By Emb Hashmi
Raj Nayak is the CEO of one of the fasting growing Indian based television companies Colors – Viacom18, with 24 years’ experience behind him Raj started off his career working with Tata Economic Consultancy Services and in 2003 joined NDTV, where his passion for television evolved making him a household recognised name in his home country in the advertising, marketing & media circles.
Asian World meet Raj for tea and biscuits on his flying visit to the UK and asked him about future exciting plans for Colors TV and his own influence on winning the hugely competitive ratings war on Indian television.
Raj summarise his life so far… I was born in Ahmadabad in south Gujarat. I was from a small village near Mangalore. There were lots of paddy fields and cashew nut trees. Then I went to boarding school. I got into media by default, not design. I was not one of those studious guys. I always wanted to make quick money, very entrepreneurial. I never came from a business family, but I knew I always had it in me. Mumbai was a dream city, so I came to look for a job in Mumbai. Everything post that has happened by default. I spent a lot of time in print. I think I was lucky. Sometimes it’s not about how hard you work or how clever you are, but it’s about being in the right place at the right time. I was at the right place at the right time when the television revolution was taking place in India. So I joined Star TV in 1983. So from a six employee company to 1200 employees when I left. I climbed up the ladder in the 10 years I was with the company. I live and breathe the brand because I feel it’s my company. I always work in the mind-set of an entrepreneur.
Can you describe the brand in three sentences?
The brand colours, means different things to different people. The beauty of the brand is that it allows us to add variety. It stops us from being boxed into one corner. It’s a complete family entertainment channel.
“We want to be trend setters. We want to create cutting edge content.”
What changes have you brought to the company?
Over the last two years we have done a lot of things. We have created a lot of emotion in the content we have created. We have brought in different kind of programming in the last two years. We’ve had reality shows; we’ve introduced cutting edge content. We’re introducing a fantastic new fiction programme called 24. It resembles the US version, so we are trying some new things. Some programmes have been successful, but some have not, but at the end of the day we have managed to keep the channel above board, both in India and the UK.
What’s your day to day diary like?
Well I’m an early riser, so I get up around 6.30am in the morning and I read the morning newspapers. I watch the morning news bulletins to know what’s going on around the world. I do a bit of exercise to keep fit and then I head off to work about 9 o’clock in the morning. Throughout the day I spend time with different teams- programming, scheduling. I am their coach, mentor, and guide. I have a nice level routine. “I am a hands on boss”. There’s a difference between being hands on and being intruding. I don’t poke my nose; I give my team complete freedom. I come from the school of thought that if you want people to grow, you should allow them to make mistakes and allow them to learn. As a leader, I believe you shouldn’t create followers, but more leaders. The way I treat my team, they have complete independence.
What is your favourite programme and why?
I have to be very careful about this statement, as there will be a lot of producers and actors who will be upset with me if I choose one show. I’d rather say every show on colours is my favourite show.
What is the most controversial issue that you’ve had to deal with?
We have controversies every day. There are a lot of people who try and create controversy for you. But one controversial issue we had recently was quite challenging was when we did a talent show for India. We had a lot of resistance from a lot of political parties, so that was a challenge. But we prevailed. I believe politics is different, but sports and culture should be left alone. It unifies people. We would love to carry on this show, but in the right time. It was a very big success.
How do you stand out from other TV stations? Zee, Sony etc
We stand out because we do things differently. Everything we do, we want to do it better than others. We take a lot of time and attention to detail with regards to production value, storytelling and to a large extent, colours is a single channel and we are all fully focused on the brand. Also because we have no base line we are not boxed into anything. If you look at our station and switch off other channels, you will see we have something to cater for everyone. We have plenty of different shaded content.
What are your future plans?
Our plans for the UK- as there is a large south Asian community there, we are in the top 3 channels. Hopefully we will be in the top 2. But we genuinely believe that the Asian community in the UK is a very evolved audience, which is a big challenge. There is a young girl in the UK and she is very much influenced by her roots, will she watch a Hindi programme, or will she watch an English programme and how do we bridge that gap. That’s going to be a challenge, but we have the capability to do that, then I think we can capture the minds of the future generation. They are a growing breed and I think if you can capture them then you have a very successful business model.
What’s the best advice you can give to young business people?
If you believe in something, then go and do it. If you don’t try, then you are ensuring failure. If you fail, then you can know what mistakes you have made. A lot of businesses fail because of cash flow, they may be doing everything right, but sustaining power is an issue. When you need money nobody wants to give it to you, but when you don’t want it, the world gives it to you.