Leena Lele Dutta’s is a pragmatic and result-oriented executive, her forte is to create ‘start-up type’ environment with a focus on team leadership, productivity and balanced risk-taking heads the business for Sony Pictures Network India’s (SPN) Kids’ Entertainment channel – Sony YAY! She is responsible for driving the overall business and building the growth trajectory of the Kids’ genre for SPN in the region by focusing on strategic content development and marketing initiatives.
A seasoned professional in the broadcast industry, Leena brings with her a diverse experience of over 20 years. Prior to joining SPN, she was the Executive Director, Distribution at Sony Pictures Television (SPT). In her role at SPT, Leena’s mandate was to spearhead, structure and develop the content distribution and licensing division for the company in India and South Asia.
Having worked in various capacities across business verticals, Leena has played an integral role in some of India’s leading organizations like Ten Sports India Ltd, Channel 9 (Nine Broadcasting Media) and MTV India amongst other reputed companies, besides having worked in Sales with SPN (then SET India) from 1995-1999.
In today’s Leaderspeak, Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony Pictures Networks India, Kids’ Genre speaks to MediaNews4U’s Leaderspeak on her journey in the Media, the Kid’s genre and much more.
20+ years in the broadcast industry from Distribution to Sales and now Business Head how has the journey been?
The journey has been exhilarating. I am fortunate to have the opportunity of an all-round involvement across all the aspects of the broadcast industry. As everything, it had its ups and downs, and uncertainties. In retrospect, looking at my earliest memories, I am proud of where I am today. That said, I am grateful to my mentors for all my experiences, learning and achievements.
At one time in your career you also spearheaded and developed content distribution and licensing not only in India but also in South Asia, how was that experience?
At Sony Pictures I was given the mandate to set shop for the content licensing and distribution arm for all SPE assets which were produced out of our studio in LA and their other sister companies across the globe. Sony was actually one of the first studios to have their content syndication arm put in play and the timing couldn’t be more perfect back then in 2007.
Apart from content licensing, we also ventured into International IP format productions, working with fledgling IPTV partners as the OTT play was just in its infancy stages then, and ventured in many other content partnerships ensuring the SPE content portfolio is optimized in the best possible way.
The Kids genre in India, how has the growth trajectory been? Today the kids genre is seeing great animation, what do you attribute this to; also Sony YAY! has been in the forefront of original animated content, your thoughts?
Over the years, the kids’ entertainment industry has evolved significantly. Right from storytelling, production, or distribution – recent times have seen the category continually transform and adapt. However, we are still at a very nascent stage with a lot of untapped potential.
Sony YAY! despite being the youngest player in the category has successfully managed to create a niche for itself. Enjoying a bigger slice of the pie – we have placed ourselves as one of the most-preferred destinations of entertainment for kids by serving them what they want and demand. We have been trendsetters in introducing original homegrown shows packed with unique storytelling, relatable characters in the language and platform they prefer. We aim to offer an entire ecosystem of entertainment, fun, and laughter for kids across the country.
You are a mother of 2 young boys, now with schools online how do you monitor their TV time, as this has become the talking point for many parents?
The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has transformed our lives exceptionally. For kids, while it has limited their exposure to the real world, at the same time, it has opened up interesting avenues and opportunities in the online world. As a mother, I would have silently vowed to keep my kids away from devices as much as possible; alas not anymore. Gatekeeping is however extremely important, especially when it comes to introducing kids to the internet in their formative years. A fair balance can be maintained between online and offline by allowing kids to run with their imagination through extracurricular activities including sports, reading, and painting, learning a new instrument or any art form.
Are we seeing a wider audience for animated content?
Animated content is not limited to kids anymore. Be it movies, TV shows or documentaries – people are willing to consume varied forms of animated content – as long as it is unique, engaging, and entertaining. There is a lot of animated content appealing to adults nowadays. As long as the story is simple, appealing, with differentiated animation and visualization it can easily translate into an age agnostic product.
However, in the kids’ world, animation is an expression of taking one’s imagination in any direction and hence gives the storyteller the freedom to express unreservedly.
As a women leader, what is your take on women getting more opportunities in the corporate world?
Leadership is not gendered; hence, differentiating ‘women leaders’ from leaders in my opinion is not warranted at all. Simply put, a scientist is a scientist, a doctor is a doctor and a home maker is a home maker; whichever the gender type maybe.
That said, it is refreshing to see so many women take up leadership roles and pave the way for everyone else. Hybrid work environment post pandemic has given many women opportunities to revive their careers. Women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship provide unprecedented opportunity to change the social and economic path of India if it’s true potential is unlocked.
Mentor you want to mention and what is that one thing you learned that has led you in good stead?
Each of my work stint has been guided by not one but many of my mentors’ diverse experience. Seeing them navigate the good and bad times; it’s not just one, but so many learning’s that I have unconsciously imbibed in 20+ years.
As quoted by Thomas Jefferson, former President of The United States said “ I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” ; and undoubtedly it’s the mantra I believe in.
The challenges you faced and the most important achievement in your career?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to handle diverse roles in my career, from advertising sales of a GEC to selling Doordarshan to Sports, each with their unique proposition and challenges. Content syndication was a new business then and came with its own set of quirks. But what I thoroughly enjoyed taking on as a new challenge was building the Kids business here at SPNI. In a market place already cluttered with 12 kids channels and YouTube a prime destination for kids content, to carve a niche and scale the business was a tall order. It’s been 4 and half years since the launch of Yay! and the kids business and proud to say, today we are ranked #1 kids channel in the HSM market. A challenge yet again surpassed!
How do you de-stress yourself? Your go to activities during the weekends?
I prefer to enjoy life in the simple moments of togetherness with my family and my kids. It’s the best form of relaxation for me!