Crisis Conversations: Rahul Mishra, CMO, Shemaroo Entertainment, on How OTT is Combating COVID-19 Challenges



The unprecedented crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a massive disruption for many industries. Many key businesses have taken a severe blow.

Even the TV and streaming service providers are taking a hit. But on the contrary, the lockdown which has forced people to stay indoors, has also led to a surge in media consumption.

You must be wondering how an industry can grow and come to a standstill at the same time? The reason why this is happening is simple. Since TV shows and various sports leagues have been called off, the players of this industry might face a glut of content to provide to their viewers. The dreaded recession is one of the major consequences of this outbreak. And that might result in a lot of cancelled subscriptions which in turn would bring down the profit figures and shoot up the number of job losses. But, like always, there is a brighter side to this. Owing to the quarantine period, viewers are actually hooked on to online streaming and this is good news for the Industry. 

Having said that, this crisis has brought a lot of changes with it. Businesses might have to re-think and re-invent their business models, if they want to survive in the Industry. Different people have different opinions on how this pandemic is changing the way the industry conducts business. We as marketers are anxious about the implications of this chaos.

While the world is caught in this storm, we took an initiative to interact with industry experts to gain some insights on various aspects of this crisis situation, and what steps are companies taking to keep their businesses going.

Here is an excerpt of the conversation we had with Mr. Rahul Mishra – Chief Marketing Officer, Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd. Some interesting insights here. Read on.

Netcore: The shift to Work From Home might not have been very smooth for a lot of companies.  Businesses are looking at a new way of working which requires them to incorporate certain tools and technologies to support their day-to-day functions. What are the challenges of this transition?

Rahul: Nobody ever thought of facing the situation the world is in right now. With the eventual spread of the virus globally, it was no surprise that businesses in India would soon face the brunt. It’s essential for businesses to analyze the impact of ‘What If’ situations. We started putting certain business continuity processes in place to deal with the coming crisis. But no one can have a solid plan to face a crisis of this magnitude. 

There were issues in terms of transferring data. A lot of thought process had to be given to uploading content. At this point of time you need to keep your customers engaged at every step. These are the bottlenecks that usually come up when you have to work remotely. Businesses that rely on creativity face a lot of difficulties in terms of generating ideas and working on banners as it is not easy to work upon these things remotely. 

Moreover, the physical work-place has a lot of facilities like pool table, foosball, lounge etc. to keep the employees motivated. But what should we do right now to keep the employees engaged is a pressing issue. We have to adopt a different style of working. There has to be a fixed schedule and you can’t keep squeezing in work like you would in the office. 

Media Houses have difficulty in working from home because they have to sit as a team and edit the content, graphics etc. and technology has its own set of limitations. So these are the challenges associated with work from home. 

Netcore: Having talked about the challenges, what approach would you suggest to deal with these challenges? 

Rahul: What we should be looking at is automation to ease out the process of conducting your business operations regularly and smoothly. It’s advisable to have fixed meeting times and try to stick to prior schedules. 

The lockdown has led to an increase in traffic on various platforms. You have to ensure that you cater to the needs of your customer during this period of time and give them the best offering. You need to constantly update your app with new features which would intrigue your users.

You can’t just give your customers a list of 5 movies at random to watch. There has to be some thought process behind it in terms of promos and creatives. You have to put these parameters together to come up with an optimal offering for your customers. 

Netcore: While many businesses are looking for ways to grow their business during these testing times, what would be a different approach of doing business in the current situation?

Rahul: These are tough times for businesses and customers alike. With all the negativity around, what we can do is, find entertaining ways to engage the customers. This is what the customers expect from our Industry. There are so many things the customers are missing. For example, customers aren’t able to visit their place of worship, so to help them we have some documentaries and live streaming of these places. Then there are Facebook watch parties and celebrity engagements on Instagram. You need to channel your resources with the aim of helping others. With certain quirky creatives in place, we are able to land customers to comedy movies pages. These are attempts to ease out the tension and not take due advantage of customers. 

As a brand, you should try and make a direct impact on people’s lives.

Netcore: The pandemic has affected all the functional departments of a business. In this industry, marketing plays an extremely important role. How has marketing changed in the short-term? 

Rahul: I look at marketing as 50 % science and 50 % creativity. In the short-term, the science part of marketing can be well taken care of. We have data inflow, we have the customer funnel right in front of us. But the real challenge lies in how to utilize the data gathered. On any given data, you can have chunks of data at your disposal. You know which segment is working and which isn’t. The problem arises when you don’t know what to do with it. This is where the other 50 % of marketing comes into the picture. This entire analysis of data happens a lot better when there are face to face interactions. In the short-term, this can be managed. But there are more crucial long-term implications. 

Related Read: Media OTT: Personalization Strategies to Get Closer to Your Users During Social Distancing

Netcore: You mentioned that there will be changes in the long-term when it comes to marketing. Taking the discussion further, could you elaborate on the long-term implications of marketing? 

Rahul: A very important observation that I made in these few weeks is that brands can only grow if they make an emotional connect with their audience. It’s a series of emotions that we are all going through and brands need to capture that. Let’s take the example of advertisements, we know they work when they are able to pick on the emotional feelings of the customers.

What customers are really looking for right now is empathy. And I firmly believe that this is something which will stay with all the marketers even after the situation normalizes.

The approach of marketing has changed and this change will persist. Marketers will now be driven by genuine communication with their customers. Marketing strategies in the coming future will be much more sensitive and only those brands who recognize this, will grow in the long term. 

You can watch complete interviews here: Crisis Conversations powered by Netcore.

By the end of this discussion, we can conclude that every industry has its own set of challenges when it comes to adapting to work from home. In fact, even across departments there are a different set of limitations that need to be dealt with. While online binge watching has become a source of entertainment for the majority of the people, keeping up with the customers’ expectations and providing relevant content is a major concern for brands in the Media and Entertainment Industry. To top it all, the increased presence of customers across several digital platforms, necessitates it for businesses to engage them across all these touch-points. 

Well, more challenges, more opportunities. At this time, marketing if done right, will leave a much larger impact on the audience and will help your brand grow even after we all get past this crisis situation. Stay safe.

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