Television

"Story telling and production quality are going to drive the Kannada TV market"- Ashok Namboodiri

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Three months back Ashok Namboodiri replaced Star India’s Kannada entertainment channel Suvarna’s business head Anup Chandrasekharan.

Namboodiri hails from a very strong FMCG background with more than 20 years experience with heavyweight MNCs like HUL, Coca Cola, Tata Tea, and Britannia. Prior to joining the channel, Namboodiri was the business head of J K Helene Curtis where he was responsible for building the FMCG portfolio of brands like Park Avenue and Raymond.

In a very short span, under his guidance, Star India revamped its nine-year old brand Suvarna as Star Suvarna and its movie channel Suvarna Plus as Star Suvarna Plus. This was a part of an initiative to lift the channel’s position to numero uno in the Kannada market.  

Indiantelevision.com’s Sonam Saini had a tete a tete with Namboodiri who spoke about his journey in the media & entertainment space, challenges and his plans for Star Suvarna. Excerpts from the conversation:

How different is the media and entertainment space as compared to the other industry categories you have worked in before? Where do you draw your motivation from?

I think it’s a very exciting space. The ability to understand the style of the consumer and then to address that with stories which can have an impact which goes beyond entertainment but that impacts life itself in some way.. And I particularly think this aspect of the story is very important. Compared to what I was doing earlier then this is a very fascinating and exciting space to be in.

Motivation comes from people interaction. In some form and manner your ability to reach out to people, get insights, keeping your eyes and ears to story ideas that can come from anywhere that  makes for a very enriching experience.

What is it like to be the business head of the channel? If you were to describe three biggest challenges what would they be?

When it comes to running a business, the principle remains the same. You need to establish the systems and processes, put down your metrics to review periodically and also you need people to rally around a larger vision that you set for the business.

Where I am finding this extremely challenging and exciting is in the area where I have to really convert ideas to stories that attract and engages consumer eyeballs. Here the product is something that is intangible, yet touches so deeply at the same time.

Picking up the right story is the challenge, with the evolution of technologies, consumers are so well connected to  global trends that keeping pace and raising the bar is very important. Also, making sure in execution,  quality is not sacrificed.

How is regional broadcasting in India different now from say what it was three years back?

From the standpoint  of the kind of stories that need to be told, the regional market is becoming extremely competitive than what it was three years back.

It opens the environment and gives the viewer a much more enriching experience as you have new shows, stories, characters, new technology that has come in due to the increased competitive intensity.

Each market is different and has a different style of telling stories. In Star Suvarna we have launched Har Har Mahadev on a much higher scale when it comes to production and quality, which has completely changed the standard. That is the other thing where regional television is actually going through a change.

How has the profile of a regional channel viewer changed say in the past three years?

There are two things, one is the matter of trends - globalization, access to what is happening around the world, and the fact that the world is becoming younger..these trends are applicable to all including regional viewers. Secondly, the social and cultural trends are changing.

If you were to pitch a brand to come and associate with Suvarna what would your differentiator be that your competition cannot offer?

Star Suvarna has been here for nine years in the business and whatever research we have done one thing is evident that Star Suvarna enjoys a very unique place in the life of the Kannada consumer. Our DNA is about exclusive content and being the exclusive in content attracts potential advertisers as well.

HD in regional channels has been the talking point over the past few months. Do you think having an HD offering in the regional market is a profitable proposition?

With the evolution of technology, consumers are accessing content through various formats and as well as through channels in the form of HD and SD. That really doesn’t matter, at the end of day, the thing that will drive the  future is better stories and those which are executed in a superior manner. The quality will become very crucial going forward.  

Do you think there is enough marketing of content in the region you operate? What would  Suvarna's marketing spend per year be  and what is the media mix in terms of TV, Print, Outdoor and Digital?

Yes, we have rolled out a 360 degree marketing campaign for our launch along with Har Har Mahadev. We are doing unique things like running a campaign reaching out the people of Karnataka. We are covering all the media channels through this campaign. We don’t comment on particular numbers. We aim to be very competitive and establishing properties that drive the marketing spends. We go for everything basically the home channel is the big one. We pick and choose the media depending on what is the objective.  

You have just revamped the nine year old brand Suvarna and Suvarna Plus. What is the idea behind it? What new will we see in the channel?

When we did our research and we found out that we have the capability to raise the bars altogether to a new level. We have done a lot of work on the show Har Har Mahadev - visual effects, production quality that we have has never been seen in any other show in the Kannada market. Using this as the disruption in the market, we thought it’s the right time to relaunch the channel.  We all are excited about the new line up which is there in the pipeline and of course we will leverage the Star network for technological upgradation and the entire expertise that is there to leverage from the ecosystem.  

How has the satellite acquisition rights space for Kannada films been? Has there been a rise in acquisition price? What kind of competition is there?

I won’t be able to comment on the price but films are an integral part of the programming line up of any GEC channel so we are also looking at the same.

What are the programming innovations that a regional movie channel can undertake?

Innovations can be done in two ways, one in the execution and other in the way of storytelling and content.

What do you think will be the key driver of growth in Kannada regional market?

Execution is the big one, talent, getting the right kind of expertise, infrastructures and digitization are going to be the key drivers. The Kannada consumer is as demanding as any other consumer, therefore fulfilling their desires will also be the important driver of growth in Kannada market. 

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