urban saas bahu serials…

 

Meanwhile, all channels had seen the success of Colors and started copying what we were doing. Colors as a brand had been repositioned by the competition and we were slow in reinventing. We did not evolve the way we should have. This was also the period when I was offered the job as my predecessor had quit. Within a short span of my moving in there were people at the senior level who had moved out of the organization  and suddenly I was left with Team where there was lot of insecurity, compounded with the fact that the channel had also slid to No 4. So the first task was to build confidence and security within the team. There was this fear whether the new boss would bring in people with him, fix them in key positions. But in my mind, if this was the team that had made the channel the No 1, why couldn’t they do it again?

 

So I didn’t bring in a single new person into the company. We have the same team that launched the channel and the only exception that happened was the programming head chose to move on. Had she continued, we would’ve had the same team!

 

The next thing was the realization that success can also become your baggage. We got so identified with social issues,  social drama that producers would then say yeh Colors jaisa show hai. As a result, we never got new ideas. We then sat down and decided to do something completely different. We’ve had our successes and failures. Like Chhal, which was a social thriller, at 9 pm. People said we were mad, we went ahead and failed. Also Ring ka King didn’t as well as expected.

 

What we didn’t do is stop reinventing. Jhalak Dikhla Jaa has been a huge success, so has Comedy Nights with Kapil. Sur Kshetra did well and Madhubala has possibly been the only fiction show from the last two or three years that’s worked so very well. I don’t think there is any other GEC that has kind of variety that we have. The secret to our success is this desire to continually evolve and take calculated risks. And we have a great team taking this forward.

 

Manisha Sharma, Weekend Programming Head: I was working with another network when I came here and Colors has always been very dynamic and aggressive network with everything it has done. When I used to be on the other side one would keep thinking on how Colors would get away with it even as we would live within the realms of dos and don’ts of shows and that’s possibly one of the reasons why I joined Colors. And in these last 15 months I have never done so many shows and so many launches in any other place ever before. The good thing is we decide very quickly, if something is not working, we take corrective actions. We do not have layers hierarchy and bureaucracy. We have the youngest team working across any network… very dynamic. We are very world broadcasters.

 

Raj Nayak: We have a single line brief which says only if there is a problem, come to me. Doing well is expected, each one here takes the ball and runs with it with no supervision. And that kind of passion and commitment I have never seen anywhere else.

 

Arnab Das- Head Strategy & Research: I have been here with Colors for three years now. What got me into Colors was at that point it was already an iconic brand. It had created its own niche. All the shows that we have done – Balika Vadhu in the beginning, then Madhubala, now Jhalak Dikhla Jaa and 24 that’s coming up – have their own position and highlight.

 

Simran Hoon – National Sales Head:  I have had the fortune of working with top successful brands like Sony, Star , Zee and the The Times of India over the past 19 years and truly enjoyed working with some of their successful start ups. When a Hindi GEC was being planned by an enviable company like Viacom 18, it was an opportunity I just couldn’t resist !!!

 

The stint has been truly a dream ! Joining the channel six months before launch and being part of the core team and to see the channel now complete five superb years, has truly been a privilege!

 

Romil Ramgarhia- Commercial Head: I joined Colors before it launched in the finance department so. I came from the telecom industry to media and entertainment and the fact that Viacom and Network 18 had tied hands got me here. The media also excited me specifically so I just jumped and Colors happened. There is lot of hard work. There was lot of planning which went into, but the journey has been exciting. It’s been a great learning experience. We have been through all peaks and troughs. We’ve been No 1, we been a challenger brand. We’ve seen all the ups and downs. The best part about this place is the vertical structure that gives us the decision-making authority.

 

Cheryl Mendonca- Operations Head: I joined more than five years back. We had heard that MTV was coming up with a GEC. The launch was completely chaotic. I have never launched a channel with not more than five people handling entire non-creative. With no equipment, manpower was absolutely scarce. With all those constraints we managed to launch. The thrill of the ratings we got in the first two weeks can’t be described in words. It so motivated the young team we had. From those days – all the ups and down – it’s been a great journey.

 

Monica Nair- On-Air Programming Head: I was very really reluctant to join as I had this cushy job at a big network so when the previous CEO called me up, I said NO. And then he called he said if you don’t come and  join us we will never ever offer again in your life and I promise you it would be an exciting journey. So I just trusted him and I joined it’s been a really great journey ever since. The first time India got a glimpse of our channel was thanks to work that my OAP team had done, and I was really proud of it. The shows weren’t shot then, the packiaging had to be create. And our promos got people talking. I think it is the best place that I have ever worked in because people are accessible and you get to do what you believe in!

