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The rationale behind Star India’s reorganization

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MUMBAI: The buzz had been gathering pace since Ficci Frames in Mumbai at the beginning of this month. Change is  afoot at India’s leading media and entertainment major the 21st Century Fox owned Star India. But nobody was willing to say what. The company’s executives murmured that its businesses had developed octopus like and CEO Uday Shankar along with 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch was planning a managerial rejig.

Management firm The Boston Consulting Group had been given the mandate of coming up with an organizational structure that would empower Star India’s senior executive team, unleash their expertise to execute and monetise the business strategy that Uday has put in place for the group to the fullest.

The reorganization would allow Uday, who has been leading Star India at a frenetic pace over  the past few years to have some breathing space to further evolve the business plans that the Murdochs have for their Asian jewel and also get a helicopter view of the goings-on.

And today’s announcement at a town hall within Star India seems to be a master stroke of sorts, according to several Star observers. A former Star India executive went as far as to say that it is a stroke of genius.  According to him, the entire burden of steering the company into the behemoth that it has become had fallen on Uday.

When he was handpicked out of nowhere by the then News Corp COO Peter Chernin and Star group boss Paul Aiello to run Star India as its COO – a terrain he was not really familiar with - it was a market leader which had lost its way and was a much smaller operation: focused on simple general entertainment with a small interest in regional languages and sport. There was very little strength in senior management. Uday first went about tweaking the programming and took the network gradually to the No 1 spot. He simultaneously brought in senior professionals from the best companies to strengthen his core team. Over the years, he offloaded  investments Star India had made in other ventures, pumped in money into acquiring other regional networks,  made big bets on  sports and sports television, steered the media and entertainment major into the digital VOD ecosystem. And he roped in even more professionals to incubate these forays.

The Star India of today is a very different beast from the one it was when he first stepped into its offices.

Observers say that by elevating  himself  as chairman and CEO he has taken the load off his shoulders and is sharing the burden with his fellow professionals.  “He’s done the hard work with the various executive teams putting together all these verticals,” says a management consultant. “Now he’s empowering them allowing them to function like intrapreneurs. Which is the best thing he could do.”

Thus Sanjay Gupta, the current COO has been elevated to managing director-Star India and K. Madhavan to managing director-South. Both Gupta and Madhavan will continue to report to Uday Shankar. Madhavan will have Kevin Vaz reporting to him as his CEO and looking after all of Star India’s southern interests.

Sanjay on his part has a clutch of CEOs reporting into him responsible for key silos:

empowered business units each with its own CEO reporting to Sanjay Gupta:

· Amit Chopra, CEO of Entertainment, which spans drama and movie channels across national and regional channels in Hindi, English, Bengali and Marathi

· Nitin Kukreja, CEO of Sports, which includes a leading portfolio of channels under the Star Sports banner

· Ajit Mohan, CEO of Digital, which oversees Hotstar.  

· Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox STAR Studios, which produces and distributes Bollywood and regional films

* A Pan Indian content studio headed by Gaurav Banerjee to produce cutting edge innovation in programming.

“This is a world class team that has powered Star  to the No. 1 position in the Media and Entertainment industry in India,” said Uday in a press release issued today on the reorganization. “We have set ourselves a bold growth agenda and these changes will deepen the leadership bench, unlock entrepreneurial energy and position Star better to deliver on its ambitions.”

Top of that ambition heap is the target to attain an operating profit of $1 billion plus by  from 21st Century Fox’s Indian offshoot by 2020. With that rock solid team in place, Uday and James  will have more energetic legs to race to the finishing post.

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