Jaldi 5 with Partho Dasgupta & Neville Taraporewalla: No boring panel discussions and screaming on IAA Debates

11 Oct,2013

The India chapter of the International Association of Advertising has had a superactive calendar over the last year-odd. And one of the events that’s been making waves is the IAA Debates which are held across major cities on issues and themes that are vital to the industry and of course are much debated*.


MxMIndia spoke with the co-chairs of the IAA Debates – Neville Taraporewalla (General Manager, Microsoft India) and Partho Dasgupta (CEO, BARC) on the success of the event series:


01. The IAA debates have been a huge hit. While it would looked like a winner idea even before it started, did you think it would be so much fun when you embarked on them?

At the outset, we need to thank Mr Srinivasan Swamy,  the IAA ( India Chapter ) President to give us this platform and allowing us blue ocean the opportunity. Yes, at the cost of sounding a bit arrogant, we knew it was a winner of an idea. We have dime a dozen panel discussions happening in Industry events all over but they are all very mushy and goodie-goodie discussions. Television debates have become monotonous and one way where the anchor tends to drive the discussion as to where he wants to. Our objective was to ensure that there was truly a debate! Thoughts and ideas are shared by leaders supported by hard facts and data to make a point rather than shouting and screaming that we see on television being based of as a Debate. Further, we wanted to infuse some energy into this and make them relevant with topics that are being discussed today. Hence we made the format very tight, went with classical debating and had some amazing speakers. It had to be a winner !!!


02. Normally such properties have a fixed element in the form of the moderator. But you’ve gone out and changed them. Any reasons? Also, wouldn’t it be great to have it on a fixed day of every month – like the first or last Friday of a month?

The fixed element in this is IAA Debates. Nothing or nobody can be bigger than that brand. We try and invite senior people for the debate so a fixed schedule is logistically difficult hence we have to be flexible. I guess this has worked very well for us. Our objective is to ensure that our topics are debaters are relevant to ensure we are able to help the industry actually take a point of view based on the arguments made by the debaters. That has resulted in some interesting results. For example in the first debate, the audience post the arguments continued to support traditional media than digital! We all thought the team speaking on behalf of digital would have a cakewalk but once the arguments were put forth, the audience actually voted for traditional media. Though it was a slender margin, but it was in favour of the underdog creating some excitement for everyone at the event. Similarly, the one in Bengaluru, and then the one at Social Media Week actually gave very different results.


03. Have you had any reservations from industry captains who do not want to be seen on the losing side, at least in pubic?

Not really, we have on the other hand, been surprised at the way everyone agrees to take part, whatever maybe the outcome. Take for example, Arun Anant, Group CEO of The Hindu who you wouldn’t have heard him in many forums. One call and he was on. We are building momentum. When we invite speakers, they know that to get a invite for this event is special and in most cases we get positive responses. We have been transparent and clear that the topics cannot be changed to suit the speakers and they like the stand. Our topics are carefully selected by the two of us and worded to ensure it appeals to the format that we have designed. Our speakers have loved it and we have got a pat on the back from our sponsor too.


04. Your first edition was on television, why weren’t the others? It would be good for television, na?

Yes, there are some contractual issues. We will sort out. The format is ideal for packaging for television. In fact, we would be happy to discuss this and take the IAA Debates onto the television platform.


05. You’ve raised the bar on guests already with Subramanian Swamy and Jawhar Sircar… so who’s coming up next?

Aha!!! You surely don’t want us to give out the surprise elements. Be assured – you will hear and see great names, and many whom you have not heard before. Our effort is to build this property over time and the fact that we have consistently done it is a good runway for many more debates in the coming months


*Disclosure: MxMIndia has been partnering IAA’s Face to Face webinar series


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