In the fastest-growing of the internet era, Zee Digital has registered impressive growth yearly among the top Indian media publishers. Rohit Chadda CEO of Digital Business of Zee Group remarked this growth as “Digital is on steroids!”
As we know the Indian digital media publishing platforms have been gaining momentum and attracting more subscribers than ever before. Joining this wave, the Flagship of Zee entertainment is ruling this space with different verticals in the digital medium by having 31 websites, 20 Brands in 12 Languages. Recently, Zee Digital jumped to 2nd position in ComScore ranking.
Talking about the topmost competitors of the Zee Digital since June 2019 till now, here are some facts and figures witnessed where Zee Digital witnessed an increase of 123% and others like India Today Group – 22%, Network18 Group – 21% and Times Internet Limited – 45%. Discussing further in brief about the digital space, Zee Digital CEO Mr Rohit Chadda excerpts in an exclusive interview with The Postman News interview:
1) Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
In the digital age, there is a thin line between a competitor and a collaborator. Every company that is producing or distributing content is vying for the user’s attention and hence can be called competition.
To differentiate ourselves from other content providers, we have taken a data and technology driven approach to cater to consumers with content that they are looking for or interested in. Additionally, we strongly focus on constantly innovating our product to provide a seamless user experience to our users at all times. A lot of this is being done through deep technologies like AI and ML.
Further, one of our key strength is that we operate like a Tech startup. Startups are known for their speed, agility and data-driven problem solving approach. Instead of implementing big projects, we prefer to do a lot of small experiments. The data from these experiments tells us whats working and what’s not. This iterative process helps us correct our path if required very early on in the life cycle of any project.
2) What expansion plans are you looking for in the next 2 years, next 5 years?
The next few years in the digital content space are going to be about the 3Vs – Video, Vernacular and Voice and that’s what our focus has been for the past year as well. We’ve seen a very strong growth from Video and Vernacular and intend to continue to focus on these. Further, Our vision is to build the future of Zee Digital on the four pillars of hyper local, social, content based commerce along with user generated content.
3) Where do you want to see yourself in the next 10 years as an individual?
Knowing that I was able to affect people’s lives in a positive way gives me a sense of satisfaction. foodpanda changed the way people order food in emerging markets. Now online food ordering is second nature to everyone and it gives a sense of satisfaction that I was able to contribute to this change.
In another 10 years I want to be able to look back and be happy about a change that I have been able to bring in our society. Not too many people know that I work with a non-profit called Mukkamaar. We teach self defence to underprivileged school girls in order to empower them and change their interactional patterns with strangers. It is a means to instill a sense of agency on one’s body and mind. It’s really unfortunate that in the current day and age, our society is still largely patriarchal and men feel entitled to control and misbehave with women. Through Mukkamaar we hope to build a safer society for women with zero gender based violence.
4) What were the problems you faced during the starting days, and how did you resolve them?
I have made some big and drastic life decisions which were not appreciated by my near and dear ones at that time as they were high risk, but those decisions were key to where I am today. For instance, I was a successful investment banker in London when I decided to take an internal transfer to the Mumbai office. Everyone around me was puzzled as to why would I go back to India in-spite of an already successful banking career in the financial capital of Europe. Then when I left banking and chose to start my own start-up instead – that made them sure that I had gone Cuckoo! But after the success of foodpanda, I think everyone around me became more comfortable with my decision making and knew that even if the going gets tough, I’ll figure it out.
Further, when I decided to exit from foodpanda as the investors didn’t agree with my vision for the business, everyone around me supported me whole heartedly. Everyone had confidence in my judgement by now.
I’ve generally been comfortable taking risks in life and that has been key to where I am today.
5) What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
In my journey so far, there have been many learnings from a functional as well as business perspective. However, one of the most crucial learnings from both my previous stints have been the operational challenges linked to Mergers and Acquisitions. A merger announcement brings a lot of insecurity among the employees and if not addressed properly & in time, can lead to a feeling of antipathy towards their counterparts in the merging entity. Managing people, their insecurities and expectations while still being able to leverage synergies between both teams is the most important learning that I’ve had till now.
6) Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Success for me is internal. The satisfaction of knowing that what I am doing is bettering the consumer journey and experience by making their life simple defines success for me. During foodpanda I would often get appreciation calls from newly set up cloud kitchens on how well they were doing thanks to us; and from customers on how it’s so much easier to order food online with foodpanda.
Similarly, when the deal for PayLo went through, I got calls from customer who didn’t want us to sell because they were very so happy with our product. Further, one of the team member of the legacy Ruplee team told me around a year into their acquisition that she never thought this business could be turned around and she really wanted to congratulate me for having been able to turn it around. I think these simple statements are my biggest achievements.
7) Any advice for startups? Also some advice to students who are planning their future in digital world?
Learn and Iterate! Rather than trying to implement big projects, do a lot of small experiments and track their results to know what’s working and what’s not. This iterative process helps us learn quickly and change paths if required very early on in the life cycle of any project.
8) From Food Panda to Zee Digital, How do you see your evolution.
I’ve had quite a transition to be honest. Metaphorically speaking I can say the transition has been from a Tiger to a Lion! Tigers are known to hunt alone while Lions hunt in packs. Investment bankers are generally individual performers and don’t rely much on a team for their success. However, in business, success is all about your team’s performance. Like a team sport, not only are you supposed to give your best but you are also supposed to ensure your team is giving its best. You need ensure they are inspired, motivated and aligned towards the same goal. Like a coach you are supposed to help them wherever they falter and like a captain you need to ensure you are allocating them roles as per their strengths.
Further the journey from a startup like foodpanda to Zee Digital has been one of building intraprenuers within the team, inculcating the startup culture to ensure prompt solutions to the ever changing consumer behaviour, while adapting to the environment and processes of a large corporate.
9) The Boom of Digital Market in India. And the efforts of Zee Group under your supervision
Tech startups are known for their speed, agility and data-driven approach to problem solving. That’s essentially what we’ve done at ZEE – operated like a startup. As mentioned earlier, rather than trying to implement big projects, we do a lot of small experiments and track their results to know what’s working and what’s not. This iterative process helps us learn and change paths if required very early on in the lifecycle of any project.
Further, we’ve taken a data and technology driven approach to content. Rather than pushing our content to the users, we started understanding users with respect to their preferences to produce relevant content that they are looking for.
10) Changes and Impact of Covid in digital market?
Any digital business falls in either or both of two main categories – content and commerce. The first decade of internet in India (2000-2010) was all about content while second decade (2010-2020) saw the growth of commerce. The next decade will be about content again but this time the focus will be on the 3Vs – Video, Vernacular and Voice.
The backbone of commerce is payments. Demonetisation was a life-changing event of our times. That and various new initiatives by the government like UPI etc meant that Indians, who were historically vary of using their cards for online transactions, have now become more comfortable with digital payments.
And now, within a span of only 4 years, the pandemic has become the second life changing event of our times. Staying at home and having become conscious of social distancing has further fueled the growth of digital, first in content consumption and then in e-commerce.
(Disclaimer: Opinions expressed by Postman News’s contributors are their own.)
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