"It is not often that a connection provider gets to deliver the keynote at FICCI. But, we 'connection providers' are the 'everything' of the industry. We activate, we decorate and know the impulse of the consumer, so we can bring you closer to reality," said Harit Nagpal, CEO and MD, Tata Sky, in his opening keynote at FICCI Frames 2015.
He added, "I don't want this to be a government-bashing session, like some of them earlier have been, but as an equal partner and beneficiary the government will get a fair share of agenda during my speech."
An industry and not 'glamour'
Nagpal spoke about how the media industry is sometimes labelled to be everything other than just an 'industry'. "We (India) are the only country growing in the top 15 countries. We need to now start doing things differently to become a superpower we aim to (become) by 2020. The media industry has been given words like 'creative', 'power', 'propaganda' and 'glamour'. But, it's none of that. This industry has been created to drive the economy. Tata Sky has 7 to 8 per cent of the pay television customers currently. In the past five years we've grown tax payments by two times (around Rs 1,000 crore a year) and increased content payments by the same number. Partners for service who had 10,000 employees during that time, now have 40,000 employees. We're selling our product to over 20,000 retailers. We're certainly not glamour, we're an industry," said Nagpal.
He added, "In the rural areas we have created a rural entrepreneur scheme and provided nearly 20,000 people from those areas with near full-time jobs. We want this to go up to 80,000. These are young boys who can just about use a screwdriver. The industry has a whole has six million employees, and can grow a lot more."
"The PM has spoken about a smart, digital India. I've worked in the telecom industry for nine years prior to my current role. In the early days we heard that a 10 per cent growth in the industry can grow the GDP by 0.6 per cent. I'm not sure about those numbers now, but we've certainly seen the country progress. Plumbers, electricians etc are using mobile phones and that shows it."
Lack of new thinking
"Let's just be critical about ourselves. New formats for shows are copied by 20 other channels. Hundreds of news channels are creating shows with one anchor and four panelists. Only one has been successful doing that format. That makes the other news channel compensate by banking on 20 to 22 minutes of advertising. This leads them to nothing other than reaching court. I don't think there's more room for channels like Colors, Star Plus etc. Niche content will take us forward and they're low investment products. Another problem is that the production centres are in the main cities. These need to be moved to smaller towns to get a difference in content," noted Nagpal.
He outlined some steps for the industry with a bit of the 'government-bashing' that was on his agenda. He said, "The rules for setting, running and funding are in place. Yet, you have to ask for permission before doing something. This has been improved, but needs further improvement. We should be allowed to inform instead of seek. If we violate, then have penalties in place.
"The government issues a driver's licence and provides us with rules on the road. We know a red signal means stopping and a green means go. Imagine asking a policeman, everytime the signal turns green, whether one must go. I'd be stuck at Haji Ali!
"In India, we make the highest number of films but we're not making money. The number of screens is the issue. All other issues apart, rules like you can't build a theatre within 500 yards of a school or temple makes no sense in this digital world."
He surmised, "The local cable operator (LCO) with 1,000 subscriptions in a small town is never going to become an MSO and compete with us who have a million subscribers. From our understanding, a HD premium consumer who is paying three times the cost of a SD connection, is the segment that is growing fastest. Yet, people are complaining about affordability. I've seen houses in the rural areas where the television is the only piece of furniture. Analog connection providers argue their case by saying this consumer won't pay the Rs 250 extra. I'm saying he will and we should make him pay that. 30 per cent of that payment can go to the broadcaster. This can be done. It's about doing things differently."