Sudhanshu Vats, Chairman, National Committee on Media & Entertainment and Group CEO & MD, Viacom18 has delivered theme address at CII Big Picture 2018 on Changing M&E landscape – from convergence to transformation.
Starting at a lighter note, Sudhanshu Vats assrted that convergence is a reality – one that is here to stay, that is being driven by consumer needs and industry’s response to those needs – meaning that it’ll be a long-lasting phenomenon. On the other hand he termed Transformation as a much bigger – and more daunting – phenomenon.
On a serious note, I want to take this precious opportunity to share a point of view that may not make headlines like aggressive industry targets do, but is, in my humble opinion, even more important.
Stressing the need for overcoming the moral dilemmas prevailing in the Industry, Vats said, “If you step back and introspect about all that is happening with our industry across the world, you will agree that we are battling several changes – and most of them are a result of moral dilemmas and our response to them. If we can tackle these dilemmas successfully (and defining success is the hardest part), we can believe that we have transformed’.
Stating that we have treasure trove of insights to handle moral dilemmas from our Epic history, he recollected the peace of Mahabrarata tale in which Dharamraj Yudhishtira’s half-lie he told to Drona – on Krishna’s counsel – that Ashvathama is dead. Yudhishtira was referring to an elephant who had died in battle – knowing that Drona would mistake Ashvathama to be his son of the same name. On hearing that ‘Ashvatahama is dead’, Drona put down his arms and was killed by Dhrishtadyumna. Was Yudhishitra right in doing what he did? It’s a debate that divides many till date.
Adding to the tale he gave the following example to showcase the greyness of moral dilemmas. Let’s look at our industry and the moral dilemmas we will have to face or are facing:
- How do we deal with the power we have? What do we do if we find out that our reach and credibility is being used to influence electoral processes across the world?
- How do we ensure fairness in the terms of availability of our content to our consumers and parity across distribution platforms? Especially in a foreseeable future when convergence is going to dial up vertical integration across value chains.
- As consumption moves online, our access to data will increase. In many ways, data will be a competitive advantage and drive advertising revenues and personalized user experiences – what processes do we put in place to ensure it is not misused – how and where do we draw the line differentiating personalization versus privacy?
- Human resources – our people- are our biggest asset – on screen and off it – how do we react when their individual, personal behaviour questions the fabric of the society we want to create? Think of this especially in light of the recent issues around diversity and inclusion that we’ve experienced. It’s important for everyone, but especially so for our industry.
“The list of moral dilemmas is endless. We need to be cognizant of these dilemmas – as organizations, industry bodies, policymakers and governments – as we look to scale up our businesses” he added.
Sudhanshu articulated that the course we take over the next decade will be determined more by these fundamental issues of values and how we tackle moral dilemmas than just commercial considerations. Driving consensus will be difficult yet more important than ever before. This is even more so given that India is today amongst the world’s largest ‘open’ media markets and home to a multitude of players from all over and of all sizes.
He concluded stating “Yudhishtira had to spend a day in hell to make up for his half-lie. He was willing to spend a lifetime there to atone for his sins. I’m not sure that we are as brave as him. We must tread carefully, follow our dharma in the toughest of times and be patient. Only then will we have truly transformed”.