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First challenge facing Uday Shankar at STAR: to retain and recruit

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First challenge facing Uday Shankar at STAR: to retain and recruit

STAR India has probably occupied more media attention in the last four months than it has ever, since it inception. Media reports have ranged from drop in revenues and ratings; advertisers pulling out or arm-twisting the channel; to senior executives leaving. Leading newspapers speculated on Sanjay Das coming in as COO, Uday Shankar joining as CEO, or executives like Deepak Segal quitting and Peter Mukerjea becoming a consultant — the channel has seen it all.

Surely, the list of problems that STAR India has is a long one at present and Paul Aiello, CEO, STAR TV and acting CEO, STAR India, may have felt some peace with MCCS’ CEO Uday Shankar being appointed as COO for the Network. Shankar comes from a news domain where he has worked on Star News and launched Star Ananda. However, if people from within and out of STAR have to be believed, his first worry is not about learning the Hindi general entertainment space, but about controlling the people problem that STAR is facing.

Sameer Nair and Peter Mukerjea’s decision to quit STAR India did not just mean two leaders moving out from the organisation, but it paved the way for many others in the organisation to do the same. The executives may not necessarily be moving out to join Mukerjea or Nair, but many have seized the opportunity to quit. From top-level executives like Distribution Head Tony D’Silva (who has now joined Sun TV), Legal Head Ajay Sharma (rumoured to join INX Media), Senior Creative Director Shailja Kejriwal (definitely joining Sameer Nair), to many others across rungs like Nilanjana, Rupali and Alif Surthi are expected to follow soon.

Gaurav Gandhi, Head-Acquisitions, and Manoj Vidhwan, Head-Research, have also already moved to the Nair camp. Another person expected to exit soon is Harsh Rohatgi, GM-Content and Communication. The Sales department has already seen people moving out, with old hands like Juhi Ravindranath exiting. The Operations department is blank with the exit of Karan Singh and Nidhish Vasu.

The beginning of the corrective course is already seen, with some internal announcements that STAR India has made for its Legal and HR departments, and even the elevation of Ajay Vidyasagar to President-Content and New Media, a development in the waiting for some time now. However, in effect at present, STAR does not have too many left in Programming; neither a Distribution Head nor a Marketing Head, and no one in Operations.

Industry rumour also continues to be very hot on Vidyasagar — one of the three Presidents who would immediately report to Shankar.

Some industry heads like Lynn de Souza, Director, Lintas Media Group, believes that this is just a phase and will wear off soon. She said, “Every organisation goes through a period like this. STAR has an inherent strength in functions like programming and sales, and there is no taking that away from the organisation. Many a times, situations like these allow people to restructure the organisation better, get new blood and fresh thinking in, and I’m sure STAR India too will look at doing something like that.”

Lodestar Universal’s Nandini Dias agreed with this, further informing that the dealing with STAR India has not changed because of the organisational changes that the media major is going through. However, she added, “What people would be watching out for are the changes that would come within the organisation now — whether there would be new policies, different structures, the changes that the new teams would be bringing in — and all that would matter to people who have long-standing relations with the organisation.”

Anupriya Acharya, President, TME, believes that in addition to the challenge of consolidating the team with many old-timers leaving, Shankar will also have to face the accentuated fragmentation in the television space and increased competition, with at least four new GECs gearing to launch.

If the industry word is to be believed, STAR India can easily be looking at over 60 people moving out from the organisation and worst, moving to competition. Shankar surely has a lot on that front to tackle. The GEC domain learning can follow.


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