Profile: "Content is important, marketing it more so”

Shephali Bhatt interacts with UTV’s MK Anand to find out how the biotech aspirant turned into a media expert

Nov 21, 2011 06:09:00 PM | Article | Shephali Bhatt


The world is obsessed with planning life,  but there’s always a sense of realisation in retrospect that life could have been really vapid if it were exactly the way they had planned it out. For MK Anand, CEO, UTV Global Broadcasting, the tale is no different. “If things had gone as per the plan, I would  be a biotechnologist today,” quips Anand who’s handling a cluster of six channels at UTV, namely, UTV Movies, UTV Bindass, UTV Action, UTV Action Telugu, UTV World Movies, and the recently launched UTV Stars. There was a time when this man who spent 19 years of his working career with the Times group, heading various significant functions in ad sales department, used to believe that ad sales was just a place holder for him till he got himself a job in fisheries management. 
When Anand was doing his BSc, he had planned to become a biotechnologist but that didn’t work out because he couldn’t get through the only place (Jawaharlal Nehru University) that offered his choice of post graduate course. He ended up doing his post graduation in fisheries management. “By the time I entered the second year of MSc, I had understood that research side would not be as paying as the commercial side of any stream”, he states. And money was critical because he had to marry his love and run a house at the earliest. He went ahead and joined Cynamid India as a medical representative. While working there, Anand acknowledged the importance of doing an MBA and decided to tread on the management path thereafter. He graduated with a part-time MBA from NMIMS and joined ad sales in a publication called Women’s Era in 1988. 
When he got a job at Tata Group’s agrochemical major Rallis India, he didn’t wait a second to quit the ad sales job. But since this wasn’t his destiny either, he quit from Rallis India in 17 days. “Working as a production management trainee in a minus 20 degree blast freezer was horrible. I thought just because I’ve studied a certain discipline, I don’t have to make it my career”, he adds. Since ad-sales was already a part of the resume, he started looking for a job in that field. “I would go to Churchgate station every day. Opposite the station, there was (and still is) a big magazine stand; I’d check each magazine, take down the contact numbers of their publishers and make around 50 cold calls from the slot phone on the station till I got a break in a publishing house in Andheri called Graphic Arts. I joined their magazine Cuisine as an assistant manager and spent the next 10 months learning the nitty-gritties of printing, production and content. Those ten months were my real vocational education”, he shares.
Cuisine taught Anand three basic lessons on ad-sales. It taught him that recovery is fundamental to run a business since you can always sell on credit but the money has to come back, and recovery was an easy task if you are persistent enough. Secondly, your cost should always be within the limit of the ability of your organisation, though you can build it overtime but initially you have to be mindful of that. Thirdly, content is important but marketing of that content is far more important. “Your masthead should be visible in people’s eyes. It is very important .  I have stood at Worli Naka and distributed magazines myself”, he recalls.With that it was time for him to move on. Anand made customised resumes for four media publications (Business India, Reader’s Digest, Malayalam Manorama, Times of India) and four ad agencies (Lintas, Ulka, HTA, Mudra). “I picked up their CEOs’ numbers and somehow got to meet Pradeep Guha of Times Group through Dr P K Chauhan and I got a job at Times of India”, shares Anand.  
Anand  had a 19-year long association with the Times of India before he went ahead and joined UTV Global Broadcasting. At TOI, he completely evolved their Classified section. He states, “Fundamentally we needed to change Classifieds from a B2B to a B2C product. The consumer  was  only getting things from a newspaper, but he wasn’t  contributing to  its content . With Classifieds, we tried to demystify the newspaper from the utility point-of-view.” Anand experimented a lot with the pricing of Classifieds. He explained that the revenue from Classifieds grew in the range of 20-25% on a year-on-year basis in the first five years of his joining the department. But he says that he can only take some credit for the numbers because market changes and liberalisation had a role to play as well. 
In 2004, Anand was made the sales head of Zoom, Times Group’s channel dedicated to Bollywood news and features. His two-decade long stint with Times Group ended when he was recruited by UTV in 2009 to rejig their broadcasting business, six months after the recession got over. “When I joined UTV Global Broadcasting, UTV Movies used to contribute 50-60% to the total revenue of broadcast, the success we have had in the past two years is in the growth of UTV Bindass. The channel is now set to be as big as UTV Movies, and by next year UTV Stars would be at the same level. UTV World Movies is a very niche channel which can at best bring in good subscription revenues”, he announces. UTV Action gets special male attention which they are able to monetise at CPRPs higher than a general Hindi movie channel. “Within the first two months of the launch of UTV Stars, we are quite ahead in trade perception and GRPs. What we haven’t reached is  ad volumes but that takes time. What usually takes 18 months to secure, we are clocking that target within six months. By April we are expecting to be as big as Zoom or Bindass”, he asserts. 
Though he didn’t comment on Walt Disney’s buy-out offer to UTV, Anand seems gung-ho about UTV Global Broadcasting which currently contributes  40% to the total revenue of the media conglomerate. Within broadcasting, UTV Movies, Bindass, Action, Stars, Action Telugu and World Movies contribute 35%, 25%, 20%, 10%, 5% and 5% respectively. Of the set targets, Anand is hell bent on making UTV Bindass the top youth brand in India. He affirms, “MTV is an iconic brand but it’s a global brand, we want an Indian brand to be at the top.” For someone  touted as the monetisation expert, this would be no mean feat afterall.  
The highlights
Age? 44
Where do you live?  Andheri (west), Mumbai
How do you relax? Play a little bit of keyboard, sing on my karaoke machine, watch movies
Reading involves.. Philosophy, Ethics, History
If not the CEO of UTV Global Broadcasting... I’d still be with the Times Group
Can’t leave home without Wallet
Favourite gadget.. Blackberry
Favourite app.. BBM
Afraid of Health problems, little concerned about such things at 44. I also fear becoming redundant
Always in fridge... Water
Movies?  Any kind of movies, the dumber, the better. I specifically like all Shammi Kapoor movies
Holiday spot? Masai Mara, a safari destination in Kenya
Favourite hangout in Mumbai? Hotel Novotel
Mantra for life.. You’re as good as your bank account