Media , Advertising & Marketing Interview WithNational Geographic Channel MD, (South Asia), Zubin Jehanbux Gandevia.
want our ratings to grow 30-40% by 2005"
on 14 August 2002
Geographic Channel in India ready to "take a leap" and the
channel's management just cannot hide its glee, specially
managing director, for south Asia, Zubin Jehanbux Gandevia.
The man is all smiles considering the success the channel
has notched up in India.
Zubin's profile fits the channel's profile to the T. Not
only does he enjoy the outdoors but he also has a passion
for motorsports and is a big fan of Michael Schumacher ---
genres of programming in which NGC wants to be the leader
in this part of the world by 2005. Topping it all, Gandevia
- who is responsible for running the business of the channel
in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan - has
over 14 years of experience in India's cable and satellite
television industry. He is among Indian cable TV's pioneers
having set up his CATV network in 1986. Thinking big, he
along with two other partners, set up United Cable Network
(UCN) in 1993, which went on to become the largest single
headend in the country.
With the cable TV market hotting up and UCN getting bought
over by BusinessIndia first and then Hathway, Gandevia got
on to the other side by hopping on to Star India Pvt Ltd
in 1996 as director Cable Affairs. His responsibility: managing
the Star-Zee relationship in SitiCable. He also worked in
Star's DTH Division as Senior Vice President -Technical
Services and Business Development.
In this interview with indiantelevision.com's executive
editor Anjan Mitra, Zubin holds forth on future
plans for the channel and other issues. Excerpts from the
What do you have in store for NGC?
It is almost two years since we set up the Indian operation
and over this period we have made substantial investments
and have also got good returns on our investment. I would
say we are at the take off stage now here after the consolidation
that we have being going through. So much so that apart
from Star Plus, NGC way ahead of other channels in the bouquet
where penetration is concerned at 22 million cable TV homes.
Our global aim is to be the leader in exploration and adventure
genre of programming and that is what we want to be in India
How are you going to give shape to you ambitions?
Because we have a tie up with this venerable organisation
called the National Geographic Society we have access to
high-quality content. But apart from the content we have
a strategy too which envisages building personalities or
heroes, get the emotional connect with the people and carry
on off-line and on-ground activities to supplement the channel
In India, we want NGC to become a way of life and we want
that very Indian should live NGC. That is why we have this
three-pronged programme called the NGC Way of Life.
This will reach out to Indian viewers through a unique integrated
approach-on air, on ground and online. We expect to touch
over 5 million Indians through this initiative and increase
the channel's viewership by at least 35 per cent by the
end of 2005.
and Discovery can both together try to expand the
market for this genre of programming which revolves
round exploration and adventure."
What will be the on-ground activities like?
To give you an example, NGC has
tied up with like-minded people like the Bombay Natural
History Society and the Indian Mountaineering Federation.
The channel will support and promote activities of these
organisations both on ground and on air at a national level.
More such tie-ups are in the offing.
You said that substantial investments have been made in
India. Can you give us an idea what sort of investments
has been actually made here?
We generally do not give out figures, but to illustrate
my point I'll say last year (June-July financial year) we
spent about Rs 30 million on marketing activities. Out of
this Rs 20 million was spent on the media. This year the
plan to spend about Rs 70 million on marketing activities
out of which Rs 50 million will be the media spend.
If the investments have increased, so must have been the
goals. What are the targets, which you have set for yourself
and the team?
We think that our revenues which have grown by about
40 per last financial year compared to a year ago, can grow
by another 40 per cent this year too. I also don't see why
the viewership also cannot increase by about 35 per cent
by 2005. We have most of the top brands advertising on our
channel and most of them are out of India, though we get
some overflow of international clients too.
What is revenue mix for NGC in India?
NGC in India derives equal amount of revenue from both
subscription and advertising. At 50:50 it looks like the
ideal mix. But the advertising market too has been growing
, maybe at a slower rate.
like to increase the local content from India.
see to it that any global programming also includes
India as it's a key market for NGC."
(Mark Shand and Aditya Patankar
Presenters of India Diaries which aired on
NGC in the year 2000)
How big is the Indian market for NGC and what would be India's
contribution to the Asian revenue kitty ?
India is one of the biggest markets for NGC and it contributes
almost 50 per cent to the (Asian) revenue. The next big
markets are Taiwan and some other South East Asian countries.
NGC is big in Taiwan.
Do you foresee NGC increasing sourcing of programmes
from India ? Programmes sourced from India for the Indian
feed and also the global feed have increased. For example,
this new programme called 100 $ Taxi Ride which features
some top global cities also includes Mumbai and Chennai.
We see to it that any such global programming also includes
India as it's a key market for NGC.
Do you see Discovery as a competition ?
No I don't see Discovery as a competition or a threat.
But we can both together try to expand the market for this
genre of programming which revolve round exploration and
adventure. This genre of programming is for people having
an evolved thought process and I must say that Indians have
shown a great liking for such programming.
expect to touch over 5 million Indians through a unique
integrated approach-on air, on ground and online called
the NGC Way of Life."
Was NGC hopeful that it would be able to create the
market it has managed in India considering TV viewers here
mostly like entertainment-based programming as the success
of weepy soaps on Star Plus have shown?
We were always confident that NGC would be successful
in India. Though as a channel we are relatively young in
India, but satisfaction can be achieved from the fact we
have done well here.
Why has Adventure One got such a low profile launch?
We are testing the market for this channel by seeding
the market with set-top-boxes for this channel. We hope
that by the time the mother brand (NGC) is established fully
and phase one is over in India, it will be time to concentrate
on Adventure One. We also have to see that Adventure One
has the right programming mix of those sourced from India
and globally. Though, at the moment it may be a bit skewered
towards global fare.
So, where do you see NGC in 2005?
By 2005, as a brand we should be the leader in exploration
and adventure genre of programming through the NGC Way of
Life where people will spread the NGC message. On the ratings
front, we think we can grow between 30-40 per cent over
the next three years.