The Entertainment Business Is All About Passion & People - Mahesh Ramanathan


When I ask him for his favourite biz mantra, he goes, 'sab kuch ho sakta hain, karne wala chahiye.' "Afterall, life is all about pressing the `refresh' button all the time, " says an upbeat Mahesh Ramanathan, COO, Percept Picture Company (PPC), a part of Percept Holdings, a Rs 16 billion capitalized billings media & entertainment conglomerate.

Sitting in the driver's seat, Ramanathan, brings with him close to 15 years of sales, marketing and general management experience. And though, this is really his first assignment in the entertainment business, Ramanathan is all set to change the rules of the game, as he gears up to take a pie from the country's most profitable brand that is Bollywood. He says, "this business is really about people and ideas. And ideas can come from anywhere. Also, people need a lot of hand holding to implement those ideas. Once, we implement the idea, then like a sugarcane juice vendor, our aim is to extract maximum profits from the venture."

Here, in an interview to Exec Life, Ramanathan talks about how he loves to take on challenges, grow companies to a critical mass and drive people towards their creative limits. So, here goes lights, camera and action.....

This is really your first assignment in the media and entertainment field? What lessons have you carried on from your earlier jobs here?

I like to join companies at the initial stages and grow them to a critical mass. To cite from my earlier assignments - Baygon grew from two sub-brands to a mother brand with seven line extensions in two years. SHV Energy (Calor Gas in U.K.) grew from scratch to a 100 cr topline in two calendar years-in a commodity market a brand was established. AirTel-Kolkata saw three brand transitions & trebled revenues to 120 cr in two and a half years and gained a leadership position over Hutch.

So, it's all about understanding the market, strategy and planning. The initial period here has been a learning experience. PPC has all the ingredients required for growth. Systems and processes backed by a relatively de-risked business strategy in Motion Pictures aggressive content creation for General Entertainment channels on TV will see the company reach a critical mass this year.

So, what's the fun part of the Media & entertainment business?

The business is really about people and passion. So, along with the right strategy, it's all

Biz Mantra


I am a pacca Tam Brahm. I mostly stick to idli, dosa for breakfast.

Stress busters

Love sports. Cricket and Tennis are my passion.


I've a fetish for cars. Love to keep track of the latest trends, apart from trying out various brands.

Life Mantra

Sab kuch ho sakta hain, karne wala chahiye


Love travelling.

about getting the right team together. I might have a 1000 member team but they might not be able to deliver. But, sometimes a small team with the right chemistry can drive the business. Also, hierarchy or a corporate structure doesn't matter as it's all about creativity.

Apart from hugely investing in talent, we are also open to ideas. And ideas could germinate even from outside.

So, what you're saying is that you can drive only if you get the right people?

Yes, it's all about managing people. Ideas are intellectual property and savvy exploitation of rights differentiates one from competition. It's similar to the telecom business, where you are selling an intangible product and marketing is the key business driver. However, content creation in Motion Pictures that straddles all delivery platforms, requires a much more in-depth understanding of audience's tastes & preferences.

So, how do you ensure your team delivers to their full capacity?

You might come up with the best idea but implementation is the key. So, I believe people need a lot of hand holding in this business. Here, we are a family of 75 committed & talented individuals. While systems & processes are important, I believe creative minds cannot be boxed up or compartmentalised. We entrust our employees with agreed deliverables at the beginning of the year. A hands off decentralised management approach ensures employees take ownership of results & deliver.

Tell us a little about your script shop?

PPC invites scripts from talented writers across various age groups & across the country through our website .We receive 10-12 scripts a day and a team of dedicated creative resources process each one of the scripts received. Eventually, we want to make available select scripts to filmmakers across the world.

How are you doing it differently?

We want ideas to germinate from the masses. Also, we're trying to pre -test the scripts, and not just depend on a good star cast. Hanuman, was more than just a film, it signaled a coming of age in local content creation by Indian animators. We've just announced the making of Hanuman 2 and a Documentary on Mother Teresa.

How do you plan to scale up the operations for the business to achieve critical mass? Do you have any strategic alliances up your sleeves?

PPC has the best talent working on creation, production, marketing & distribution of Motion Pictures. So it's natural for us to scale up. We are committed to produce 30 motion pictures (Hindi & International) in the next two years. Strategic alliances would be formed to secure a platform that would deliver growth. Recently, we have sold a five per cent stake to Bennett & Coleman to bring in marketing synergies.

But, is there a method to the madness, cause entertainment can be a highly risky business? How are you changing the rules of the game?

Our aim is always to de-risk the business. We spend at least 35 per cent of the time taken from start to finish of a motion picture in pre-production (against 10 per cent by industry) we do our homework to ensure our scripts are in tune with the audience's sensibilities. Researching the script ensures that we better the law of averages of Hindi Films succeeding at the box office. Our marketing campaigns are mounted with specific pre-scales objectives in mind, but we ensure our channel partners too profit due to a strong script, selection of the Director & appropriate casting. We believe, if the industry does it's homework before narrating a story, it is sure to strike a chord with audiences and a higher success ratio is bound to follow.

You've mostly been in Delhi for the most part of your life. This is really your first assignment in Mumbai. How do you like the city and the people here?

Mumbai is not just the commercial capital, but even an intellectual capital of the country. It also has the best brains in the world. Above, all the city has a soul. I quite love being here.

What is your greatest indulgence?

I love playing mind games. I am totally hooked on to Sudoku, a Japanese, fun puzzle game. (for the uninitiated Sudoku requires the player to fill in the 9x9 square grids with the numbers one to nine. The numbers should be arranged in such a way that each row, column and mini-grid contains one of each number.) A single error in a Sudoku can throw the whole game out. I think, even life is really like that.

Apart from this, I love driving. Inspite of the heavy traffic and distances in the city, I make it a point to drive down from Powai to Lower Parel to my office.

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