<b>Vikram Chandra</b>, CEO, NDTV Group
The entire media structure in our country is built up in such a manner that we don’t have subscription revenue and then there is high carriage fee that has to be paid. With the coming of digitisation and the Government’s new policies and plans, hopefully those things will start to change… We also need to focus on the entire TRP measurement system. Everyone knows that our sample size needs to go up. Advertisers will benefit from data that is completely trustworthy. I think certain amount of structural change has to be come to the broadcast industry. Steps are underway.
Published - Sep 2, 2011 12:00 AM Updated: Sep 2, 2011 12:00 AM
The entire media structure in our country is built up in such a manner that we don’t have subscription revenue and then there is high carriage fee that has to be paid. With the coming of digitisation and the Government’s new policies and plans, hopefully those things will start to change… We also need to focus on the entire TRP measurement system. Everyone knows that our sample size needs to go up. Advertisers will benefit from data that is completely trustworthy. I think certain amount of structural change has to be come to the broadcast industry. Steps are underway.Vikram Chandra has recently been made CEO of NDTV Group. As CEO, he has overall authority and responsibility for all aspects of the company – corporate, operational and channel performance. He has also become a member of the NDTV Board. He had headed NDTV Profit from its creation and led it to become India’s leading business channel. Chandra then became CEO of NDTV Networks, supervising NDTV’s Lifestyle, Internet, Outsourcing and Technology businesses.
Chandra has about 19 years of experience in television journalism. During these years, he switched with ease from the prime time 9 o’clock News to the cult favourite ‘Gadget Guru’, where he slips into a more comfortable avatar to discuss and review all the latest gizmos. But he is perhaps best associated with NDTV’s flagship show, ‘The Big Fight’, which has been one of India’s top rated current affairs shows for more than a decade.
Chandra did his Bachelors in Economics from St Stephen’s College in Delhi and went on to study at Oxford on an Inlaks Scholarship. He honed his media skills at Stanford University, where he did a course in Mass Media. As a reporter, Kashmir and Terrorism have been areas of special interest. Chandra was the first and only TV correspondent to film the Army camps at the Saltoro Heights in Siachen; and to enter Chrar-e-Sharief just before it was burnt down by the militants.
He has interviewed a number of global figures – including Bill Gates, Shimon Peres, Rupert Murdoch and the King of Saudi Arabia. He has written a fiction thriller set in Kashmir ‘The Srinagar Conspiracy’, which became the number one best seller in the country. Chandra has been named the Global Leader for Tomorrow and Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos. He has won the Hero Honda Award for Best Anchorperson, Teacher’s Achievement Award for Communication, Indian Television Academy Award for Best Anchor for a Talk Show, among other coveted recognitions. He has been one of the pioneers in special programming for public interest. He anchored three Greenathon’s that raised money for solar lanterns; and is now involved with the ‘Save our Tigers’ campaign.
In conversation with exchange4media’s Nitin Pandey and Shree Lahiri, Chandra speaks at length about his long career with the NDTV group, the social initiatives like Greenathon and Save Our Tigers, the recently financial results, the road ahead and more… Q. Now, talking about the financial results of the Group, in last few quarter results, NDTV has been reporting loss in revenues. But for the first quarter ended June 30, 2011, NDTV has reported a net profit of Rs 10 crore, as against a loss of Rs 24 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal. How do you view this development?
We also need to focus on the entire TRP measurement system. Everyone knows that our sample size needs to go up. Advertisers will benefit from data that is completely trustworthy. I think certain amount of structural change has to be come to the broadcast industry. Steps are underway. We have taken steps internally so that whatever we can do to try and give our shareholders profitability, we will do. Our priority will be to protect our brand, grow the business and show profitability to shareholders. But there are some environmental issues that also exist. The environment has to improve. I am happy to share with you that we have already taken steps and when things start to turn around, we will be in a good position to take advantage of it. We are seeing signs of a turnaround.
Q. Can we see any further changes in the top leadership?
Q. How has the response been to your lifestyle channel?
Q. As per the Q1 2011 financial results, revenues of NDTV Convergence – which you have been heading for quite some time, have nearly doubled compared to first quarter of 2010. You comment on this success...
Q. Can we see any change in the programming strategy in coming days?
Q. We have learnt that NDTV has given notice to some of its employees?
Q. You talked about cost cutting measures, what will they be?
Q. You have been associated with NDTV for the last 17 years and during this period, as a reporter, you covered Kashmir and Terrorism, as a Tech Guru you reviewed latest gadgets and as an anchor you got into The Big Fight and now you get the responsibilities of CEO of the group. How do you view your journey with the NDTV Group?
I joined NDTV as a reporter, then I started anchoring, doing ‘The Big Fight’ and ‘Gadget Guru’. I have also been doing certain corporate functions, primarily for NDTV Convergence. Now, obviously I will have to make some choices. I can’t do anchoring every day while doing this job (of CEO). I am certainly keen on doing ‘The Big Fight’, but I would not be doing news in the near future.
Q. What are some of the social welfare initiatives that you are targeting in the coming days?
Many people do not know that several girls drop out of schools because of lack of proper facilities; Support Our School campaign will work towards that. We are also looking at some other campaigns, which we will do in partnership with corporate houses, who also want to be part of the change.
We are really proud that through Greenathon we have been able to light up 500 villages. We have been to these villages and we saw the change that has come in people’s lives. I think these are the areas where we should leverage the power of a credible media brand. We should try and use this to do good things that can make a difference.
Q. Any new channel on the cards?
Q. How do these campaigns help in branding of a channel like NDTV?
Q. Talking about your hobbies now, you have written a fiction thriller set in Kashmir ‘The Srinagar Conspiracy’. Are you writing any other book? Please tell us more about your other hobbies as well.
Q. NDTV has also increased its international footprint with the launch of its channels in Central Africa. NDTV 24x7 is already present in the rest of the African continent. Are there any other plans of expansion internationally?
Q. You have been associated with NDTV’s social welfare initiatives like Greenathon and Save our Tigers campaign. Will you continue doing this now?
Similarly, the Save Our Tigers campaign also had a major impact. Chief Ministers of several states have pledged their support, tiger reserves across the country have been notified, there have been crackdowns on poaching gangs and the forest protection forces are being strengthened. These programmes are very close to my heart and I would like to continue doing them.
Q. How has the advertisers’ response been towards these campaigns?
Q. Interestingly, in the area of news revenues for NDTV, it has gone up in the recent quarter results. Any comment?
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