Life OK isn’t a wkly game; it’s building a future brand: Uday Shankar

In an extensive conversation with exchange4media, Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India, divulges details on STAR’s biggest move yet – Life OK.

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Dec 19, 2011 9:00 AM
Life OK isn’t a wkly game; it’s building a future brand: Uday Shankar

At 8.00 pm on December 18, 2011, STAR India closed curtains on Star One and launched a new channel – Life OK. From the thought process behind its programming to the detailing in its presentation, Life OK challenges all conventional norms of the Hindi general entertainment genre.

Life OK packs in three shows in just one hour of programming. It has the shortest ad breaks across television in India. It begins with a strong digital presence and is being supported by one of the most elaborate marketing campaigns for a channel launch in recent times. The channel also has a ‘sutradhar’ in the form of actor Madhuri Dixit.

STAR has created a launch brand film that captures the channel’s positioning with the message ‘Kal ki soch kar dhat teri ki karte reh gaye – toh aaj ka kya hoga pyaare?’ In a first, Life OK is being launched in a three-day roadblock across the STAR India network. The outdoor plan will reach 101 towns in an attempt to “go where no entertainment brand has gone before”. Recognising the importance of youth, the brand is launched through a week long digital engagement plan and an eight-hour long online concert with Life OK Rockathon exclusively for the web.

Life OK has to still evolve its sales strategy, but as STAR India’s CEO Uday Shankar puts it, the focus right now is to establish the brand and drive viewer engagement.

The channel’s core team comprises Channel General Manager Ajit Thakur, the programming team of Gaurav Banerjee, Sanjog Gupta and Dimpi Dey, Dhruv, Sushma and Dhiren in the Marketing and OAP department and Anand Shiv in Consumer Insight.

The most important of all aspects is the thought process on which the programming of the channel is based.

A Positioning of Positivity
The first thing one notices about Life OK is that STAR India has stayed away from the STAR branding for this channel. Life OK is not just a second GEC from STAR India, it is a brand new channel from the Network with a distinct identity of its own.

According to Uday Shankar, the brand name captures the channel’s encapsulating message ‘Life is OK’.

In a conversation with exchange4media, he explained, “Life OK believes that the chase to prosperity can be a mirage, an endless chase. You pay a huge price if ‘norms of success’ come at the cost of sacrificing values. In our chase for what we don’t have, we often forget to cherish what we have. In our quest for happiness tomorrow, we often forget that life is OK today.”

The premise of Life OK’s thought process is that India is at a critical phase of growth. On the one hand, there is ‘India shining’ and on the other hand, there are deep rooted concerns within society reflecting a new anxiety and restlessness. Shankar informed, “Studies show that for majority of India, material prosperity is redefining norms of success and people are afraid that they or their families will be left behind in that race. There is growing concern on whether our life is really ‘ok’? The channel will try to address this concern and turn up the volume on all that really matters in life.”

Same Target, Different Tactic
Like any Hindi GEC, Life OK targets the C&S 4+ in the Hindi speaking markets. In its initial phase, the channel has experimented with its content presentation significantly. Life OK is beginning with three hours of original programming, beginning at 8 pm. There would be seven shows including six shows of 20 minutes each and one non-fiction show of 40 minutes every day.

The marquee shows cover a wide spectrum, focusing on an underlying value. ‘Meri Maa’ pays tribute to the mother and child bond. ‘Mahadev’, a period epic story of Shiva’s journey from ascetic to householder, draws on religion as the ultimate moral compass. ‘Saubhagyavati Bhava’ is a cautionary tale of a woman, whose parents lay focus on external appearances rather than inner values, when choosing her spouse. ‘Smile Please’ shares that the glue that binds a family is the value you inherit, not the wealth you earn. ‘Tum Dena Saath Mera’ will show how the simple joys of life are casualties in a materialistic world.

‘Sach Ka Saamna’, with a new theme 'Bhrashtachar ke Khilaaf' in its second season, will put the spotlight on the all-pervasive moral and economic corruption. Rajeev Khandelwal will anchor the show.

Speaking on the guiding philosophy behind programming, Shankar explained that each show has been created to show the conflicts that arise, when we leave our value systems behind or neglect our most precious relationships. The central protagonist of each show evolves over time to go through a life changing moment. He said, “We have also picked upon issues and concerns that are thought provoking. The core philosophy of the channel not only keeps the viewer engrossed in the plotline and fate of the characters but also raises disruptive questions. You will not see any show that does not conform to the philosophy of the channel and does not underline a value or raise a question.”

Life OK is not Star Plus
How will Life OK be different from STAR India’s flagship channel Star Plus? Shankar replied, “Star Plus urges viewers to strive for the better. Life OK reminds viewers to cherish what they have.”

Star Plus is ‘Rishta Wahi. Soch Nayi’. Shankar explained that the channel provides a fresh perspective on relationships. All the content on Star Plus is true to the channel philosophy and demonstrates ‘nayi soch’, Star Plus is founded on the belief that the woman is the strength of the family and she has the confidence to change her world. This is best demonstrated by the protagonists like ‘Pratigya’ who will take on even her own family in the pursuit of justice and ‘Suhaana’ who proves that you can retain your individuality post marriage.

Life OK is about reminding viewers to cherish what they have. Shankar added, “The content dials up what’s really important in life. When Life OK does ‘Sach ka Saamna’, it dials up an important, eternal value - Honesty. ‘Saubhagyavati Bhava’ raises the question on what makes an ideal partner and urges you to look beyond appearances. ‘Tum Dena Saath Mera’ shows how relationships are often the casualty in a materialistic world.”

A Disruptive Marketing Push
Elaborating further on the marketing strategy, Shankar informed that the objective was to differentiate the brand and to execute a disruptive channel launch. He said, “The brand identity is iconic, whether it is the brand name which is a statement of philosophy or the OK icon with a glow that embodies the optimism of the brand or the channel sutradhar, Madhuri Dixit, who guides viewers and links our stories to our philosophy.”

Life OK intends to take the conversation off the screen and bring it to the people. The marketing initiatives bring in consumer engagement at the grass-root level. “We intend to make ‘Sach Ka Saamna 2 - Brashtachar Ke Khilaaf’ part of the larger movement against corruption and have initiated a pan India activation, where the common man can come forward to participate in the Sach Ki Shapath against corruption,” added Shankar.

The STAR network with a weekly reach of over 400 million viewers is the foundation of the media plan for the launch. In addition, it will be aggressively promoted on digital and a 101-town outdoor plan.

Life OK has begun with a digital presence through its website The channel has seen build up of over 2 lac fans on Facebook within the first four days itself and also has strategic presence on Youtube, Yahoo and Twitter.

The Combined Punch
For STAR India, Life OK is its single biggest focus area at present. And together with Star Plus, it readies STAR India for the future. Shankar said, “Life OK’s brand promise is reflected in the content line up and the marketing disruptions. The channel’s success will be measured by TRPs and by the strength of the brand we build. But this is not a weekly game alone – it is building a brand for the future.”

The STAR Brand, for Shankar, is about aspiration and striving for better. He stated, “This is best captured by the ‘Nayi Soch’ message of Star Plus. The Life OK brand is about reassuring India that Life is indeed OK and in the quest for fulfilment they should not forget to cherish what they have. Both brands together capture two polarities of thought and motivation. And together the network addresses all of India.”

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