After almost 12 and a half years with the company, Seem Mohapatra shocked quite a few when on November 14, 2011, she announced her resignation from BBC Worldwide as the Regional Director, South Asia of BBC Advertising, BBC Worldwide’s ad sales company. In her role, Mohapatra was leading the revenue function of BBC World News, BBC Entertainment, BBC.com, mobile and Lonelyplanet.com. She has been with the company since 1999 and has contributed to the company’s growth from a single channel entity to a multi-channel, multi-platform set up.
As Mohapatra readies to exit from the company, she speaks to exchange4media on some of her initial thoughts of leaving a company that she had spent the substantial part of her professional career in. Excerpts:
You are leaving BBC Worldwide after over 12 years --- what are some of the first thoughts as you gear for your next destination?
Excitement at the prospect that the future may hold and sadness at leaving an important part of my life behind. But I am happy I am leaving BBC at a very strong position in India. I can leave with pride because I have been able to deliver across businesses for the organisation, I have set up and led a first-class sales team and I can leave with a legacy of growing the revenue and business year-on-year. It’s been a pleasure to work for such a powerful media brand and build up the business in this part of the world. I have challenged myself to create successes of all the products we have got into the market and I leave behind a growth trajectory, which will continue in the able hands of colleagues.
Since 1999, what were some highpoints of your journey at BBC so far?
Too many to put down but if I take the top five, it would begin with the consolidating of BBC World News’ position in India. We were the first to sight an opportunity and create a separate successful international revenue market. We have been able to establish the digital business in India as well as building a global revenue base across the digital offering. We successfully re-launched the BBC Entertainment channel in India and finally, we were able to create a truly multi-platform and multi-channel advertising sales organisation. Even after 12 and a half years with the BBC, I feel a sense of excitement at being part of one of the most powerful media organisations in the world. I have had the opportunity to launch new channels and start the digital business in India. And I have worked with some amazing people along the way.
BBC has been seeing some tough times globally, and that has had repercussions in India as well. How were you motivating your teams to stay on top and manage a re-launch for BBC Entertainment with over 100 brands?
Globally, and in India, the markets have been dynamic. Under such pressures, effective strategies, with great implementation, work. It’s even more important for leaders to be inspiring and keeping team spirits high. My team has been committed, agile and innovative to stay on top. As you are aware, in recent times BBC has invested in India with the launch of the India edition online, A series of programming looking at India called 'India Direct' on BBC World News and new content on BBC Entertainment.
As you leave BBC, what are some aspects of the company that make you proud?
The absolute emphasis on quality in everything the company does, journalism, programming, delivering to customers, viewers, users as well as advertisers. Quality first and not compromising on the trust and integrity that the organisation stands for across the board. Within the many changing media landscapes, BBC has had strong editorial ethics within which we operate from. I have grown both professionally and personally with such values.
You were handling both channels and BBC's digital presence in India -- what did you find more exciting?
Both are at different stages of development in India and come with different challenges. TV is still growing and digital is where all the new developments are taking place. BBC is online, on mobile, Android, iPad and building a strategy to monetise all of them has been rewarding and exciting. That said, launching a channel is equally exciting and being successful in the hugely crowded market is a big high.
What can we expect from you, from here? Would you like to give entrepreneurship a try, or would you like to continue as a professional in the media industry, or would you like to experiment with another industry altogether?
First take a break, open up my mind and see where the next challenge lies. There are a whole lot host of opportunities ahead including interesting assignments within and beyond the border of media, and in the realm of social entrepreneurship. The priority however is to spend some time with family first.
This year has seen some very high profiled moves in the Indian media industry -- what is your reading of what this means for our industry?
These are exciting times and people have contributed greatly to the success of their media companies. It is great that so many people are moving on to new challenges and looking to do things that will excite them and create new thinking and opportunities!
Seema Mohapatra resigns from BBC Worldwide