 

Prashaant Bhatt- Weekday Programming Head: If Colors is five-year-old year kid, I am just a 20-month-old baby. The journey has been very good. I been in the media for 15 years but as a freelancer. I knew if I ever wanted to do something as a broadcaster, it would be at Colors. Our mindsets are the same. Let’s take risks, let’s do something different. We bring a certain aggressiveness to our work. We are very passionate about our work and what really works is the conviction and dedication. A point came when we actually ran out of social messages to give to people out there. We done it all with Balika, Uttaran, Bhagyavidhaata and there were 20 other social messages in other networks. So we said let’s not copy ourselves and we did Madhubala when went so much against the Colors strategy then. We decide to shock our viewers and it worked. It’s this ability to take risks is what drives us and what brought me here. The day we play safe would be a boring day actually.

 

Vivek Srivastava- Digital & Business Operations Head: I have been around since before the channel launched. I worked on strategy were would like to believe there was a method in the madness. I think our biggest strength is that we always challenge the rules. It’s thinking out of the box and raising the bar is not aonly appreciated but celebrated and cherished.

 

Sonia Huria Gupta- Communications Head: The journey in one word has been exhilarating for me. There is so much action in my life every day. I have been privileged of working with the greatest minds right now. I mean then it was Rajesh Kamat and Ashvini and now it is Raj and everybody who is here. You rarely get an opportunity to work with legends like these. When we started, the promos said ‘ek naya Hindi general entertainment channel’. In two months, we had to drop the word ‘naya’!  Baalika Vadhu had been a talking point in every household. From my function point of view, the representation of the bouquet that we offered covered Bharat and India so which meant the messaging had to come out in a right manner where we did not alienated anybody… something for everyone and everything for someone.

 

Rajesh Iyer- Head Marketing: A lot of what had to be said has been said already (laughs). I joined this place purely because it was a start-up. The idea of a place where you can start from beginning and you define your own rules lured me here. When we started the challenge we faced was that we were launching a mass brand without a mass platform. So we didn’t have a platform to promote ourselves and we no other mass channel would take us because we were competition. Within a month though we had a platform and the journey has been great ever since. There is complete transparency here… the people we work with, the bosses we work with, the colleagues we work with. There is a lot of camaraderie and no insecurity in the core team and that’s critical for any success story.

 

What according to you been the most significant milestone of the last five years? Is there one thing that you think you could re-do in last five years? And first with you, Rajesh!

Rajesh Iyer: Thanks (laughs). I think an important milestone for a young channel like us was to be No 1. That was the defining moment for the entire organization… whether it was the perception standpoint within the trade, internally, within peers. I dont think so I would like to re-do anything.

 

Sonia Huria Gupta: I think one significant milestone would be No 1 for all of us but I think what we are doing right now is even more significant. Like Raj says it’s always easy for of all us to get there to the No 1 position, but sustaining that, being there, being still relevant for the audience I think that is even more significant today.

 

Vivek Srivastava:  I think the significant milestone has to be No 1 and the fact that we achieved that in nine months was a very big thing. And I agree with Sonia reaching the top is easy, sustaining it is what is difficult. On re-doing, I think as a GEC brand we need to be dynamic, so we don’t have to redo but keep reinventing, so nothing really.

 

Prashaant Bhatt: For newcomers like Mr Nayak, Manish and me, going back from No 4 to No 1 was the milestone. Having said that, a bigger milestone was me is the differentiated programming that we have. No longer does any producer come to me and say ‘Yeh Colors jaisa show hai’!

 

Monica Nair: They have also said it. But I would like to see us No 1 again.

 

Cheryl Mendonca: When we hit No 1 and when the other channels started looking at us like a threat and even started copying us.

 

Romil Ramgarhia: Getting to the No 1 was the most significant milestone for me. In terms of redo, I think as a brand we missed the bus by not launching the Hindi movie channel when it was ready to go on air. It was a big mistake, and we’ve now missed the bus fo r the next five years as well.

 

Simran Hoon: Beating the número uno Star Plus in 9 months of launch when they were the undisputed leader for so many years was creating not a milestone, but making history !

