Subhash Chandra, the founder and Chairman of Zee Group, was honoured with the prestigious 2011 International Emmy Directorate Award this week. Mr Chandra made history as India`s first ever Emmy Directorate Award recipient. In an exclusive interview to Amish Devgun of Zee Business, Mr Chandra talked about his momentous journey. Excerpts…
Welcome. First of all...many, many congratulations for winning the prestigious Emmy award. What meaning does this prestigious award hold for you?
Mr Chandra: I feel that the success that I have achieved over the years is a lot more than what I expected. This journey began twenty years back and it is overwhelming to know what I have achieved. This award belongs not only to me, but to the entire Zee Network, the entire media, entertainment and broadcast industry of this country. The International Emmy Awards recognizes excellence in television programming outside the United States. I am sure, after this award, people across the globe would also know about Indian television industry, which produces high quality broadcasting programmes.
You began your journey twenty years back. Don’t you feel, it’s really a co-incidence that you got this award this year, when next year Zee is going to complete its twenty years?
Mr Chandra: Well, call it a co-incidence or whatever. But I believe that if you do something worthwhile, someday, someone will definitely give you recognition, isn’t it?
The audience would like to know about how the idea of opening a private satellite channel struck you?
Mr Chandra: I have been asked this question umpteen times. This time, I feel, we should pose this question to our audience as to how they feel. There was a time when the viewer didn’t have much choice. There was only Doordarshan. But today, there are 200-300 channels. They have a variety of choices. Zee started this trend and everyone else followed.
I feel the audience at large is very happy and seeing them happy, I too feel very happy.
What have been your learnings in the past 20 years. Please tell us something about that.
Mr Chandra: (Smiles) Well, there have been more obstacles. I learnt how to overcome hurdles. In this way I have learnt a lot from the hurdles. And I feel, I am still learning.
Many youngsters look up to you. What advice do you have for them?
Mr Chandra: I always tell youngsters — whatever you do, do it with passion. Sleep, drink, eat, live your passion. Don’t hesitate, you will definitely succeed.
What do you think will be the outlook of the Indian TV industry in the coming years?
Mr Chandra: The Indian TV industry right now is passing through a very unstructured phase. It’s a very fluid kind of situation. For the last six months, a lot of talk about consolidation is doing the rounds. No country in this world has as many news channels as India has. On the other hand, many satellite TV stations are on the verge of closure. I think a phase of consolidation will definitely come. We basically don’t have the scope for good programming. The revenue from advertisements is not sufficient enough. To do a good programme, we need good subscription revenue. But the regulators have capped the amount, beyond which we cannot charge the cable operators. This cap has been the same for the last seven to eight years. So you see, there is a lot of stagnation. As long as we don’t have good subscription revenue, the programming quality won’t improve and so the industry will not progress forward.
You are also known as the Father of Indian TV, do you think digitalisation is going to be an important phase in the coming time?
Mr Chandra: Digitalisation will play a very important role. A lot of things would improve. Viewers will be able to see more and more channels and digitalisation will deliver more realistic television experience at home. Viewers, who otherwise can only see fifty to seventy channels on cable, would have more options.
Zee Group has recently announced an investment of $250 million in Veria TV in the US. What is the idea behind that?
Mr Chandra: The setting up of this fund is a part of Zee Group`s plan to expand its gamut abroad. We would like to cater to the mainstream American viewers, the otherwise English speaking audience besides the South Asian audience. Our programming will be meant for the entire global audience. We have programmes on lifestyle, how to live a healthy life et al. In future, such programmes may be made from India too. The fund has been set, keeping in view all these things.
What kind of time frame are you looking at?
Mr Chandra: I can’t give you any specific timeframe for this. But this is certainly going to be a new beginning. Earlier, we made programmes just for the Indian Diaspora, but now we would like to cater to the entire global audience.
Where apart from media, do you see scope of growth?
Mr Chandra: We are working in the infrastructure sector, apart from media. I feel, India has a lot of potential and India will grow by leaps and bounds.
Do you want to say something about the current economic scenario?
Mr Chandra: The current economic scenario is not very positive for India, and for that matter it is not very positive for the entire world. But, I somehow feel that we missed the opportunity to take the lead. When the entire global economy was sluggish, India could have taken the lead. But we could not do that somehow.
Who would you like to dedicate this Emmy award to?
Mr Chandra: I would like to dedicate this award to the entire Zee family, people working in the Zee entertainment and media, and all those working with Zee abroad. The award is for the entire group.
Adaptation: Reema Sharma