The exchange4media Conclave 2009 wrapped up with a power-packed CEO Forum that included Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radio City; Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT India; Harindra Singh, CEO, Percept Holding Company; Lynn de Souza, Chairman & CEO Lintas Media Group; and Mark Patterson, Group CEO, GroupM APAC. The panel discussed the right and the wrong ways of coping with the slowdown. Rajat Sharma delivered the valedictory address and gave some very interesting points on what media should do to fight this slowdown.
The day-long Conclave was held in Mumbai on June 3, and was presented by Star News and powered by Hindustan Times. Yuva was the associate sponsor for the event.
Apurva Purohit threw the discussions open by posing the question, “When and how will recovery take place in a slowdown? What exactly are those measures to be taken in a slowdown?”
Mark Patterson noted, “We have seen significant changes in relationship with clients. I think we are seeing clients being opportunistic. Media owners have to manage supply when demand changes. We have seen issues arising on payment returns. And we are also seeing irrational behaviour among the media.”
On a different take, Colvyn Harris said, “I need to challenge this assumption that it is a ‘slowdown’. Telecom is a fabulous space to be in. But yes, significant issues need to be addressed. We are investing a lot in clients as well as in good people. We have wasted a lot of money in the good days as a lot of inefficacies have crept in.”
Harindra Singh said, “We are seeing slowdown in different segments. To cope with thte slowdown, we have stopped investing in loans cum projects, but we are still investing in training. Our budgets are going below the line. My advise is don’t resort to layoffs and don’t spend money unnecessarily.”
Saugata Gupta, CEO, Marico India, noted here, “Consumer behaviour is changing. Market is divided in two-tier segments. One segment is daily consumption, while the second segment is people seeking more value for money. Local players are gaining more market share. We believe in two things – people and innovation. Revamp your portfolio and do the right things is what I would say.”
According to Lynn de Souza, “The automobile sector is doing well. For example, Maruti has sold more cars in the last three months. Those media companies which have been fit are still going strong. But yes, we have to focus on topline. More and more customers are expanding productivity in people. The top management is making sacrifices. I would say the lower and middle rungs are not affected much. We need to invest in technology as it can help save money.”
Sameer Nair, CEO, NDTV Imagine, noted “The last 2-3 years have seen fierce competition and a lot of money came into this business. But now it is important to manage your business well as there is not much money coming in as before. There has to be some consolidation. It also depends on where you are in the lifecycle.”
On a positive note, Sivakumar Sundaram, CEO, Times Private Treaties, said that growth was going to come from India, but “we need to take a re-look at business inefficiencies”. He added, “Private Treaties has seen a shift in business. Today, we are seeing a big corporate with big cash. Opportunities like Treaties are best in slowdown.”
Speaking on the young workforce, Gupta said, “Two things we have noticed are that a lot of youngsters haven’t faced downturn. Secondly, accountability of talent has gone up. If you don’t experience a downturn in life, you become resilient.”
de Souza noted, “It isn’t tough to classify good or bad talent. Overall, the talent bar needs to be raised and we need to encourage team work.”
Pondering over what made good talent and bad talent, Harris felt that talent was over-priced. He, however, added that good people were worth paying.
Rajat Sharma, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, India TV, delivered that valedictory address post the CEO forum. Speaking on ‘What media should do to fight this recession’ Sharma said, “The economy will revive in the next six months. I think crisis depends on how you are dealing with it. If you look at the US, then yes, there is a crisis. But I am using this crisis to spend less on media and more on consolidation of business. A careful approach is important. We need to take a long hard look at the Indian economy. We need to think like Indians and not get worried by the US. We need to deal with this with positive mind and ‘Indian way of thinking’.”
He added, “It isn’t good to blame the media for everything. I think whenever we have a crisis, we have highest the viewership, but there are lesser ads on TV. People also tend to shift from GECs to news channels. However, print media will never give up on hard news.”