"The next leader in TV will be be one who can surprise the viewer again and again"

Just in his mid 40s, Kaushik Roy has a wealth tucked away in his mixed bag of experiences. His return to Mudra last year as executive director (Mumbai) and CEO, Mudra Videotech, was hailed by chairman AG Krishnamoorthy as rightly timed - Roy is reputed to be one of the few professional managers in the business who has a solid grounding in the creative department as well. Before his stint with Modi Entertainment as CEO, New Ventures, Roy was an integral part of Mudra's Mumbai team that saw an enviable portfolio of brand wins.

In an interview with's Aparna Joshi, Roy expounds on Mudra's journey through the turbulent 90s, the volatile television ad market and the advertising scenario in general.

Mudra is an established name in the advertising fraternity in the country. What has the journey been like since start up?

The last 22 years of Mudra have been extremely exciting and rewarding. This is demonstrated by the fact that we have a large number of successful brands that we have partnered and as an agency, we have created many innovations and somewhere on the way we have also become a large successful advertising agency.

How many clients do you have at present? How many of these have continued for long? How many have been short assignments?

We have about 120 clients at this point in time. We do not take up short assignments unless they are for specific events. Most of our clients have been with us for over five years. The bulk of them have been with the agency for over a decade.

What innovations has Mudra achieved in terms of buying or planning for TV? Can you give some illustrations?

Mudra has been single minded, long term, in its approach and therefore, it has never hesitated to invest in IT knowledge creation and sharing the same (MICA, MAG India). And this is also reflected in our growth pattern - our maximum growth comes from existing clients. Therefore, organic growth has not only been rewarding but has also been a proof of our clients' immense faith in what we do. In the area of media, our strength is in both, buying and planning. Today our media independent - Optimum Media Solutions (OMS), is certainly rated very highly for its innovative planning and aggressive buying. As per the last published report in an industry journal, we were ranked number five amongst all media independent companies in India.

Has television advertising disappointed as a medium?

TV as a medium has been a growth area for the advertising business, which has also been challenging - to shift gears from print to TV. As a medium of creative expression, it has certainly been very rewarding.

Do you find TV ratings alright?

Given the amount of money that goes into rating research, it is a good system. But to project the true picture of a vast country like India, the sample requirement is much much higher. More money needs to be invested for a more robust report.

Do you think the television ad market in India has deteriorated? Do you expect growth in the sector?

Definitely not from the point of view of satellite penetration. The market may have been hit for other reasons like overall slowdown of the economy. Therefore, one cannot pass any comment. As an industry, advertising is going through a slump. Therefore, there is likelihood of overall negative growth, both TV and print.

Do you think the way the market has polarised is good for the business? The polarisation is very unhealthy. It tends to create a monopolistic situation which is not good for advertisers.

Do you expect Star Plus to continue to rule the roost? For how long? What will change the leadership position? Who do you think is the most likely candidate to take over as number one - Zee, Sony, Sahara, SAB?

No one could predict that Star would take over... the next leader would be one who can surprise the viewers again and again.

Where does Mudra rank amongst the media buyers and sellers in India? We are among the top five in India.

Is India an important market today in media terms?

Yes, it is ranked sixth as per Ad Age on the basis of estimated billing for 2002.

The introduction of conditional access systems appears on the horizon now. There is talk that advertisers will squeeze the broadcasters even more in this scenario with the possibility that some pay channels may even become FTA to keep viewer numbers. How do you see CAS affecting advertising on TV?

The whole thing is too vague, hence it is difficult to say anything right now.

Mudra has achieved a near icon status, has carved a niche for itself. But do you feel there is still something it could improve on?

We are not complacent. We cannot rest on our past laurels. We are only as good as our last campaign. Therefore, we have to improve continuously and be more innovative in the future. The future is indeed going to be very different for all of us.

How do you view the growth of dailies and the decline of magazines in the recently released NRS 2002?

Changing readership habits have been influenced by a hectic lifestyle and more analytical and feature based content available on TV and daily print supplements.

Does the trend of less sustained exposure to television every day, particularly among urban housewives, spell bad news for the advertising fraternity? Will changing media habits force ad agencies to review their plans for the year?

Yes. The shift will be BTL - below the line.

If news channels are getting more eyeballs, as the NRS says, will Indian advertisers start preferring these?

It is already very important for male viewers. But advertising on these channels depends on the category of the brand.

Will FM radio be the buzzword for advertising in the coming months?

Let's wait and hear!

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