Our work culture fosters leaders: Viacom18's Sudhanshu Vats

Over the last decade, Viacom18 has broken new ground in myriad ways. The company has grown to 44 channels and five lines of business from a three-channel operation back in November 2007. Sudhanshu Vats, the group CEO of the company, is a proud man but is far from being satisfied. Looking back, he says the most defining moment for Viacom18 has been the launch of Colors, at a time when the Indian market was deemed to be over served. The launch of Voot in 2016, according to him, is another big moment in the company’s timeline.

Viacom18 was formed as an equal joint venture between global entertainment giant Viacom Inc. and Raghav Bahl's Network18, which was subsequently bought by Reliance Industries. The network launched its flagship general entertainment channel, Colors, in 2008, capturing the number 1 rank within nine months of launch.

Over the course of the decade, the company has diversified into four additional lines of business—films, digital, experiential, and merchandise—creating an entertainment ecosystem that reaches out to audiences across demographics and geographies.

Launched in 2011, the film business of the media house has become profitable since the 2015 fiscal. For this business, the network has tied up with several companies, with Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate Movies among them, to release their movies in India.

In the live entertainment segment, the company already has intellectual properties, including Supersonic and Chuckle Festival. The consumer durables and merchandising arm of the business, launched in 2009, is the second largest merchandising and licensing operation in the country.

“Our vision to be India’s most-admired M&E company is reflected in our intent to open new worlds for our audiences. Whether through our shows such as Balika Vadhu, Shakti, Lakshmi Baramma, Angels of Rock, Voot Original Untag or movies like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Queen, Toilet Ek Prem Katha; a strong undercurrent of social messaging drives a lot of our content,” said Vats on the occasion of Viacom18’s 10th anniversary.

Identifying regional TV and digital as the new areas of growth, Viacom18 is launching Colors Tamil in February 2018 and a premium offering of its VoD platform Voot in mid-2018. In keeping with its focus on regional entertainment, the network plans to offer digital original regional content on the steadily growing OTT service and dial up its thrust on regional movies as well.

The network is also aggressively making its push in the kids’ ecosystem. It has taken its homegrown characters to the silver screen and to digital screens via Voot Kids.

Said Vats: “As we go forward, we have to make content discovery as seamless as possible. We need to work on recommendation engines. It is all about partnerships. In the digital business, we partner with 42 players. It is all about taking your partners along for the ride.”

Vats is convinced that it is the corporate ethos which has been ingrained into those at Viacom18 that has made the difference. He elaborated: “We are proud of our ability to nurture and manage a multi-brand, multi-platform and multilingual network while growing at a blistering pace and fostering a winning culture based on a shared set of values.”

So to what does Vats attribute the success to? He said: “What drives our success the most is our culture. And it is our ability to build our culture, where we foster innovation, where we foster openness, where we foster enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit. It is this culture that builds our leaders."

With its focus on creating magic for fans and crafting an inclusive organisational culture, Viacom18 is all set for its next decade of growth.

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