ISA CEO Conference: Good storytelling still relevant, says Sanjay Gupta of Star India 

Gupta, Managing Director, Star India, spoke about how only big stories matter in an increasingly cluttered world

sanjay gupta

Good storytelling will continue to stay relevant in an industry that has been flooded with too much information and technological advancement, said Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India.

Gupta was speaking at the ISA CEO Conference on how storytelling has evolved in an interconnected world. The tools and the way of telling stories may have changed but the importance of storytelling has definitely not diminished, he said.

“At any point of time, your phone will be flooded with emails, social media notifications and WhatsApp notifications. There is absolutely no doubt that the world today has gotten noisier. The number of stimuli assaulting us is dramatically expanding. Our attention spans are declining and what we consume is getting more and more fragmented. This overload of information pushes us to make smarter choices,” Gupta said. 

Illustrating how good stories still hold relevance today, Gupta said that nine out of ten people will remember their favourite movie scenes and their favourite dialogues even when they haven’t watched it in many years. “That is why when the next episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ is out, fans and viewers will definitely watch it even if it is at an inconvenient time of 7.30am on a Monday morning,” he quipped. 

Only The Big Stories Will Matter

Gupta further said that in an increasingly cluttered world only the big stories will matter. What has definitely changed though is how fast stories travel around the world, he said. “There was a time it would take six months for a blockbuster Hollywood release to come to India. Now all it takes is five minutes for a story to get big across the world. A good story can now be available for the world in a language of their choice and on a device of their choice,” Gupta remarked, adding that the explosion of the number of screens today is what has driven this change. 

Drawing parallels from Star’s recent success with the IPL, Gupta further added: “It took a blockbuster success like ‘Sholay’ ten years to gather up 25 crore viewers. Last year, the IPL saw 40 crore viewers in the first week itself. That’s the power of interconnectedness, which is changing the world around us,” he said. Technology has become the bridge between consumers and stories, he said, adding that contrary to the popular belief, people are spending more time on stories and consuming them deeply. As storytellers, there is so much to be excited about,” he said. 

However, the worry is that instead of focusing on the story, marketers are getting caught up with the volume of content, the process or technology itself.  

Big Stories Need Risks

Storytelling can also be a huge responsibility. How do you decide what story will work and what will not? Talking of the power of storytelling, Gupta said: “As a storyteller in today’s times, there is a huge responsibility we carry. For every story we tell, there are hundreds that we choose not to tell. This choice is based on a huge understanding of the society.

A good story needs to take risks 

He explained the risk involved in stories through the example of Star’s ‘Satyamev Jayate’ that also made people uncomfortable. In the same way, a property like ‘Pro Kabbadi League’ had its fair share of naysayers but has turned out to be a rousing success for the network. “We fail more than we succeed, but every time we create a story, we build a narrative for the people, one they can relate to,” Gupta said. 

“A billion people choose to share their family time with us every day. They give us their most precious possession – their time and attention. It is this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many people that gives me and my team the excitement to come to work every morning,” Gupta concluded. 

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