We stand by our promise to help migrant workers till we see better hope: Markand Adhikari

The Vice Chairman and Managing Director of SAB Group talks about their Sri Adhikari Brothers initiative 2.0, changes that COVID has brought about in the broadcasting industry and more

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jun 20, 2020 10:21 AM
Markand Adhikari

COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives. The pandemic has hit almost all sections of society, but migrant workers have been the worst affected. Standing up to the siuation,Sri Adhikari Brothers, a pioneer in the broadcasting indusry, has come up with an inititiave to provide an opportunity to these workers to earn through their 'hunnar'.

Vice Chairman and Managing Director of SAB Group Markand Adhikari speaks to exchange4media about the inititave, the changes that COVID has brought about in the broadcasting industry, the growth of digital platform and more.

You have been a pioneer in the broadcasting industry for 30 years; what are the fundamental changes you see happening in the sector post COVID?
Life has totally changed post COVID. First of all, with immediate effect, the revenue of broadcasters has drastically come down. Though it's increasing month-wise, God knows when we will achieve the pre-COVID level. On the other hand, new programmes are not happening. So it is a big blow to GEC channels and GRPs are drastically down. Also, with the latest guidelines for new shootings, it is very difficult to make fresh content. This can only be used for emergencies or patchwork.

These things are very funny as channel businesses are running as an utility; viewers are consuming also, but those who have to pay the bills are absent. It’s like a five-star hotel where people are visiting, having lunch and dinner and going out without paying the bills. And as you know, broadcasters' bills are always paid by the advertisers. Of course it depends on ratings.

The digital/web platform has grown tremendously because they are dependent on subscription and hardly on advertisers. New films are releasing on the digital platform. Our next generation experimented this with their film 'Dheet Patange' on Disney Hotstar in the pre-COVID time on March 2, 2020. But then nobody knew this will be a trendsetter.

How is digital becoming even more important ?
As mentioned earlier, digital is more dependent on subcribers and hardly on advertisers. This is the time for them. But the challenge is to create new content without any limitations. Because ultimately viewers need fresh content.

You have been always very supportive of community. The recent initiative (Sri Adhikari Brothers initiative 2.0.) from SAB and you to launch this programming to provide hope and livelihood to the migrant labour community is commendable. How did the genesis happen? what has been the response to the promo, how many people have sent content in?

I think as a businessmen/media owner, it’s our first responsibility towards society. As I said in our initiative 1.0 that 5 to 10% of the upper class has to come forward to give hands to those who are not privileged and in association with BAPS Swaminarayan, we have taken the responsibility of 1,000 families, providing them essential items on a monthly basis.

But I think donations are not the final answer. Ultimately, employment has to be created. On the call of our Hon’ble Prime Minister for 'Atma Nirbharta', we have decided to address the issue of unemployment of migrant workers who have left their workplace and gone back to their native places. As we are in the business of talent and performing arts, I have decided to give them an opportunity, askng them to send their videos of any performing art, with their address and bank account number. We will choose thousand (1000) people every month and not only showcase their talent on our group channels, but will transfer monetary assistance to their personal bank account every month. This will give them the pride of earning with their 'hunnar'.

I think we have a responsibility towards society because what we are today is given by the society and it's time to give them back.

It has started to air on our channels Mastiii, Dabangg and Maiboli just today. The initial response is tremendous and we will update you with the right figure after some days.

How long will this be on?
This will be on till the situation gets normalised. Participation is open only for people from Tier III towns, rural areas and for those who are suffering from unemployment. That is our basic condition for participation. At present, nobody can predict about the timeline but we will stand by our promise till we see better hope.

How much money have you allocated for this?
It’s not right to mention amount for what you are using for philanthropy. But I can say one thing: For our initiative 1.0 and also the latest 2.0, we have set aside sufficient funds from our family to support the less privileged people substantially.

You are an avid watcher of news, what is your commentary on news channels? You owned one earlier.
I think viewers are migrating to Digital from live television. This may include the apps of present channels. But the one major change what we see is the emergence of social media. People are not just relying on news channel, but they are tilting towards social media platforms also. Of course, we previously owned a news channel, but presently, our group owns a digital platform called Governance Now which was previously in the print form also. Governance Now has been here for last 10 years and considered a very responsible, serious thought provoking platform on government-related issues.

How is your next generation playing a role and teaching you new stuff?
Of course, the next generation has grown up more with the digitalisation of the world. Their first creation was a digital film “Dheet Patange” which was released on the Disney Hotstar platform on March 2, 2020, and accidentally became a trend for digital films after that. They are working on many digital web series and films in this lockdown time also. Ravi and Kailash are working very hard on new scripts and subjects. They have approximately 10 projects ready. Of course, they are in emerging media and I would like to be a student of my next generation throughout my life.

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