By: Yohan P Chawla
Fourth Dimensions Media Solutions, a company well known in South India for its media outsourcing services — especially driving ad sales for television channels — has now completed 8 years in the business. Launched on 7th February, 2011, Fourth Dimension Media has been thriving under the leadership of CEO Shankar Bala ever since.
I spoke to Shankar Bala about eight years of Fourth Dimension Media, and a lot more.
How has the Journey been so far? Which has been your biggest accomplishment in the last 8 years at Fourth Dimension?
The journey has been really fantastic. It all started in early 2010, when I had gone to sell an event to my current bosses, who are the promoters of SRM group, who had bought that particular event. That was when the idea of working together started. The journey has been very exciting, though the market is getting challenging by the day. But overall, it’s been a very exciting and fulfilling journey; not to forget a very successful one too.
The biggest achievement was when the group had launched the news channel on 24th August 2011. The market was very crowded then and the distribution methodology in Tamil Nadu was very erratic. The most memorable moment for me was when we became Number 1 in 6 weeks of launch.
What was the main purpose of this venture? And have you achieved it as yet?
Having spent more than 20 years in the media, broadcasting and advertising industry, I have always wanted to try out something which was a part of print, television, radio, digital and activations. Dr Satya, who is President of SRM Group, was kind enough to give me this opportunity.
I was given the task of identifying the team, and one name that to set up the team that immediately came to my mind that of someone who had hands-on experience in all this — Bharath Viswanathan, who is my COO. Fourth Dimension was launched on 7th February 2011. I had joined about 6 months later. Bharath Viswanathan, Thyagaraj and R. Balakrishnan were the initial members of the team.
The whole purpose was to make it the country’s largest media outsourcing company, which to a large extent I feel we have sort of achieved.
What are your International Plans?
We do a lot of work in Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka as Tamil is a key language there. We have lots of clients in Tamil Nadu who have a great interest in the markets of Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore.
We also did a tribute to Freddie Mercury on 6th October in Mumbai. The success of the event has raised eyebrows across the Asian and South Asian sub-continent. Today there are a lot of tribute bands who are reaching out to us from Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. These people want to come and do tribute performances in India. There is something big one should expect in the month of July or August this year — we are planning to do a 5-city tour with one of the biggest tribute rock bands in the world.
As a knowledge leader, how have you been evangelizing the south Indian market?
I started evangelizing South, predominantly Tamil Nadu, about two years back. As a part of the program, I go to large companies across the country and explain to them what South India really is as a market, and what Tamil Nadu is as a state.
Look at the overall scenario: in a market of more than 800-odd TV channels in India, more than 150 to 200 channels are from the South. Also, considering it’s a very limited amount of time an agency and the client can spare when they meet, both sides are entirely dependent upon quantitative inputs from BARC or IRS and RAM. My point is that quantitative inputs are important, and so are qualitative inputs. And the potential of this market is yet to be exploited to its fullest extent.
Has digitization helped consumers and broadcasters?
It has helped the consumer more than the broadcaster. While the implementation was on, there were some disruptions in the ratings, but now the dust has settled.
I feel that very soon the country will be going towards 100% digitization. There are certain pockets of India which are not fully digitized. One would know the power and merit of digitization only when it’s fully rolled out. So we are eagerly looking forward to it.
Is there life beyond TV, when people are running behind OTT you seemed to have taken a back seat any particular reason?
There can never be a comparison between OTT and Television. Both are in unique positions of their own. India is a very large TV market, if you look at the research reports published by the Big Four (KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PwC), Television as an entity is not going to die.
People in digital and OTT keep saying that TV is going to die; that is not going to happen. If you look at the main OTT players in India, their main form of promotion is through television.
Only in a very few instances do you have a television brand promoting its product through OTT.
When you talk about the country’s biggest OTT platform which claims to have millions of monthly active users, their dependence on Television itself is so high. Even Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, both are using television to a large extent. So I don’t see the end of Television, ever.
If one looks at the BARC numbers which were released a few months back, they said people in the age group of 20 to 24 still consume a lot of television. As a group, we are in no hurry to get into OTT just for the sake of getting into one, and any which ways our core competency and expertise has been in news. We are a market leader and we shall continue to give the best of unbiased news.
We have been approached by a few OTT players to represent them for Ad sales as they have been struggling to get ad sales. We are very happy where we are.
Which are the key people who have been instrumental in the success of Fourth Dimension Media?
Dr Satyanarayana of SRM group, Mr Manivannan, Managing Director, SRM Group and Mr Srinivasan, Executive Director, SRM group, have played a very important role in giving birth to Fourth Dimension Media.
And last but not the least, my team, which has made Fourth Dimension Media the largest media outsourcing company.