| Interview with Prasar
Bharati director marketing Vijaya Laxmi Chhabra
bred media planners and buyers seem to think that all Indian
youth think and act like them"
on 23 July 2003
gentle demeanour masks her grit, determination and risk taking abilities.
Meet Prasar Bharati director marketing Vijaya Laxmi Chhabra. Originally
from Orissa, Chhabra spent the formative years of her life in the
steel township of Bhilai in MP. She completed her higher education
from Delhi University and did her Masters in International Relations.
in college (Indraprastha College in Delhi), Chhabra was actively
involved in student politics. "While politics fascinated me,
the studios of All India Radio beckoned me. I had to choose between
broadcasting and politics," says the multi-faceted lady who
has varied interests and hobbies. Seen in Chhabra's office are issues
magazine, sketches and Kapka Kassabova's Love
in the Land of Midas
as well as pneumatic tapes.
went on to clear her UPSC exams in Delhi and was roped in to the
programming cadre of the Indian Broadcasting Service. She has been
with All India Radio (AIR) in various capacities for 20 years. She
claims to have immensely enjoyed creating radio features and documentaries
on burning issues. Chhabra was awarded the Commonwealth Fellowship
in 1995 and went to London to study commercial broadcasting and
its impact on society. After she returned, Chhabra was put in charge
of AIR's commercial service and took over Mumbai FM's radio channel.
was chosen by the former CEO of Prasar Bharati Rajiv Ratan Shah
to set up Prasar Bharati's Marketing Division in Mumbai. She claims
that this was a major turning point in her professional life.
change is already visible - the sixth floor of DD Mumbai Kendra
office is comparable to the offices of an ad agency or private institution.
There is a buzz and there are no signs of the laid-back attitude
or mentality of a normal public sector unit. In this interview,
Chhabra speaks to indiantelevision.com's Ashwin
about her plans and vision. Excerpts:
did Prasar Bharati decide to create a separate marketing division?
A lot of people have misconceptions about the role and responsibilities
of this division. Can you clarify the rationale?
Doordarshan (DD) has traditionally been into slot marketing and
has also seen glorious days (in terms of popularity of programmes)
due to the efforts of a select group of top producers.
somewhere down the line, we felt that DD was not getting its rightful
share due to the slot marketing policy. The yield per 10-second
spot hasn't increased since years despite inflation whereas that
of the cable and satellite (C&S) channels has been increasing
by leaps and bounds. Various factors such as aggressive media buying
(by ad agencies) and distress selling (by marketers) contributed
to this dip (or flat) in realisations.
there was no single window control over the huge inventory. The
fact remains that DD (and its affiliate channels) has the largest
inventory amongst TV channels in India. Even amongst the regional
Kendras there are some strong kendras with some great programming
properties. The key was to ensure that we package all these strong
entertainment brands and properties together; sell them through
a single window so as to leverage our unique selling propositions.
The emphasis was on getting the best deal and earning the maximum
possible revenues that can be channelised in various DD projects.
DD didn't have a face (as most of the marketing was done by a third
party) that could regularly interact with advertising clients and
ad agencies. The point is that we needed to build bridges in order
to increase revenues.
objectives compelled former CEO Rajiv Ratan Shah to conceptualise
the formation of the Prasar Bharati Marketing Division in September
2000. The initiative was carried forward and strengthened by former
Prasar Bharati CEO Anil Baijal, current CEO KS Sarma and DD director
general Dr SY Quraishi.
us about the initial days? What were the nature of the assignments
taken up by Prasar Bharati Marketing Division?
A full fledged division was set up in Mumbai. Initially, we started
off by marketing in-house programmes or properties that were available
- news, re-run programmes such as Malgudi Days, Bharat Ek Khoj,
Shrikant, amongst others.
team didn't have any reference guides or existing benchmarks; we
had to learn everything on the job and start from scratch. We had
to learn the mechanics of packaging, negotiating and delivering
value to advertisers.
of the first successes that we had was the successful marketing
of the Union Budget. We managed to get up to Rs 10 million for a
property that had yielded us much less when third party marketing
concessionaires were used.
opportunity came our way when the Channel Nine and DD-Metro deal
fell through. Again, through innovative packaging, we managed to
realise up to Rs 100 million for old popular programmes such as
Buniyaad, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi and Udaan amongst others.
