?Make sure that the attitude you wear fits you and is not forced:? Vijay Subramaniam

The youth of India believe in purposive action and are restless for change at all levels, their own lives, society and circumstances. One man, who has studied the young adults very closely is Disney India Media Networks VP ? content and communications Vijay Subramaniam.

Talking about one of the leading youth network in the country, bindass, with his passion and perseverance, the channel has been consistently entertaining young adults with content and campaigns that are purposive and action-oriented, with more than 1000 hours of path-breaking original content.

He intends to inspire the youth of the country to actively do something about issues that surround them and believes that young people can fight the system and bring in the change. With Subramaniam being at the helm since its inception, the channel has grown in viewership by more than 150 per cent and today reaches out to 1.3 times more young adults since launch.

In conversation with Disha Shah, he talks about bindass? journey, his views about today?s youth and how different they are from previous generations, the best way of engagement and more.


How has bindass? performance and journey been since its launch?

It?s been one of the most interesting journeys for us with the brand. Seven years ago, when we set up bindass, it was exciting for us to be able to create a well defined Indian youth brand. The landscape back then and even now is such that most young adult brands tend to be international. It was an interesting challenge for us to provide the Indian youth with a brand, which they could not only relate to and see the reflections of themselves in, but also a brand that would understand the nuances of everything Indian.

The journey has been incredible. In terms of viewership alone, in the last seven years, we have grown by over 150 per cent. We have added 90 million viewers, who are tuning in on a weekly basis. The evolution of this brand has seen significant increases in its performance at every step.

Today as a composite, if we take the other brand that we had launched alongside bindass, i.e bindass play, together they command 19 per cent of the market of young adults, which is essentially the age group of 15-24 Sec AB.

What do you think about the youth today? How is this generation, as a group, different from the previous generations (both politically and socially)?

One of the corner stones of our success, both as bindass as well as to tell great stories to this audience, has been our ability to constantly converse with them. Very often people talk about research which is very important but I do believe that continuous dialogue with our audiences is the most important factor.

Young people are casual, informal and shape the world through that lens. First and foremost I think today?s generation is booming with confidence. Everyone today is hoping to hit the high orbit and want to do well for themselves. There is a lot of optimism there.

Secondly, they live in a world of abundance. What they see out there is really what we describe as tetras of opportunities. What?s crucial for them is their ability to make sense of it all. The youth today looks for meaningful relationships with brands, such as us, that help them navigate through the tetras of opportunities and help them to get through their desired goals. It?s also a generation that has deep-rooted commitment to things that really matter to them. As we have seen very often, when push comes to shove, this generation rises up and is willing to be scouted.

Another interesting dimension is their interpretation of freedom. It is very important and matters a lot to them. Here, I am talking about all kinds of freedom, from expression to choosing their own boundaries. Alongside this dimension are achievements and successes and with that comes materialism.

They live in a world where there are no borders, frankly. Be it social media or the amount of technology available to them? today?s generation is born into it. Their ability to see the world through a global lens is far easier than generations prior to that.

Overall, it is a very confident, optimistic, positive and energetic generation and we at bindass reflect all of these in everything that we do in our journey with them.

What according to you is the best way to engage the young? What works with them?

Engagement is a broad term. For us, we have to choose methods of engagement on the basis of what we mean to them - while we are their friends; we are also responsible for their entertainment. Our focus engagement is through entertainment that is purposeful, enabling, funny as well as empowering. Our aim is to provide content that allows them to lean back and yet the message is the lean forward one.

Through the themes that I spoke about, comes the ability to engage. However, what makes for fruitful engagement with them is dialogue and not monologue. The dialogue should reflect their attitude and spirit and above all else we should be able to constantly walk in step with them as their attitudes change, are shaped and re-shaped. That?s what creates successful meaningful engagement with young people.

bindass? shows like Halla Bol, Yeh Hai Aashiqui and Emotional Atyaachar all cater to the youth. How do you ensure that each show stands different from each other?

