‘It’s during these opportunities that you can reconnect with the customer as a brand’

In this edition of our series Beating All Odds, Anil Dua, Executive Director and Group CEO, DishTV India Limited, speaks to Neeta Nair on how the brand is dealing with the lockdown

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: May 12, 2020 7:50 AM
Beating All Odds

The Covid-19 induced lockdown has brought about a 360-degree change in the way most marketers and brands think. Here we try to get you a low down from one such brand.

In this segment of Beating All Odds, we have with us Anil Dua, Executive Director and Group CEO, DishTV India Limited.

When the lockdown was first announced, it seemed like a challenge which our industry would find very difficult to cope with. Almost two months later how do you think we have fared?

I think very well. I will say that industry, the companies, the managements have really risen to the occasion. And in my mind that has been a striking feature of this lockdown. Maybe it is the instinct to survive, or as I will say the desire to thrive which in the competitive context that these companies have grown in has marked this phenomenon because I see most of these companies trying to outdo each other in terms of continuing business as usual. And it's fun to be part of that and to be observing that.

What is the first step that you took as a brand when you realized there was no turning back in the face of the crisis?

We planned. We realised there is a lot to be done and various alternative scenarios can unfold. We first took measures to see that all our people were safe and ready for the coming times. We also did drills and saw to it that whatever happens in any eventuality, our service goes on, business continues because we have a 24-hour service to the customers, our transmission, IT systems have to work non-stop. And, of course, we built alternative scenarios to look at various new alternative things which may have to be done, the responses which may have to be enabled in different situations to see that things keep working, and customers stay engaged, stay entertained.

What are the big challenges that you are still facing as an individual, and also as a Group CEO?

I will say at both these levels the challenges have been interesting because they have got converted into opportunities. At an individual level I think it is about living in a new routine, one which you have never lived, seemingly very fixed, but actually far more dynamic and demanding than it has ever been, especially for a business and industry which requires, as I said, 24x7 kind of non-stop trouble free service. As an organization, I think we are a very people-to-people, whether it is our field meeting with the dealers, whether it is our technicians visiting the households, or it is our subscribers engaging with our call center agents all the time, we had to ensure that life goes on as if nothing has changed from a subscriber point of view. And while we had to do very different things, I think by and large we managed to ensure that and those challenges, of course still continue. We surmounted a fair bit of that, but we keep on finding and discovering new ways of improving further upon that.

You have also come up with a campaign called ‘Desh Recharge Ho Raha Hai’. What was the insight behind that and how are you helping your consumers get through this crisis?

Well, I will say, it’s a positive take on the current situation. Of course, in the situation of a lockdown you are trying to contain the pandemic, but the lockdown also marks a break from the usual humdrum, the usual noise of our modern life. It's like a detox. It's a rejuvenation. It's a recharge. And that's what this campaign recognizes. It says that, while the neighborhoods are quieter, the roads are safer, the water and air are cleaner, we are ensuring that you can stay at home productively, you can stay at home happily. And we are trying to see in every way that your entertainment is always switched on through various things that we are doing. While Dish TV says ‘Desh Recharge Ho Raha Hai’, our D2H brand says ‘stay at home, stay safe, stay entertained’. And together with these two campaigns, we are actually giving a very positive message, a message of possibilities in the current situation.

Like most marketers, was your first reaction to slash advertising spends?

So we have to recognize that some of the mediums like ‘out of home’ and ‘cinema’ have all of course been rendered redundant, but we maintained a minimum presence on TV. We've upped our presence on digital. The advantage we have is that we have our own home channels talking to our own subscribers. And that's an important thing because our repeat business, our upgrades, extra content comes mostly from the current subscribers and our own channels are the major medium of advertising. So they have been with us and they've been a really important medium to communicate all the things that we've done. For example, we extended credit almost three times to what we used to do earlier in terms of paying later. We've started several free services, whether it is the kids service or fitness or the senior people service. We've been able to communicate very effectively through our home channels. So that has filled in the gap to a large extent from conventional advertising. We've also created radio spots. Of course, you know the traditional spend on traditional media definitely is not at the same level. But given a unique advantage of using direct marketing like SMS, email, registered mobile numbers, and digital marketing and home channels, we've been able to stay connected with our customers.

They say that it's literally boom time for OTT platforms. Do you think it's the perfect time for Watcho, your OTT platform to rise up to the occasion?

Watcho is very close to our hearts and it's been a labour of love, but I will say first and foremost it is an opportunity for our DTH platform, because people are at home, they are watching TV, we've been seeing all the data, the TV viewership has gone up, TV viewing time has gone up. So that is a big opportunity for the DTH platforms for both our brands, Dish and D2H, to up the ante and to really, you know stay connected and grow the business. Yes, for Watcho it's also been a very important phase. The interesting thing about our OTT service Watcho is that it supplements the DTH platform. While DTH is about long-format consumption in family time, family space, Watcho is all about short-form, snackable consumption in individual time and individual space. And therefore the two kind of go hand-in-hand snugly. So we've been able to actually grow both the businesses during this period. And both of them have added subscribers and volumes and revenues.

You say there is an increase in revenue in this period for Watcho?

Watcho is by and large a service for our Dish and D2H subscribers. It's also available to non-Dish and D2H but because we've not been marketing it very aggressively right now, it's a fledgling brand. It's the youngest OTT brand, but a very promising one. So right now we haven't gone into either SVOD, the paid SVOD or AVOD in a big way. But still the volumes have grown specifically for Watcho. We had reached a million downloads in a few months of the relaunch and that's the number with which we entered this year in January. Then in January and February, we doubled it and added one more million. Since then, we've been adding almost a million every month. So as we talk, we are at about 4 million right now.

Do you feel digital as a medium will become more important post lockdown, or things will go back to the earlier ratio of spends between mediums?

The growth of digital has been a long-term trend, so it's here to stay. I think, the Indian ingenuity will ensure that the traditional players also strike back, they make a healthy comeback, and we'll see everything else also coming back. But yes, this means, you now move to the next level. But I think the traditional mediums are here to stay, and we'll see them come back in new innovative ways.

Agency heads have told me that their relationship with their clients have changed. Now they're a lot less demanding. As a client, do you agree?

I think it is always mutual. I think the agencies have also been very forthcoming. They're truly playing the role of creative partners. I think creativity and innovation have really blossomed during this time. Almost everyone has been shooting videos and TVCs from home, and we've done the same - we've created radio spots, TV commercials, and of course, you know advertising agencies have been very innovative in doing that. So, I think our engagement during this period has gone up. We’ve been ideating together, brainstorming together, and several new ideas have come up. So I think it's been a good period from the relationship point of view.

What is your biggest learning from the lockdown?

I think opportunities like this are the time that you can reconnect with the customer as a brand. No time is a wrong time to build trust, build credibility, and that's what we have been able to do. I spoke about positivity, so we put our money where our mouth is. We started Dish positive channels on the Dish platform. We started D2H positive channel on D2H platform. On this you get all the authentic information about the pandemic, live testing facilities like precautions you should take, so all positive, informative, authoritative information that that any dish or D2H subscriber can get on these channels. So, we have been as a brand trying to forge that relationship with our customers that even in times like this we can convert the situation into a huge opportunity to build that trust and credibility with our subscribers.

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