These were small steps, but they gave us confidence. We realised
that we were definitely moving in the right direction.
are the key learnings from the experience of working with Mumbai
The key lessons are 'concept selling' and maximising value by ensuring
that programming and marketing are clubbed together; and the separate
departments work hand in hand.
experience with Mumbai Doordarshan has shown us that the public
broadcaster can reap rich dividends if this kind of a synergistic
approach is adopted. After all, DD and AIR have some brilliant individuals
- committed and dedicated professionals such as Mumbai DD station
director Mukesh Sharma who has taken Sahyadri channel to pole position
among all Marathi satellite channels.
with his team, Sharma came up with some innovative and brilliant
programmes and ensured their marketability. Jointly, we tried out
several experiments and came up with customised programmes that
appealed to advertisers. DD Sahyadri is a tremendous success story
and all credit should go to Sharma's untiring efforts. We took the
channel from zero to the No 1 position.
fact, all the DD Kendras must try and replicate DD Sahyadri's success
in their respective centres.
have 15 young and dynamic officers working with me; they share
my enthusiasm, passion and vision to ensure that DD gets its
rightful share from the market"
your team geared up to accept the challenges?
I can proudly claim that my team is fully equipped to handle challenging
assignments. I have 15 young and dynamic officers working with me;
they share my enthusiasm, passion and vision to ensure that DD gets
its rightful share from the market.
function like any corporate set up. Most of these young boys and
girls have been taken from the programming cadre of AIR and DD;
but in a short span, they have adapted well to the job requirements
and demands. Their knowledge of programming concepts helps them
in their marketing efforts.
packages were worked out mostly by the trial and error, but now
packages are created scientifically to suit clients requirements
and offer value for money.
interact constantly with industry professionals; and this helps
us fine tune our policies and align them with the industry needs.
The best part is that we are transparent and clients are comfortable
dealing with us.
have focused on providing a one-stop shop for planning and client
servicing on the DD and AIR network. We have built up core competencies
in every step of the sales chain right from pitching to negotiating
to closing deals to executing to realising the monies.
are the additional opportunities that your division has looked at?
Our mandate is to go beyond the routine of airtime selling and developing
new revenue streams such as marketing of events.
add that Mukesh Sharma's progressive outlook has helped us create
quality in-house events in Mumbai which have now become brands in
their own right. Take for instance - the Godrej Sahyadri Navratan
Puraskar; the event earned us Rs 20 lakhs (Rs 2 million); if we
had taken an outside agency, we would have earned hardly one third
of this amount. Through this exercise, we managed to build the Sahyadri
brand too. More importantly, the software remained with us.
we have created other event properties such as DD Awards and New
Year programmes. The earnings are in the region of Rs 80 lakhs (Rs
8 million) each for DD awards (held twice already) and New Year's
Programmes (2003-4 will be the second time we shall market it).
we would be marketing newly acquired and quality programmes such
as India's No 1 (produced by Siddharth Basu) and Ji Mantriji
there some Kendras where you see a lot of potential?
DD's Mumbai Kendra is definitely a success story. I see a lot of
potential in DD Kolkata and DD Trivandrum and we have already made
substantial progress in these Kendras. There is renewed interest
even in centres such as DD Ahmedabad.
us about cricket marketing? You surprised many people with the revenues
earned from the India-West Indies series in 2002.
When we decided to market the India-West Indies cricket series late
last year, we didn't have any benchmark. As always, DD had called
for bids with a benchmark for Rs 25 crores (Rs 250 million) but
no acceptable bids were received. The 'corridor gossip' was that
we would be lucky if we made Rs 15 crores (Rs 150 million).
team and I took up the gauntlet and promised the top management
that we can deliver revenues of Rs 35 crores (Rs 350 million). Of
course, we went much beyond and earned Rs 52 crores (Rs 520 million).
The point is that unless you take risks, you cannot expect better
valuations. Despite the disruptions/truncations in three matches,
we collected money for every airtime second sold. There were no
disputes with any advertisers. It was a rewarding experience.
effort signifies the great results that can be obtained by clubbing
the two Prasar Bharati arms together and marketing them jointly."
us about the recent success story of the India-New Zealand- Australia
With this series, we created a record of sorts! The sale of ad inventory
(for the triangular one day series between India-Australia-New Zealand
- 10 matches during October - and two test matches between India
and New Zealand) by Prasar Bharati Marketing Division amounted to
Rs 906 million. DD managed to get Rs 880 million and AIR netted
Rs 26 million. All in three days flat; that is from 4 July to 7
July 2003 (with a weekend in between).
In fact, this was the first time that we created a combined package
whereby DD and AIR were marketed jointly. The scientifically devised
package ensured that AIR bagged nearly five times what it got for
the India-West Indies series last year.
effort signifies the great results that can be obtained by clubbing
the two Prasar Bharati arms together and marketing them jointly.
My division will work towards this goal in the near future.
is also the first time that we devised a package where spot buyers
had to invest on the entire package comprising of both Test matches
and one day internationals, both on DD National as well as DD Sports.
