Pradeep Dwivedi has donned many hats in his long illustrious professional journey, with over two decades of experience he has worked in Advertising & Media Business, Telecom & Technology Enterprises, Banking & Financial services Institutions and Automotive sector, with established credentials in digital infotainment business as well as Print Publication, News Television channels and Experiential Events.
He is an active participant in many media industry associations, Director of IAA (India Chapter) and a managing committee member of The Advertising Club of India.
In the Part Two of the Leaderspeak with Pradeep Dwivedi, CEO-India, Eros International Media Ltd. he talks to us about the Cinema industry, his role in IAA and how to upskill oneself in this crisis…..
Will digital and mainstream cinema survive together?
Cinema has survived 120 years. Well, nothing is perennial, the Taj Mahal has survived the centuries. If you look at the cinematic concept, it just goes back to the art of storytelling as an idea and storytelling on a larger format has always found a better appeal than on a smaller format. Let me explain, the ability of people to listen to stories has been there even 500 years ago; in the Shakespearean era in England or the Indian Nautanki’s, the Chattisgarhi street plays and theatres and people have always liked to go and collectively watch it being enacted in a setting. Cinema just did that and used technology to make that setting a different experience and yet the essentials of the story were same. There was a story, the characters and there was a narrative and it directly transported people into imagining a different world, context or a different narrative in a different setting. In the early 80’s when Doordarshan came everybody said that nobody will go to theaters now, then VHS Cassettes arrived, then it was assumed that people will watch films at home. With the arrival of VCD, DVD now Smart TV’s, with every new invention everybody thought it will kill cinemas, however, all of them continue to co-exist.
The size of the pie grows and essentially there is a certain value in experiencing cinema on a larger screen and there will always be an audience for that. I firmly believe that once this pandemic subsides and things will sort of go back to near normal, theatres will come back and will be raring to go. Carnival, INOX, PVR just look at the quality of those theaters and the single screens that we were once used to, which were poorly laid, poorly air conditioned, bad seat quality, lack of cleanliness and look at the new multiplexes, it is a different experience altogether, the sheer level of sanitation, facilities, infrastructure that they have. The courtesy and the professionalism, the number of screens and the more intimate experience. Theatre experiences has become extremely good part of people’s entertainment, and I think it will continue to be there and yet there is a large part of the population which for reasons or affordability or reasons of preference consume content on the streaming platforms on larger screens like smart TVs or set top boxes or will automatically start consuming it on mobile, and that is a very large segment.
As I say, think horses for courses, we have to look at making sure that the content is made available to audiences everywhere. I have no doubt that theaters will survive while some may transform for the better, business models may evolve over a period of time, but definitely they will be in play.
Is Eros Now buying films for their OTT platform as we are seeing film premiers on OTT?
I cannot reveal all the titles that we are going to come out with, we have actually a pretty exciting lineup, a multilingual lineup, we are not just restricted to Bollywood or Hindi movies, almost nearly half our libraries actually in regional languages which is not something that many people know. We have amazing content in Bangla, Tamil and Telugu and what we are doing even in terms of straight to OTT releases we are looking at a language mix and announcing an interesting slate of movies soon. We have some movies of our own which we could not do theatricals will go on the OTT platform and we have other titles that we are acquiring which will go on OTT and it is not because we want to follow any trend or something but as a streaming player, one of the important thing is for us to refresh the content right. As a consumer, when you land on the landing screen you should be able to see something new to keep you hooked onto that platform.
An interesting phenomenon in this pandemic, we have observed is that people have actually started going beyond screen one. While some of us go to screen two or screen three as well, we have seen depth of 15 iterations, 16 iterations and even at times 18 iterations and people trying to discover content, a very interesting trend. People of a certain age group trying to figure out movies from their era, people looking for content from the 70s and 80s and people looking at content of specific genres. I think the whole discovery of content in this pandemic, as well as the consumption of content has undergone significant change and provides tremendous learning for us.
