From starting off at Colgate Palmolive to helming SAB TV now, Anooj Kapoor, executive vice president and business head at the channel, has donned many hats. Among other things, he has written sitcoms, worked at ad agencies and even founded a production house. It all started with a rather uncommon degree that preceded the SP Jain MBA – one in English Literature, from Panjab University in Chandigarh. Kapoor attributes his ability to understand and create stories and characters, to the course in Chandigarh. The MBA, meanwhile, had other benefits. Besides landing him his first job, with Colgate Palmolive, it also helped him hone his entrepreneurship skills.
Recounting an incident that helped him massively, Kapoor says, “The course at SP Jain was very fascinating. They balanced the emphasis on entrepreneurship and academics well. In my second year where I’d scored very well in all subjects, I had flunked my ‘Perspective Management’ course. The director of that institute called me and asked me to display my general management skills and would pass me if I did it well. I gathered 50 first year students and created a three-hour production on growth and development of drama through the ages. It was very widely accepted and I was given 70 per cent marks, saying that the aim of a MBA is to create entrepreneurs and not just passing one’s subjects.”
The first job followed a rural project Kapoor had been part of at Colgate a year earlier. Moving from management trainee through various departments, he headed sales for South Delhi for nine months – which, according to him, was one of the most interesting jobs he has done. “It taught me how jobs are all about understanding people and handling them. Degrees and education only help in shaping one’s career. But you need to deploy the means effectively to achieve the ends. And that was a great learning experience,” he explains.
A career in creativity
Though actively involved in theatre (singing, writing and acting) through school and college, Kapoor never thought of a career in creativity until he became brand manager at Colgate.
He says, “As I started interacting with advertising agencies, I realised that there’s a fantastic career in creative in advertising. They used to send scripts and I used to better them and send them back. That’s when they asked me to join them and I joined HTA in Chandigarh as a copywriter at half the money I was earning at Colgate.”
For newly married Kapoor, the move back to Chandigarh was aided by the ‘noble intent of spending more time with his wife than in local trains’. The return to Mumbai a year later was driven by the scope for growth. After HTA, he worked at Rediffusion and Lowe Lintas before moving to launch a production house (for ad films).
“The way actors were directed in ad films didn’t make me happy. There are some amazing ad film makers, but I also came across a couple who would simply say ‘Darling a little over the top’ or ‘Darling a little less over the top’. I had a different perspective on directing actors and I thought I could be an expert ad film maker,” he recalls.
The next three years were spent writing, directing and producing ad films for the likes of Marico. During that time, he also got an opportunity to write and direct a Sitcom for Channel 9, which aired on DD Metro (2001). It was called ‘Chonch ladi re chonch’. The shift to TV had been made.
He says, “The fact that it offered a 22-minute canvas made me switch. I shut my production house. I’d done a pilot for UTV. They liked it and offered me a job in the comedy cell as head. I took it up and I had a wonderful time and the experience of working with Ronnie (Screwvala). I then realised that television writing is very fascinating and so I switched to writing. I wrote 20 shows for Indonesian television and Indian TV.”
‘King of comedy’
Kapoor enjoyed his writing stint until SAB TV made a very ‘comfortable’ offer in 2007. With experience across functions, he thought he’d be comfortable with sales, marketing, on-air promos, programming and research reporting to him. The fact that the genre was comedy helped.
He explains, “I’ve always had this comedy bug in me. I remember when I switched from advertising to TV, my wife asked me why. I told her I think there’s a lot that can be done in comedy that’s not being done in India. In 2004, I said to my wife that there’s so much I can do in the genre that somewhere one day there’ll be an article saying the ‘King of Comedy – Anooj Kapoor’.”
A year after he joined, the channel was positioned as a comedy channel. The going has been good.
Sweet success at SAB
Kapoor terms the stint at SAB TV as a ‘dream run’. He claims that the channel has gone up from number nine to two (in terms of time spent on the channel), among Hindi GECs. And adds, “In terms of TV ratings as well we’ve moved up to number four (January 2014).”
He business head attributes the success to three key reasons. Besides the light hearted comedy, the channel, he says, talks about the positives of the joint family, and has stayed away from toilet humour and vulgarity. While these drew in family audiences, the branding effort helped too.
“We are the only channel which first defined the channel as a brand in 2008 – Asli Mazaa SAB ke saath aata hai. We looked to target families through all our marketing efforts, vis-a-vis, other channels who looked to promote a particular show. On SAB, now because of that brand (channel) loyalty, people watch shows back to back,” says Kapoor.
Kapoor also attributes digitisation to the success of the channel. He explains, “We could not afford prime band placement in the analogue space earlier. Now, we are in the cluster of the GECs, so sampling has gone up. We know our product is such that when there’s trial there is retention.”
He achieved the dream of being ‘King of Comedy’ in 2009. “One fine day, my wife came to my bedroom with the Mid-Day with a stunned expression on her face. I had no clue about the centre spread which had my picture. The headline said ‘The King of Comedy’. I was blown. I believed within and this happened exactly that way,” surmises Kapoor.
Hobbies Badminton, singing
If not in the media line Entrepreneur for sure. Maybe running a chain of educational institutes or malls.