 

Arnab Das: See, being No 1 is from a TAM rating perspective. The most significant milestone according to me for Brand Colors is being there as No 1 and most powerful brand in the minds of the consumer. I interact a lot consumers and it’s very clear that Colors is here to stay and our viewers have many expectations and they want us to meet them. In terms of redoing, I agree with Romil, the movie channel was an opportunity to expand our brand. Unfortunately we missed that, I guess we have to live with it.

 

Manisha Sharma: I think everything has been covered. I joined when we were No 4 then managed to get it No 1 then we have been a very healthy No 2. That is really a milestone. I think it’s easier to be No 2 and aspire to be No 1. I can see a Star right now constantly freaking out for losing its position but for us it’s always been great. We are always in the No 2, No 1 game and that is the healthy part of it. And about re-doing, I am to new here to redo and all that we are doing right now is doing, doing and doing (laughs)

 

Raj Nayak: I was very lucky I inherited a very good team. The biggest challenge for me was pursuing these two people to look after programming (points to Manisha and Prashaant). So getting the two people was important and hence a milestone. And then there was the signing of 24. The success of 24 for me is not going to be so much for Colors but for the entire industry. It has the potential for becoming the gamechanger for the industry. I meet colleagues from other networks who tell me that for the industry’s sake, we want you to be successful.

 

Your favourite programme/show on the channel over the last five years?

Raj Nayak: I need to be a little tactful because I need all the producers, but I don’t want to be seen to be playing favourites with any particular programme. But there’s one show which is actually a loss-maker for me and yet we do it year after year and that’s Bigg Boss. It’s got cult following in this country which is completely different from any other show. It gives the channel a differentiated identity. So at one level, we have Bigg Boss, and on another there’s Balika Vadhu.  It would possibly be right to say that Bigg Boss is not my most favourite show, but surely the most important one.

 

Manisha Sharma: Balika Vadhu. It very effectively brings up a social message and is very beautiful fiction. Worldwide, you go after stories like these.

 

Arnab Das: India’s Got Talent was my most favourite show of the channel. Purely because of the dynamics: one gets to see everything and anything on the show.

 

Simran Hoon:  It’s always been Bigg Boss for me! Sheer entertainment and also a dream for advertisers when it comes to brand engagement embedded in a manner where it moulds itself well with content.

 

Romil Ramgarhia: It’s Balika Vadhu and Jhalak. With Balika, the characters resonated very well. Anandi and the entire family really worked for viewers and Jhalak because it just took the scale of dance shows to a different level. It’s is the biggest dancing show that’s ever been done on Indian television

 

Cheryl Mendonca: For me, KKK…Khatron ke Khiladi, Akshay Kumar was fabulous for the two seasons he did. And the other would be Balika for the way the story has progressed.

 

Monica Nair: For me it’s Balika as it’s the first time I cried watching a fiction show. I howled when Gehna’s husband died, it was the most moving episode. I would also salute Kathron ke Khiladi because it was not a talked about format in the earlier channel. Without Khatron ke Khiladi, Balika wouldn’t have been so big. I feel people started sampled Khatron ke Khiladi first and then they came to know about Balika. So hats off to Khatron ke Khiladi!

 

Prashaant Bhatt: Definitely one of them is Balika Vadhu and Madhubala too because it helped change the perception of the channel. The first show that didn’t have any hardcore social message, wasn’t regressive and was without a rural backdrop. Earlier producers would come up and say ‘Yeh Colors jaisa show hai’ which was a slap on our face…

 

Vivek Srivastava: Comedy Nights with Kapil and Big Boss purely because it gives so much of conversation around the channel.

 

Sonia Huria Gupta: Balika again for me and currently my hot favorite is Comedy Nights with Kapil.  There was this one particular episode where Dadisa whose character is very grey asked her granddaughter-in-law to divorce her grandson. To me that was the high point of the show.

 

Rajesh Iyer: Comedy Nights with Kapil is my hot favourite. It was an underdog show when we launched it and has done extremely well, a clear testimony to all the creative work that has gone behind it. The second show which I like is Khatron ke Khiladi. It was the first show which we launched and it more or less defined us… we are also Kathron ke Khiladi!

 

Any kind of programme/show  you would like to see on Colors (and why)?

Raj Nayak: Grey’s Anatomy since you asked for just one. I think it is very easy to adapt in India because everybody thinks it’s a hospital show but it is not a hospital show. You have this operation theatre and various characters and a lot of cameo in it. That will be on show I woud like to put money on.

