People@Work

The show must go on: JMD of UFO Moviez

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on April 09, 2020 Published on April 09, 2020

Kapail Agarwal

Right now there is bread on the table for employees, the butter has been taken away

For some industries — hotels, cinemas, auto, advertising — the lockdown has been more crippling than others. “With heavy heart I must admit our earning has become zero,” says Kapil Agarwal, JMD, UFO Moviez, a digital cinema distribution network. But he says they are trying to make sure that none of the 1,305 employees in the company faces job loss even as theatres remain closed. While the MD and joint MD have taken a 100 per cent pay cut, the rung below has taken a 50 to 60 per cent pay cut, sparing the junior staff. Excerpts from an interaction:

How are you coping during lockdown?

Proactively, we declared work from home from March 12 itself. The nationwide lockdown was declared on March 24 but before that 70 per cent of our people had shifted to working from home.

Second thing we did was to look at each and every expense. We knew it would be six to nine months before business could go back to normal. Even if cinema theatres open in three months, people may not come back. So we immediately renegotiated contracts and brought down expenses by 74 per cent. Out of the 74 per cent cent, two-thirds was salary — we decided that we were not going to fire a single person, skilled or unskilled, and only the top rung would take a pay cut.

With these steps we should have fuel in the tank for several months, after which we will evaluate further cuts. But the show must go on.

How are you allaying employee fears?

We did a comprehensive townhall with first three levels of leaders — about 28 people in number, and took everybody into confidence. Then, in consultation with them, a companywide communication was put out. After that we have been addressing concerns individually — a lot of them were to do with EMIs. Our effort has been to make sure there is bread on the table. But the butter has been taken away.

We have seen a huge jump in OTT viewership. What if post Covid-19 viewer behaviour changes and people don’t return to theatres?

We human beings are social animals. Time and again the death of theatres has been foretold but shares of multiplex have only multiplied. What has happened is that content has become available to more people.

With movie production halted, will there be new films to show when theatres open?

A plethora of movies will be there. Suryanvanshi83 (on the 1983 World Cup win) are all waiting to release. 83 should have released on April 10! A lot of South Indian movies are ready.

But we are utilising this downtime to repurpose our offering and re-engineer our company. We are actively asking all our managers to come up with ideas for new businesses that utilise our current strengths. For instance, we have a 65-people-strong team that sells advertising for cinemas. Why can’t we come up with a bundled offering and see if we can sell advertising for TV and other areas.

Similarly, we could think of getting into distribution. We have a long time to plan and strategise, and are utilising this period to do just that.

Published on April 09, 2020

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