Stay curious, stay fearless

| Updated on July 04, 2018 Published on July 04, 2018

Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom 18

For the last six years, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd, has been busy turning the television and entertainment company into a future-ready organisation. Viacom 18, which is a joint venture between Viacom Inc and TV 18 Broadcast has five lines of business – television entertainment, experiential entertainment, digital entertainment, filmed entertainment and consumer products. The HUL veteran (he worked 19 years there) is no stranger to working with multiple and diverse brands and has been shaping the growth of Colors, Comedy Central, MTV and Viacom18 Motion Pictures among others with an eye on leading them into a digital future. He shares his thoughts

On Creating Tomorrow – a core value of the group

To understand how we endeavour to ‘create tomorrow’, it’s important to see this value in the context of all our values – stay curious, stay fearless; learn with humility; listen deeply; execute with excellence. As an organisation, we have worked hard to shape a culture that is open, entrepreneurial, inclusive and transparent. Our people are encouraged to take big bets, learn from their mistakes and accept success and failure with equal humility.

If I told you that we were going produce a movie that is about a man’s struggle to build a toilet for his wife you would have probably doubted our sanity. Yet Toilet – Ek Prem Katha set the national narrative for an issue that’s so critical and yet rarely discussed. Four years ago, if I said that as a full-play media organisation we would enter the F&B space, there would have been many sceptics. Yet FLYP by MTV – MTV’s branded cafes – have sprung up in three different cities and attracted footfalls by the thousands. We have a prime time show on Colors where the protagonist is a transgender. We’ve reinvented the way our fans experience our properties by creating exclusive content on our video OTT platform VOOT.

At a core level, I think it’s the realisation that we operate in an extremely dynamic environment and our next competitor could come out of anywhere – that keeps us on our feet.

On being an innovation catalyst

At Viacom18, we have programmes such as Innovation Week where we recognise the most out-of-the-box campaigns, launches, initiatives that our company has seen. We also run Big Belly – our in-house technology platform for crowdsourcing ideas. To engage with the external ecosystem, we have VStEP - an incubation and mentoring programme that enables startups by offering them an opportunity to work with us on a pressing business challenge.

On the differences between managing brands at HUL, an entrenched player, and Viacom18, a young player with several challenger brands

To be fair, both organisations have several brands and each of them are in different growth stages. If you look at Viacom18, on one hand we have brands like Colors and Nickelodeon – both of which are well-established in their own categories and then we have brands such as Colors Tamil – clear challengers in a market where incumbents are well-entrenched.

However, given the sector Viacom18 operates in, things are much more dynamic and fast-paced than most other sectors. Decisions need to be taken sooner and course correction is almost always under way. As business leaders, we need to be cognisant of these nuances. That being said, there are similarities as well. At the end of the day, both are consumer-focused enterprises with a diverse portfolio of brands that need to be nurtured and grown.

On engaging with millennials at the workplace

A large chunk of our almost 1,500-strong workforce comprises millennials – over 75 per cent. Clearly, being able to attract and retain them is critical for our success. We are younger than our legacy counterparts and the average age of our people is early 30s. By and large, millennials seek a lot of meaning and purpose in what they do at their workplace. It’s important to give them a view from the driver’s seat and the freedom to create impact.

At Viacom18, we try our best to offer them exactly this so that they can grow as quality professionals and human beings. Open town-halls, free-wheeling Q&A sessions and fun parties also go a long way in making Viacom18 a great place to work.

On staying passionate and positive

I am a marathon runner and running helps me stay motivated and positive. I also enjoy reading and spending quality time with family. Finally, I have a great team of passionate and motivated professionals working with me and that goes a long way in helping me stay the same way.

On a management book he would recommend

I am fascinated by AI and the growing use of analytics in business across the world which is incidentally also the subject of a book I recently read, titled The Second Machine Age. Authored by distinguished MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, it’s a very nuanced and balanced narrative on AI and technology, and the role they will play in our lives in the years to come.

Published on July 04, 2018
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