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Monday, March 24, 2008

Dishy Doubts!

Arun Kumar Kapoor, Dish TV CEO on the trials & triumphs of the Indian DTH mart!

LateArun Kumar Kapoor, CEO, Dish TV last year, when Jawahar Goel – Additional Vice Chairman, Essel Group – went to Chandigarh, to wean away the then Hutchison Essar (South’s) CEO of Punjab Circle, Arun Kumar Kapoor, as the new CEO for Zee’s Direct-to-Home (DTH) venture, Dish TV, he hadn’t had the faintest idea of the responsibility he was taking on. Kapoor’s concerned wife, who stayed back in Chandigarh for some time, urged Goel to ensure that her husband remained ‘well fed’ in Delhi, despite her temporary absence. And ever since, the generous Goel makes it a point to invite the beleaguered Kapoor to share his home-packed lunch daily. And it’s easy, as the two share adjoining cabins in the sprawling Dish TV facility in Filmcity, Noida.

So, when the 4Ps B&M team went in for the scheduled meeting with the Dish TV head honcho on a lazy Friday afternoon, Kapoor regretfully told us that he’d be missing the day’s luncheon rendezvous with his big boss. But there are many more things that the fair and stocky CEO will miss out on, as he tries to tide the storm of competition that has all-but-arrived at Dish TV’s shores.

Anil Ambani is preparing to launch his DTH venture this fiscal – Reliance’s Blue Magic – and even Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Telemedia has an aggressive action plan lined up. Sun TV’s DTH venture is also on the anvil. And all that, if you’re not looking at existing players like Tata Sky and DD Direct, which are aggressively inching closer to the finishing line.

His cozy lunch sessions with Goel notwithstanding, even at the time of his joining, Kapoor was painfully aware of the cutthroat realities of the DTH market. In terms of sheer number of subscribers and distribution muscle, Dish TV continued to ride the DTH wave, but life at the top had become suddenly much more tedious for the Rs.194 crore giant. It made losses of Rs 250 crores in the last financial year. A management graduate from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute, Mumbai; Kapoor brought in a new thought process to Dish TV.

“Till even 7-8 months ago, we had the misconception of being a ‘technology’ company, but our orientation has changed. We see ourselves as a ‘service’ company today,” explains Kapoor, even as he compares the transition to the one witnessed in the telecom sector. “Mobile phones were earlier sold as durables, today they are virtually FMCG. Similarly, Dish TV is also moving to the FMCG mode,” he says.

And Kapoor should know. His 24 years experience in various companies includes a vast repertoire in the mobile telephony business, notably with Airtel, Spice Cell and Hutch. “We (Dish TV) once prided ourselves in making everything in-house, but have realised that we must focus on simply building our brand and providing services, and rest everything should be out-sourced,” offers Kapoor. With the change in thinking, also came a change in organisation’s structure, making Dish TV move towards being a more matrix organisation.

At its inception, Dish TV focussed on providing their DTH services in cable frustrated cities and that willy-nilly has become their strength. Presently, with its 2.1 million subscribers, Dish TV covers over 4,100 towns across the country and while 20% of their subscribers come from the top 15 cities, a whopping 60%, coming from the top 100 cities, make the backbone of this DTH service provider. Clearly, the strategy was to make inroads in the hinterlands and mop up a large spread. So Dish TV’s advertising in metros and bigger cities was conspicuous by its absence.

But in 2006, Tata Sky came in with a different strategy up its sleeve, and in just the first six months of its launch, went ahead and garnered a staggering half a million subscribers. With the first whiff of serious competition, Dish TV quickly changed tack and, over the last few months, has begun focussing more keenly on metros and big city markets.

Kapoor admits that as opposed to Dish TV’s key strategy of distribution, Tata Sky branded itself well. “That is an ‘unfortunate reality’,” he quips, but at the same time, he is gung-ho on Dish TV’s current and future endeavours.

“Last Arun Kumar Kapoor, Dish TV CEO on the trials & triumphs of the Indian DTH mart!  3-4 months, we have increased our advertising and branding strengths considerably. Presently, if Tata Sky spends Rs.15 crore on advertising, we are spending Rs.10 crore. Over the next 6 months, competition will further drive up our advertising and marketing spends,” he avers. He candidly admits that going ahead, the battle will be tougher in the bigger cities.

Moreover, till August last year, Zee only had the Zee bouquet to offer its DTH subscribers; yet government regulations have forced Dish TV, as also other DTH operators, to provide the entire bouquet now. With virtually similar products on offer, the differentiation is clearly going to come from brand perception and service quality. Kapoor is also confident that Dish TV’s early distribution reach is already a key benefit in their kitty. Besides, with more channel launches, their enhanced satellite capacity will give them an edge, albeit, only for a while; till others play catch-up.

What’s more, the coming second phase of the CAS rollout, also has Kapoor rubbing his hands in glee. At the time of the last CAS rollout, about 1.6 million homes were impacted, a quarter of which went into the DTH kitty. Visibly excited, Kapoor says, “This time, 7.9 million satellite homes across Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata will be affected. Imagine the huge opportunity in front of us!”

Over the next two years, the government plans to unleash the CAS regime across 35 cities in India. Little surprise that Kapoor has greedily set his eyes on an even bigger, 70 million homes, target.

The man’s contribution has also manifested itself in making Dish TV a more fun@work place, a throwback to his days at IBM Daksh and Hutch. Grinning mischievously, he explains how he’s coined pseudo names for all his colleagues and respective HODs. There’s Daddu, Romeo, Hitler, and of course, he himself is called Ravana in office. And his leadership style: “Tough love”. Even as you stare incredulously at him, wondering what he means, he is quick to explain: “It means that I love you, so I can be tough with you”. And that’s precisely the ethos that Kapoor prefers to encourage in his work space.

Likening himself to a coiled spring during his working hours, Kapoor adds, “I tend to lose my temper at times, but am very fair and just at the same time, have a high EQ (emotional quotient), I would say that I am human but not ‘humane’. I am great at delegating and give a lot of space to my employees. And yes, I can be very brutal when it comes to giving the reviews.” After work, though, it’s entirely a different proposition with this CEO, who prefers to just relax and let others around him also relax! A sports aficionado (he even played for the Delhi boxing team); Arun loves to travel, besides being a big time foodie. “I live to eat,” he admits fondly, and we have a certain Mr. Jawahar Goel to vouch for that... Remember those lunch-sessions?

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2008

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