 

Manisha Sharma: Homeland. In India, we see a division between fiction and non-fiction. But with shows like 24, there’s no such distinction. It’s edgy and is great content and television is going to move to that space.

 

Arnab Das: Prison Break, one of the best shows I have seen in terms of taste, the plot. It’s woven so beautifully, from beginning to the end.

 

Simran Hoon: Friends… Would love to see an Indian adaptation as it fun and a first of its kind on Indiantelevision

 

Romil Ramgarhia: I think we need something like a Sherlock Holmes. It’s a show that would work well with Colors audiences

 

Cheryl Mendonca: CSI indeed. It’s brilliant!

 

Monica Nair: I was doing some research on non-fiction and discovered how a certain show had done which covered a couple’s divorce live. I would like to see something similar on Colors that will keep the audiences glued to their TV screens.

 

Prashaant Bhatt: Instead of naming any particular show, I would say horror as a genre. It’s been missing on our platform, so anything with horror would be good to have.

 

Vivek Srivastava:  I would go for Dexter and The Big Bang theory. If there’s one network which can do justice to this kind of programming, it’s Colors

 

Sonia Huria Gupta: For me, It would be Scandal. It is really scandalous stuff with the way things work in the White House and it would be interesting to adapt something like that to India, to what happens in the Parliament. It would make for great content!

 

Rajesh Iyer: Friends. If there’s a network that can execute it well, it’s us.

 

Your vision for Colors. In 2018, five years from now, how would you see Colors score the Perfect 10?

Rajesh Iyer: I think if we are still concentrating on giving varied content, different type of content, I see the Colors franchise growing and many more channels in the fold. I see Colors in the digital and various other formats. In 2018, Colors will have a very strong digital play.

 

Sonia Huria Gupta: If we continue to stay nimble-footed, if we continue to stay agile and if we continue on the path of re-inventing and having an aggressive approach, we will score the Perfect 10

 

Vivek Srivastava: If we are as relevant and contemporary and as we are today, we would’ve done the job!

 

Prashaant Bhatt: While we will be 10 years’ old in 2018, we would still be younger than the other GECs. I think the same kind of energy, aggressiveness and risk-taking factor should take us to the Perfect 10.

 

Monica Nair: I don’t think there is any formula or any such thing. I think: go with the flow, go with the gut and with good karmas supporting us, we will achieve the Perfect 10.

 

Cheryl Mendonca: With a similar team and enthusiasm, we can take Colors to greater heights in the next five, 10, 12 years ahead.

 

Romil Ramgarhia: For 2018, my vision is to be the most profitable media brand as far as Colors is concerned and have all things that possibly we can have across the television and non-television space. We need to re-invent and experiment continually to score a Perfect 10

 

Simran Hoon: Can’t really make such a big prediction given how dynamic this industry is! I am waiting to meet someone who is a fortune teller and paradoxically most media companies happily carry such programmes across the board! Am also waiting to meet someone who has a Peoplemeter though am happy not knowing the latter!

 

Arnab Das: I would say as a brand, Colors should be considered as an inclusive and respected brand for internal and external stakeholders… whether it is the consumer or the advertiser.

 

Manisha Sharma: I am hoping that by 2018, all of us are stakeholders and none of us are only working here (laughs)

 

Raj Nayak:  I see Colors as not being a single brand, but having several brand extensions. Is Colors being in the regional space and very active in digital. The future is that people are going to be multi-platform, multi-screens in every field. Our vision is to be India’s most respected, profitable and trendsetting media company.

 

Pradyuman Maheshwari: Thank you, everyone. For me, the channel had arrived was when I was on this flight from Mumbai to Delhi in 2009 and a gentlemen in the row ahead had opened the newspaper which had a Colors ad. This prompted him to crib to his companion and mouth a few expletives on how his 7-year-old son had started spelling colour without the ‘u’ thanks to what he sees on telly. He said he wanted to complain, but didn’t know who to go to!

 

Post a Comment 

One response to “High Five with the Colors ‘A’ Team”

  1. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    I had the pleasure to interact with Karthik Lakshminarayan, Romil
    Ramgarhia and Sameer Gogate during my stint at Reliance Big Entertainment
    Private Limited – Div BIG Music. Wishing these gentlemen and COLORS, many more
    happy milestones in the future.

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