They could not pick and choose. The rate card was transparent and
no negotiations were encouraged. Having said that, we feel that
the rates offered were affordable and clients will get optimum mileage
by spending Rs 30 million for 150 seconds FCT.
packages had been devised through a broad based process based on
probable spends of clients and inputs from the advertising industry.
While choosing the sponsors, weightage was given to advertisers
who continuously invested on Doordarshan Network and other regional
also considered the payment track record of the advertisers and
their ad agencies, especially during the India-WI cricket series.
The goal was to rope in clients who would help us realise monies
without any hassles and as early as possible.
far as the spot buys are concerned, we adopted a first come first
serve basis - but the prospective spot buyers had to take the entire
package as I mentioned earlier. We shall be working in close coordination
with the DD programming team and production company Nimbus.
care will be taken to ensure that viewers are able to enjoy a high
quality cricket telecast. The entire effort will be closely monitored
to ensure that there are no hiccups about the placement of ads during
the live telecast.
shall soon start a promotional campaign on all the affiliate DD
channels. You must be aware that we have tied up with several publications
for barter deals. We shall leverage such tie-ups and associations
during this cricket series.
having tasted this kind of success, would you turn your attention
to underperforming channels - say for example DD Bharati?
As far as DD Bharati is concerned, I feel that there is a lot of
potential. However, not much data is available on the reach and
viewership profiles. It is a niche channel and there are advertisers
that will support it. It has a very loyal viewership base.
DD didn't have a direct interface with the market and there
is no point complaining about it. Now, we have taken a few steps
forward and the industry is backing us wholeheartedly."
you feel that ad agencies don't support DD as much as they should
Earlier, DD didn't have a direct interface with the market and there
is no point complaining about it. But now, we are in regular touch
with the entire industry; in constant touch with the market for
various in-house properties. The details of DD channels and their
programmes are made readily available. Now, we have taken a few
steps forward and the industry is backing us wholeheartedly.
that we have made substantial progress within a short span of time.
Ad agencies have also started supporting Doordarshan in a big way
with their clients by projecting DD's reach, TRPs in various target
groups. We have also been making presentations with viewership data
and highlighting packages to ad agencies and direct clients.
Prasar Bharati Marketing Division has been bolstered with branch
offices in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. The team is
working in close coordination with the station directors and major
advertisers in all these four regions.
is the general direction in which DD's marketing outfit is moving?
You must realise that 90 per cent of our revenues still come from
private producers. Eventually, the key will be to lower the proportion
of the third party contribution - that is only if they don't give
us more value or the revenues are not in sync with market conditions.
We expect all the third party outfits to support us in our intent
to increase DD's share of revenues.
that it is a challenging task to change the old order. Also, we
are still in the process of making a framework for procuring new
properties and owning them too. The top management is looking at
the various issues and is in talks with the ministry authorities
about the related policy issues.
the general direction is very clear and the aim is to ensure that
DD gets its rightful share from the market.
per cent of our revenues still come from private producers.
Eventually, the key will be to lower the proportion of the third
is your message/advice to media planners and buyers?
I would request media planners and buyers to unlearn the past and
dispel the false notions, perceptions and myths that have been created
about DD channels.
of these myths have been created by C&S channels who have benefited
at the cost of DD. If media planners go by statistics, we have numbers
on our side and eyeballs. The myth about DD homes not having propensity
or the mindset to purchase goods and services is nothing but a figment
urge the younger lot of media planners and buyers to study the ground
realities. They must also learn to distance themselves from inherent
biases - for instance most of the metropolitan bred media planners
and buyers seem to think that all Indian youth think and act like
them. But, the reality is different as India is a diverse country
with several cultural, psychographic and demographic differences.
say that the younger generation born and bred in metros,including
my children, have a different perception of the India they live
in as compared to those who live in smaller towns and villages.
But the point remains that consumerism is a constant factor across
several markets - big or small - in India.
us about your hobbies?
I read a lot. I love history. I am also a serious theatre and movie
buff. I loved listening to radio so much that it had become an obsession.
In fact, way back in the mid-60's my father, who is an engineer,
used to joke that he would create a small radio for me so that I
could take it with me to my examination hall.
to paint. As a mother and a homemaker, I love to cook. In fact,
cooking is a passion. It's a stressbuster. Inspite of my busy schedule,
I made it a point to always find time to teach my children. My children
(one daughter and a son) still appreciate the time I have spent
with them. I consider my family, specially my husband as my source
has now become a compulsion. I still love London as the city is
associated with some nostalgic and fond memories of my Commonwealth
manage to take time out and conduct internal training sessions on
media, marketing and advertising.
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