Barun Das‘ pedigree encourged investor ITV Network to back him with its bucks
MUMBAI: We all have had those moments when we want to pack our bags and kiss goodbye to our desks to start something of our own. However, in reality very few of us actually do that to follow our dreams.
Years ago, the late Rohinton Maloo took the step of quitting his job at Trikaya Grey (now Grey Worldwide) when the entrepreneurship bug bit him to start his media concessionaire firm. In the recent past too, the Indian media industry has seen many executives leaving their cushy jobs to start their own ventures. So, what makes one to take such a step? It is independence, new challenges or just fulfillment of a childhood dream.
"From my trainee days, I always wrote my career objectives, one of which was to strike out a place for myself," says Cent Percent Media Solutions (CPMS) co-founder Barun Das who started the company along with his former Zee News Ltd (ZNL) colleague Amit Tripathi. The two ZNL executives started the ad sales agency in February this year with a core focus on the growing regional language, news and niche channel spaces. Amit functions as the CEO of the company.
With 20 years of work experience (quite a few of these in media) and a deep understanding of the broadcast industry (he was CEO of ZNL for quite a few years), Das knew that the time was right to start a one-stop sales avenue for the ad revenue-challenged regional and niche channels.
"With digitisation taking shape, the industry is bound to go through a boom in the next three to five years," he says. "Most channels that will come up in that phase will be subscription driven. They will not want to set up a national ad sales infrastructure and will be more than glad to have someone with one to generate those extra ad rupees for them. And this is where agencies such as us will come in."
|It was very easy for us to put our bucks behind this fledgling venture says RK Arora|
The agency which didn‘t have a single client when it started four months back, can today boast of having 10 clients in its kitty. The company handles ad sales for channels such as India News National, India News Haryana, India News Rajasthan, India News Bihar, India News Madhya Pradesh, India News Uttar Pradesh, Kolkata TV and NewsX which are a part ITV Network. Apart from these, the agency has also been appointed by Odisha Television Network to handle the advertising sales of two of its channels, Tarang Music and Prarthana.
It is clocking in about Rs 4 crore of billing revenue per month. Das says this is just the beginning. "The numbers that we are getting are just in four months of existence. Our venture has really taken off well, much better than I even anticipated," he says. "I expect Cent Percent to close its first year at around Rs 100 crore in billing."
However, the journey hasn‘t been a smooth one for the newcomer. "I have had investors who committed but backed-out at the last minute. But there have been others who have supported and appreciated us," points out Das while explaining how the last six months have been a mix bag of emotions.
So how does he motivate himself and others? "Our current aim is to sustain for the first two years. If we can achieve this, I am confident that we will reach our goal of being a Rs 300 crore billing agency in the next three years. We know and understand the industry and if we aim high as well as believe in ourselves then surely we will be able to achieve what we have ventured out for," says Das.
The agency which currently has a strength of 45 employees across the country is backed by the Kartikeya Sharma-owned ITV Network, which has bought a majority stake in it. Prior to this, the agency was also funded by a private equity investor. It is looking at setting up a national network in order to service its clients.
"This will happen as we go along. We currently have a strong presence in the north with regional manager Aarti Manchama, and in the west with regional manager Sonal Pandey and the east with Dipayan. These are professionals who have worked with national news channels, and we will expand when the need arises," says Das.
Zenith Optimedia‘s Naveen Khemka believes that agencies such as Cent Percent are filling a need gap
Speaking to indiantelevision.com, ITV Network CEO RK Arora explains that it was very easy for his company to put its bucks behind the fledgling venture. Says he: "Both Barun and Amit come with a lot of experience and know how to sell news channels. They have tremendous merit, and we have full faith in them and hence we didn‘t hesitate in promoting them. New regional broadcasters which do not have a set-up in cities like Mumbai or Delhi want such agencies to help them."
ZenithOptimedia senior vice-president Naveen Khemka too believes that such new ventures only succeed when they have something new to offer to its clients or if there is really a need-gap in the market. "Small channels can‘t spend or set-up a large sales team across the nation and hence tie-up with these new specialised agencies. According, to me it‘s a win-win situation for both."
A media source reveals that there are other advantages too. A small standalone channel - on its own - may not have much negotiating clout with media agencies who believe their job is to drive down prices and get a deal better than the best.
"When a concessionaire such as Cent Percent comes into the picture dealing on behalf of a dozen channels with a large amout of inventory,the media planner/buyer views things differently," says she. "The balance of power shifts and his negotiating power goes down. Hence, going with a concessionaire is really a good bet."
Agrees Das. "We are actually aiming at strengthening our news channel vertical to at least 20," he says. "Then there is the regional entertainment vertical and the national niche channel vertical which will be gradually built up."
But then of course. there are other challenges which normally come up for media concessionaires: like marrying one‘s systems into those of each client‘s and ensuring that all commitments made to advertisers and agencies are met.
"We have been scaling up and will definitely do more depending on the requirement to ensure that our service standards stay top class," says Das. "But on the whole our sales team is in constant touch with the media agency, the brand and the content team of the channel to ensure that everything works out right, even for product placement and brand integration.We actually work as an extended arm of the organisation."
With an outlook and attitude like that, Cent Percent is 100 per cent likely to hit bull‘s eye! Right?