Viacom18 celebrations: Mukesh Ambani sets the roadmap for next 10 years

MUMBAI: Indian television channel owners better watch out. Mukesh Ambani is riding into town and he means business. He sounded his intent at Viacom18’s tenth anniversary celebrations which, were held over the weekend in Mumbai’s NSCI Dome. He came in for a bit post 9 pm. And he was there for a few minutes on the massive stage that was flanked by large LED panels all around the dome. However, what he said, as a joint venture partner of US network Viacom, is what should make other TV industry entrepreneurs sit up and take note.

Clearly laying out the roadmap for the group for the next 10 years, Ambani, India’s richest man, said: “The digital industry in India and the entertainment industry is going to grow manifold. The next decade is going to be the golden period of the entertainment industry and all of you should contribute and learn from this opportunity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And for all of us–Sudhanshu (Vats, the group CEO of Viacom18) told us we are in the storytelling mode–I think collectively for all of us, the entire Viacom18 team, has the responsibility to win the hearts of 1.3 billion people. (With) the synergies that can come from the talent in the Viacom18 family and digital distribution, there is no limit to growth. It’s been over three years since Viacom18 is part of the Reliance group along with Viacom. But I have to tell you. I was, too, obsessed with Jio and I had told Sudhanshu that once I am done with it I’ll be there. The birthday gift I am giving you is I will give you some of my time and support.”

Obviously, Ambani is looking at replicating the aggressive growth that he has got from his 4G enterprise Reliance Jio. “I think that what we have achieved in Jio in the last two years is take India from 154th in the world to number one in the world in mobile data consumption. Last month on Jio alone, the video viewing was 200 crore hours. And this is just the beginning,” he said.

Ambani also extolled the young leaders – the average age at Viacom18 is 32 and he urged Sudhanshu to keep at it that over the next decade - “to have courage to dream big, the determination to realise their vision, to have curiosity and the ability to learn.You have to learn something new everyday. And I believe that empathy is required of everyone–to see and understand what the other feels. It is not about yourself, it is about everybody else. These are three principles, which have helped me. I believe for leaders and the team at the top, the job is to win the hearts of our people.”

Ambani erred when he said that he remembered in 1997 when Colors was launched (he obviously meant 2008), there was skepticism if a third entertainment channel could succeed. “Today as you stand here, the success is all yours - the entire ViacomTV18 team,” he said. “Today is the day to remember the founders and founding team of Viacom18, which includes Raghav Bahl and others.”

The tenth anniversary celebrations had performances from many artists associated with Colors’ entertainment shows right from Manish Paul to Malaika Arora Khan to Parthiv Gohil to Mouni Roy to Bharti Singh to Raghu Dixit to Kailash Kher, among many others. The party was attended by the crème de la crème of the industry, including Sony Pictures Networks India CEO NP Singh, Star India MD Sanjay Gupta, Dentsu Aegis CEO Ashish Bhasin, Madison World chairman Sam Balsara as well as actors, producers and directors.

For many, it was an evening to remember.

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