We have a continuous conversation with our TG and that is possible only because of our robust research mechanism. We have tried to focus on different dimensions in the themes that we believe entertain young people in India. From that perspective, we have explored the entire spectrum of the theme of love and relationships. Right from Yeh Hai Aashiqui, which talks about strong love stories and relationships, to the other end of the spectrum - Emotional Atyachaar that talks about what happens when love goes wrong or even Pyaar Ka The End.

And why this is important to young people? They want a 360 degree view of themes that matter to them because ultimately at some level they relate to it. While they are being entertained by the content, they absorb what is shown and also apply it to their lives.

Talking about our second theme, empowerment, the first season of Halla Bol narrated stories of women facing harassment and fighting back. The second season took it a few notches higher by showcasing women fighting the system. We are seeing a lot of success in our society on that front. This is yet another reflection of how important empowerment is for young people.

We also did a show called Change Ayega, Hum Layenge, which was a satire on the fact that if you are just going to indulge in armchair activism, nothing is going to change. Young people have to get up and get going and bring about change.

The inspiration and source for a lot of differentiation comes in our deep understanding of themes from all dimensions. And that allows us to put our stories and different pieces of content that are both entertaining and engaging and at the same time giving a very holistic view of the themes that matter to the young people.

Does creative talent understand youth programming today?

Absolutely for bindass. For us, our success as a brand has been to be able to partner with creators right across the board and help them benefit from our rich understanding of young adults in India. A lot of this knowledge that we have, is transferred within our creative eco-system.

From an overall industry perspective, creative talent today is progressive and has a good understanding of the target audience. It is ultimately about your focus. If they are focused on the youth, the understanding is very high and if their focus is on other age segments, then their understanding is not necessarily that high.

What have you learnt about your audience?  

One is the dialogue, which is a two-way interaction with the audience, regardless of the medium of entertainment. Second is to be able to wear your attitude and make sure that the attitude fits you and is not forced. It?s like a group of friends, each one has a distinct personality but when they come together, they form a nice group. The third lesson is that if you want to win them. you have to walk with them and be one of them. Lastly, this is a restless audience because they have so much to achieve and so we have to reflect those needs.

What are the platforms on which the youth consumes more content today - television or digital?

Between the access of technology and that of hardware, the fact remains that they are looking for their source of entertainment at points and devices that are convenient to them at that point in time.

Keeping this in mind, as a brand that they care about, it is important for us to reflect that moment. This is the relationship that is changing in terms of their traditional consumption and we do believe that we need to be present wherever they want us to be present.

For example, earlier the youth looked at television as a lead medium, whereas digital was to provide marketing support and extend a bit of the television universe. But at bindass, we have always pioneered our digital first strategy. We have always looked at these two universes as being symbiotic and not one leading and the other following. We have also looked at important philosophies through all these access points for young people and all of these are active and not promotional.

Besides television, bindass had also launched initiatives like Dreamstart and bforchange. How has the response been for them?

We were very clear that bindass will play a certain role on television and there are other roles that bindass, as a brand, will play with our other consumer touch points. Both the properties played a very important role on digital as the call to action made way for live conversations, tracking progress, engaging and interacting that are best done using the digital environment.

Both initiatives had started with driving the brand message of being the enabler of purposive action. Today I am very proud to say that the partnerships Dreamstart did are commendable and we are getting perfect partners for the initiative. We are trying our hands on the music space as well. With the other initiative bforchange, we could bring about 170 NGOs onto a digital platform and make it so easy for people to access and pledge their support to them.

Nowadays, most of the Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) are tapping into the youth genre through new shows. Do you feel that going forward they can be your direct competitor?

We welcome them (laughs). We are not just about the shows that we air but also a state of mind in the lives of our consumers. We are a part of the youth?s group today and in order to stay there, we need to stay relevant.

Anyone who is willing to entertain will get the attention of the audience if done correctly. Young adults today loves a variety of entertainment. At any point of time, while they will be entertained by many, the fact is that they still prefer a few and those are the ones that they have made an emotional investment in. We believe that bindass is a brand that our audiences will make an emotional investment in.

On the other hand, the advantage of more variety of programming coming through is that we get to tell even more differentiated stories of high quality. When Hindi GECs also move in these dimensions, it also gives a creative uplift to the entire eco-system and that is a welcome benefit for all of us.

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