To answer shortly, we will take movies straight to OTT, not just from our own stable but acquired movies as well. But that is largely because theatrical is not an option for some of those movies right now. And even when theatres come back, I am confident that there will be a set of content that we will want to take straight to OTT because it simply makes sense to take those movies for larger audiences and make it available to them on day one. Even when you look at the theatrical window, earlier the theatrical window for a new movie launch used to be six months, then to two-three months and now barely 2-3 weeks. The traditional hierarchy was first release in theaters and then you do satellite syndication for television. Then you go to digital and then the long tail of DVD. The value chain has completely changed after the pandemic, digital has come right in the front, theatrical and satellite have started going in tandem, since there is so much demand one thought that television would be the first one to lap up. I think they are keen but the willingness to pay the price the OTT is offering is not there, and the revenue side of Television has taken a beating in the last few months as all of it is ad-driven.
I think it is a bit of a mix there but I do believe that satellite will also come back in full force around festive time when the line of sight to ad revenues is firmed up, you will see their purse strings opening up and they will want to acquire interesting movies as well. It is a good play for us as a studio, we can first monetize it on OTT and then do a satellite syndication and finally the theaters. We have a very long period, we talk typically look at amortizing a movie anywhere between seven to 10 years. First two, three years are important, but the lifecycle is very long and then those rights sort of keep getting recycled.
Your role in IAA now?
It is one of the most engaging industry associations that I work with and I work with quite a few industry associations. I think the desire to engage with industry associations started largely as an effort to make sure that I am able to connect with the industry on a larger platform and not just be able to gain from it. I think some people look at industry associations as ways to business development. For me a large part of it, that as representatives of large organizations, be it Dainik Bhaskar or Sakal and now Eros it is important that we give something back to the industry. It may be in terms of developing talent, ideas, right set of ideals, and be it gender sensitivity, an opportunity to learn and upskill people from traditional skill sets to digital skill set. And most of all, thanks to all the awards and rewards that keep happening, to recognize good work because there is no better motivation to people than to recognize good work and make sure that it is counted.
I think the whole IAA, Ad Club or some of the other industry association that I am active in and IAA is special to me because it was one of the first associations that I joined, one of the first associations where I actually got on to the managing committee and the governing body and I think IAA in itself has led a very global agenda. What separates IAA from any other association in India is its strong international flavour and international connects. It has always believed in promoting global causes and bringing global causes to India. We have had the privilege of people like Swami Sir, Ramesh Narayan who have hand handheld over the years and we have had each and every stalwart of the industry whether it is Raj Nayak, Bhaskar Das, Kaushik Roy, Neeraj Roy all of them over a period of time. Now, of course, Puneet Goenka of Zee entertainment as the President, Megha Tata all of them have been so involved in making sure that we use the association to make a change in the society or at least in our industry, to create a platform as advertising for good and I think that is something that inspires me a lot. I think I believe that if we do that effort, right, we are able to do something for the next generation of professionals that are going to take this industry forward.
In the current role, the India chapter, I was the treasurer last year, also been honorary secretary for a few years. Those were office bearer positions, I think it allows me to do a little bit more than what I would have done as an ordinary member and that is something that excites me. Last year, for example, with Medianews4u, we did the first awards to recognize Tamil creativity, Medianews4 team made sure that the red carpet was rolled out for the best of advertisers and creative people in Chennai, This year, sadly, due to pandemic we are not able to repeat it, but I am hoping that once this is over, maybe next year, we can do a repeat of that.
We have been promoting regional advertising causes in markets such as Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. There is a lot of work around environment sensitivity with the Olive Crown award is something that has been a good factor and a good event for us. The way I look at, it is that IAA provides the platform to do a lot more. Now, of course, in the recently announced role of VP, and area director for Asia Pacific, I have the huge shoes of Ramesh Narayan to fill and it is not an easy task. I am hoping that I will learn from him and have his constant guidance. The difference now is that we will be able to, at least I will be able to learn and contribute from an Asia theater perspective. Basically, with our partners across Asia, that Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, some part of Middle East and take the initiative forward, IAA itself has to transform given the pivoting of the post COVID world. Sunder Swami’s tenure as the World President is coming to an end in September, the new global president designate Mr. Joel Neti will be taking over. He is from IAA Africa, Ghana, and an amazing gentleman and very inspiring. I am looking forward to what IAA holds next and what I can do to contribute to IAA and to the industry.
Mentor you want to mention, and what is that one thing you learned that has led you in good stead?
