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M&E stakeholders need to collaborate for growth: Sudhanshu Vats

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MUMBAI: If the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector, poised to be Rs 2 trillion industry by 2020, is to be a force multiplier and up the present growth trajectory, then all the stakeholders, including the government, need to collaborate sinking differences, according to Viacom18 Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats

“We need to learn to collaborate as an industry. We need to collaborate with competitors at times so collaboration and competition can coexist. The scale of industry is such that innovation and disruption is bigger than what any single one of us can achieve. It is only when we form partnerships [and] collaborate that we can achieve greater heights,” Vats on Monday said delivering a keynote address, themed 'Media and Entertainment: The Force Multiplier At The Heart Of Society’, at the ongoing FICCI-Frames 2018 here.

Pointing out that the M&E sector has deep links with other sectors of the economy, Vats asked and answered, “Where is it that you first heard about the mobile phone in your hands? Why do you even use it? How did you come across the shampoo you used this morning? What did you do in the car while driving to this conference? Well for most of you, the answer will be some form of media, be it print, or digital or electronic.”

Deconstructing his observations in terms of numbers, Vats explained that the M&E sector has added over Rs 50,000 crore in output in the last five years, has a revenue size of Rs 130,000-135,000 crore and the direct or indirect induced benefits to the economy of the total industry size is Rs 450,000 crore with a contribution of 2.8 per cent to the country’s GDP. This apart, the industry also employed, across both formal and informal sectors, 1-1.2 million people, contributing significantly to India’s job creation.

Having excited the audience with some hard data, Vats added, “Did you know that by several estimates, video streaming accounts for over 50 per cent of total mobile internet usage in India? This is expected to touch 75 per cent over the next three years. Today itself, the contribution of data to telco revenue stands at 20-25 per cent. Imagine what will happen when virtual reality (VR) becomes a commonplace phenomenon?”

According to Vats, while presently the media sector employed around 1.5 million people directly and indirectly, it has the potential to add another million over the next five years, which might seem a small number ---  given the total workforce of 460 million --- but these are jobs that were non-routine, least likely to be automated and, more importantly, most of these jobs will need ‘on-the-job training’ --- meaning that these jobs don’t need to wait for the country’s education infrastructure to catch up.

But, given the M&E industry’s role as a force multiplier, how much steam is left? Because if the engine starts to weaken, it is obvious that its role as a force too will reduce. Vats thinks the answer to the question need not be a pessimistic one. Why?

Vats listed the reasons for growth opportunities: (i) M&E industry’s ad-spend to GDP ratio was still 0.4 per cent compared to 1 per cent in developed economies (ii) the total sector is one per cent of GDP compared to 2.5 per cent or so in developed economies and (iii) while Indian TV audience (780 million) is bigger than that of the total population of Europe (745 million), India has only 64 per cent penetration with 183 million TV households. “With electrification progressing at a blistering pace, imagine future growth,” he reasoned.

Though the opportunities are there, can the M&E industry pull it off? Certainly yes, if all the stakeholders sunk their differences and learnt to collaborate without being skeptical of newer techs and data-driven findings instead of always asking the government and regulator for help, which they must provide being facilitators and further adding to ease of doing business, Vats said exhorting the industry to rise to the challenges as one.

“We need to become comfortable with data because we need to bring in more transparency, authenticity and objectivity to our data. If a new-age entrepreneur comes to us, we are skeptical of his idea or technology. If someone approaches us with a new way of measuring, say, our audiences, we are dismissive. We need to change this attitude. We need to change this mindset,” Vats reasoned, adding that Viacom18 was doing its own little bits, including starting a pan-network engagement programme with startups where the company partners with validation. The initiative is called Vstep or the Viacom18 Startup Engagement Programme.

Urging the Indian society to loosen up a bit --- learning to “laugh at ourselves” --- Vats signed off saying: “Let us, the media and entertainment industry, be the force multiplier for growth, the force multiplier for change, the force multiplier for jobs and, above all, the force multiplier for the good of society.”

Also Read :

M&E to cross Rs 2 trillion by 2020: FICCI-EY reportFicci

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