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Special Update: Punit Goenka in a candid conversation

14-June-2010
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Special Update: Punit Goenka in a candid conversation

A Power Dinner was hosted by the exchange4media Group in Mumbai on June 11 was witness to a riveting conversation between Irwin Gotlieb, Global CEO, GroupM and Punit Goenka, CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL). The Power Dinner was part of the exchange4media Group’s 10-year celebrations and a fitting finale to the exchange4media Conclave 2010. The session was chaired by Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group.

Batra set the ball rolling asking the two distinguished industry leaders as to how business had been different in the last 18 months in India. Gotlieb, who was returning to India after a year, said, “India seems to have survived the economic turbulence that had affected the rest of the globe.” He, however, also warned, “The whole world had changed at that unique point, but India has not reached that unique point yet, but it may sooner than we know.” To this, Goenka replied that his company had anticipated the slowdown well ahead of time. “We revised our business strategy to question every investment we had to make, if it doesn’t generate revenues, we would leave it out,” he added.

Batra then asked Goenka what was the one lesson that his father, Subhash Chandra, had taught him that guided him in business. Goenka replied that his father had advised him to be completely honest and truthful. “No matter how harsh the reality is, you must be honest to your peers and partners, and in the long term the business would succeed,” he said.

Batra reiterated that throughout the whole Conclave, several panellists had similar arguments to present and had agreed on common grounds regarding business. He wondered if that was true, then why the agencies were not working together to influence media owners and make the changes needed in the media business. Gotlieb pointed out that changes were happening and cited the tie-up that GroupM had with WPP group. According to him, “One needs to have a vision and act as a catalyst to make sure that vision is fulfilled. If one sat around passively expecting things to work out, it would never serve the best interest of either the clients or the stakeholders.

“Fundamentally, the media space is overcrowded and people who worked closely together were also competitors,” Gotlieb said, adding, “People tend to overlook the long term implications of deals that they push, newspapers in the US closed doors during recession because they had lost their advertisers. If one cannot afford to build content, then there will be no audience and no business.” He concluded by stressing that the business ecosystem required the individual entities to stop being disruptive.

Goenka opined that collaboration between the clients, media agencies and media owners would have to be a win-win situation for all the three involved. “Agencies in the past have signed deals for ridiculous amounts. Almost 60 per cent of the business goes unserviced and media owners cannot afford to service that business. If the media owner feels that his product is not worth the price, he should refrain from signing the deal.”

Talking about Zee’s future, Goenka highlighted his three pillars – the Chairman’s vision, the guiding principles of excellence, creativity and editorial integrity, and finally, the possibility of Zee being an Indian multinational that would set up businesses outside the country.

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