When it comes to mentors, I cannot single out any one person, I think it would be unfair to a lot of other mentors who have given me guidance all my life. I would say that my biggest mentor, somebody who has been a constant throughout my life has been my older sister. She is a school principal in KV Dharamsala, and has been a school principal, the better part of her life. She is about four years older to me, but amazing inspired and inspiring individual, her ideas and my amazing hunger for learning, reading books, doing different things, all of it has been inspired as she is my go to person when I have to sort of think through some things and I have been blessed that way.
I think professionally, there have been a lot of my managers, seniors in the organizations, all of whom I have learned, actually everybody that I meet up I end up learning something from them, in terms of not just how to balance some of the priorities in the industry, how to make sure that we are conveying the right kind of message. Every person teaches you something and you have to take that on and imbibe that and make yourself to be a little bit better than you were the day before. That is the idea. I think in our current organization KL is a visionary, I love working with Abjit Pawar and Sudhir Agarwal.
Amit Sardana, my boss in Tata Group, Lloyd Matthias, who was my boss in Tata for a while and continues to be a friend and mentor, really a large number of people. As I said that if I name just a few and missed a few, I think it will not be fair to them. I would say all my managers have been very inspiring and I think one of the things that I have learned from them that I have tried to adopt as best as possible is that it is important to help people grow because you cannot solve problems for people, every person wants to do his or her best. They want to move forward, they want to contribute.
I think as a leader, it is important that you:
- a) Get out of the way and let them do the job that they can do best
- b) Enable them and remove roadblocks, if you create the environment in which your team can function well, they will develop the skills and capability to sort of grow on their own.
When it comes to management style, some people have micromanagement deterministic style, for me, it is very important that I give the space to the team to be able to do what they do best. That has worked well for me all these years. I think that is something that has served me well going forward as well.
What is your go to activities on the weekend?
Weekends have been largely about the family, whether it is going out with the family, the usual movie and dining out, etc. pretty normal. I think over the last couple of years, a little difficult as kids were in various stages of their schooling life and going through critical phases of life.
At a personal level, I have enjoyed running and walking and having some level of physical activity going on, which I have continued in the weekends. And that is something that I intend to continue as and when the situation improves, obviously flexibility to work around even now. But I would say that reading books has been a big passion for me, that continues to excite me and I think weekends when I get a little bit of time on my own, uninterrupted by work to be able to do that. Spending time with my wife and family, that is it, nothing exciting and nothing very radical that I can share I would just say I have a very normal weekend.
Anything else you want to say for the people wanting to tackle this new normal now?
I think a couple of things If I can just share and this is more for the young professionals in the industry, I think a lot of them are feeling stressed out especially now and I know that I have managed and dealt with ad sales as a significant part of my responsibilities in various media organizations. The ad sales guys are stressed out right now they are feeling the brunt of not being able to meet targets, not having enough opportunities, salary cuts and layoffs are looming large, I would tell them that obviously, these are tough times, so please hang in there and make sure that whatever time you get in your hand, you are able to prepare for a world post COVID. Let us recognize that digital advertising is going to be the largest means of advertising will be beyond print, television and outdoors. If you have the time, please get yourself updated and upgraded to what the digital universe demands.
There are free courses on Google, there are courses which are on paid basis available at various websites. If you upskill yourself, then you will find sustainability in the new normal. If you do not upskill yourself and squander away this opportunity, the demand will be there and the supply will be filled by people who are much younger. You may say I have 10-15 years of experience in ad sales and a natural for this job. But what you will not realize is that you have the experience of a different era and a different product category. It is like you are good at riding horses, when everybody is now driving bikes. You need to be able to make that switch. And this is an important message and I think anybody who needs advice inputs on how to go about it, they can feel free to reach out to me on any social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. I am available everywhere. I think the message speaks for itself.
The only other message that I would have for everybody and not just young professionals in the industry. But people need to be conscious of the fact that social distancing, maintaining personal hygiene and sanitation is the only way out of this and we are all in it together and unless each of us take upon ourselves take serious responsibility of making sure that we contain this as much as possible we will not be able to overcome this challenge and collectively we can. We need to be collectively aligned and organized not just as an industry, but as professionals, as Indians and as human beings and come out of this situation.