M&E should be the force-multiplier for change, jobs and the good of society: Sudhanshu Vats

Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18, explained how as an industry it’s preparing to increase its influence as new worlds open up and VStEP - the Viacom18 Startup Engagement Programme

by exchange4media Staff
Published - Mar 6, 2018 8:58 AM Updated: Mar 6, 2018 8:58 AM

Media and entertainment industry (M&E) in the country is only poised to grow and define the society as we know it from industry to governance. There's no doubt that it acts as a force multiplier for numerous other industries. Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18, at one of the sessions at a media event talked about how as an industry it's preparing to increase its influence as new worlds open up.

Vats started off the session on how as an industry, it's obsessed with numbers and science. It's important for M&E to concentrate on their role in the society and not get carried away by the numbers according to him. He pointed out, "Think about it. Where is it that you first heard about the mobile phone in your hands? Why do you even use it? Well for most of you, the answer will be some form of media, be it print, digital or electronic."

At this point, he shared some statistics. He said, "Our industry has added over Rs. 50K crores in output in the last five years and has a revenue size of Rs. 130-135K crores. Indirect and induced benefits to the economy of the total industry size are ~Rs. 450K crore, with a contribution of 2.8 per cent to GDP. The industry also employs, across both formal and informal sectors, 1-1.2 million people, contributing significantly to India's job creation."

This will only amplify further given the fact that video streaming, accounts for over 50 per cent of the total mobile internet usage in India. This is expected to touch 75 per cent over the next three years. Vats said, "Today itself, the contribution of data to telco revenue stands at 20-25 per cent. Imagine what will happen when VR becomes a commonplace phenomenon?"

M&E industry also happens to play a crucial role in the tourism industry as it's responsible for ~9% of the country's jobs according to some estimates. Vats saw it in the case for their latest release 'Padmaavat' when several newspaper reports indicated that the interest around Khilji's tomb in the Qutub Complex in Delhi has actually increased substantially.

The movie even triggered interest in its costumes which happens to be Rajwada dresses. He predicted a scenario, "It's too early to say, but it might ignite a renaissance of sorts in age-old techniques of embroidery that would have otherwise been lost."

Its capability to generate employment and the nature of jobs gives this industry an edge over others. Vats explained, "Today we employ 1-15 million Indians directly and indirectly. Let's say we'll add another million over the next five years. This might seem small given our total workforce of 460 million but these are jobs that are non-routine - meaning they are the least likely to be automated, given their nature. More importantly, most of these jobs will need 'on-the-job training' meaning that we don't need to wait for our education infrastructure in the country to catch up."

The Group CEO believes there is enough room for growth for M&E industry as its ad spend to GDP ratio is still 0.4 per cent compared to 1 per cent in developed economies. "The total sector is ~1 per cent of GDP compared to 2.5 per cent or so in developed economies. While our TV audience (780 million) is bigger than that of the total population of Europe (745 million), we still have only 64 per cent penetration with 183 million Households, with electrification progressing at a blistering pace."

From the government, he requests for an e-enabled single window clearance which will 'enhance the ease of doing business' and facilitate the industry's growth even further. This is something which Vats has been asking since long, for films, events, licensing, et al.

Collaboration with competitors is another quality that's required in the industry for it to move ahead and achieve greater heights. "We need to become comfortable with data because we need to bring in more transparency, authenticity and objectivity to our data. If a new-age entrepreneur comes to us, we are sceptical of his idea or technology. We need to change this attitude. At our end, we have just started a pan-network engagement programme with start-ups where we partner and help them with validation. It's called VStEP - the Viacom18 Startup Engagement Programme," he said.

Vats also felt as a society we should learn to laugh at ourselves for the greater good. "This is an industry that has creativity at its core and we will be able to scale greater heights when we learn to afford creative people some leeway," he said.

Vats signed off by saying that M&E industry should be the force multiplier for change, jobs and the good of society.

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