The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men (in today’s world, women too) to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it – Theodore Roosevelt
Sanjay Dua was appointed as the CEO of Network18’s News Media Network last week. In November 2010, Dilip Venkatraman, who was Group CMO at IBN Network, got promoted to CEO of CNN-IBN. Ajay Chacko was also appointed President of AETN18 Media, the JV between AETN and Network18. Anil Uniyal was appointed CEO of the CNBC channels. He was leading the commercial arm of the Group, Network18 Media, with responsibilities for driving the topline for the CNBC channels and Forbes India. As CEOs and leaders, all four are responsible for the strategic, financial and operational management of their businesses.
Seeing this happen, my mind went ticking, thinking about the growth of the group and the people associated with it for so long. B Sai Kumar, the Group COO, probably fits the description that Roosevelt gave. All these four CEOs reported to B Sai Kumar and Sai had managed to retain and motivate his key leadership team as the Group went into its phase of accelerated growth and consolidation.
I was further reminded of Kenneth Hildebrand’s saying: “Someone receives a promotion, gets an important assignment, makes a major discovery, or moves into the president’s office. ‘He’s lucky’, an envious person remarks. ‘He gets the breaks; they’re always in his favor’. In reality, luck or the breaks of life had little or nothing to do with it. So-called ‘luck’ usually is found at the exact point where preparation meets opportunity. For a time, an individual may get ahead by ‘pull’, but eventually someone with push will displace him. Success is not due to a fortuitous concourse of stars at our birth, but to a steady trail of sparks from the grindstone of hard work each day.”
If I go by figures and associations, Network18 has emerged as one of the most successful media conglomerates in the shortest span of time, and what’s remarkable about this group is its people management, which sets an example for any firm that has issues with human resource.
Raghav Bahl, the promoter of Network18 Group, and his Group CEO Haresh Chawla have forged relationships of the Network18 Group with the world’s biggest and most reputed media businesses and handed them over to his team of handpicked and extremely talented ‘Intrapreneurs’, who have led the company to new heights. Sanjay Dua, Ajay Chacko, Dilip Venkatraman, and Anil Uniyal are few Intrapreneurs of that league, who have been instrumental in Network18’s phenomenal growth and have thus reaped the rewards by being elevated to the top positions.
Dilip Venkatraman has worked very closely with Rajdeep Sardesai over the last five years to shape the strategy at the channel, and in the process, along with Rajdeep, coined properties like Indian of the Year, Real Heroes, Diamond States Awards, Citizen Journalist Awards and Super Idols for the group’s channels, which have established them not only as a news provider, but also as a thought leader and differentiator in the domain by creating unique media platforms. In some ways, they have set examples for others to follow. And as Steve Jobs rightly put it: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. Network18 has given these innovators apt credit and turned them into leaders. Network18 should be a model for a lot of media moguls, who might say to me in private: “Isn’t Network18 over leveraged?” My response has always been to look at the quality of media assets they are building, look at the value they are creating, look at the quality of people they have and look at the continuity in the top team.
An organisation plays a major role in converting an employee to an Intrapreneur. Another company that stands out for me for how it has nurtured leaders is the Hindustan Times Group.
I remember a lighthearted talk with Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media Ltd, about 14 months’ back, when I joked that he was my favourite CEO in our industry for one simple reason. Rajiv, as humble and non-presumptuous as he is, asked me why I thought so? Expecting a serious and logical answer (perhaps I don’t know), I said that the reason he was my favourite CEO (of course in a lighter vein, though I meant my part of his being my favourite Media CEO) was because Hindustan Times did so well inspite of having three Bengalis at the top three leadership positions. Sanjoy Narayan was the Editor-in-Chief at that time (he still is and doing well), Benoy Roychowdhury was Director of Media Marketing, as in Head of Revenues, and Neelanjan Shome was the CMO (he is no longer with them). Rajiv laughed for the next 2 to 3 minutes.
If you look at Hindustan’s latest quarter financial results for both flagship HT and Hindustan, a strong leadership team, their strong business and editorial skills and continuity have made the group one of the strongest media groups in the industry today. We could not have said the same about HT six years back. Hindustan Times in the last six years has attracted good talent and retained it. Hindustan Times has over the last few years added Sanjoy Narayan, Vivek Gaur (Head - North and East, and now taking Brunch into a standalone product), Shashi Shekhar (Editor-in- Chief of Hindustan), Amit Garg (Head of Hindi Business), Amit Chopra (Head of Internet Business), Vivek Khanna (Head of Mint), R Sukumar (Editor of Mint), Salil Sadanand (Head of Mumbai), Rajeev Beotra (who reports to Benoy) and S Keerthivasan (Head of Radio Business)… I could go on.
The promoters of Hindustan Times have stood by Rajiv Verma and his leadership team to create shareholder value and market winning team.
What is common between Network18 and Hindustan Times? Three things:
1. They have top notch talent
2. They have let them be entrepreneurial, and the growth and sharing of growth spoils have kept them motivated
3. There is continuity at the top
I must also add here without taking names that both Network 18 and Hindustan Times have not hesitated from getting rid of senior management appointees when they did not deliver and they did it quickly.
Companies like Anand Bazaar Patrika, who were media behemoths but have now been left behind, need to learn from these two players that leadership and talent are the only ways to grow an existing media empire.
Another media behemoth that has done very well is Zee Entertainment Enterprises under the leadership of Punit Goenka. It grew by 55 per cent in profitability on its large base. Kudos to Goenka and his low key approach. Who says promoters cannot be good managers? Zee has also retained its senior management and survived the tough competition from various new players because of the strategies and skills of its entrepreneurial leadership. Joy Chakraborthy, Himanshu Modi and Barun Das – all have delivered in their roles in the company.
A company is as good as its people assets and thus, it should be of great interest to companies today to make sure that they retain the best of their talent and let them grow with the growth of the businesses. My point is while money rules the world, it is people who create the money. Incentives motivate a person to deliver their best and to grow in one’s individual life is everyone’s desire!
We as a business thrive on the strategies, planning action and reactions of these luminous minds on the shoulders of whom the future of organisations and the industry as well rests, I just hope that there are more stories to be mentioned and more glories to be celebrated as these people take us forward in an era of new growth and new achievements.
It is up to media moguls in India to choose what path they wish to take in this growing nation. Finally, it is time for them to live by the adage: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”.