Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

In FMCG, Product is Hero; in Media, Content is King

Sudhanshu Vats, former vice president at Unilever, tells Forbes India that the business of media is not very different from that of FMCG

Published: Sep 14, 2012 06:31:21 AM IST
Updated: Sep 14, 2012 10:59:07 AM IST
In FMCG, Product is Hero; in Media, Content is King

Sudhanshu Vats
Group CEO, Viacom 18
Age: 45 years
Experience: Vice president (Laundry South Asia and Global Radiant), Unilever
Qualification: IIM-Ahmedabad
Interests: Running marathons, trekking

Q. How has the transition been from a consumer goods business to media?

It’s been fabulous. On a personal note, I’m an avid trekker and therefore, after having scaled one peak, moving on to another is important for me. The move from FMCG to media should be seen in that context.
The truly exciting part for me is that media is a new sector with tremendous growth potential, with its own share of issues, opportunities and challenges. The sector also offers a unique opportunity in a country like India, by allowing us to address societal issues and shape the thought process in our own way.

On a lighter note, I’m moving from FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) to media, which is FMCB (faster moving consumer business).

Q. What are the contrasts between FMCG and media?
One of the sharpest contrasts is the role of gut versus informed and analytical judgement. Media has an extremely enterprising and entrepreneurial culture, whereas FMCG is a process-oriented industry, where decisions are taken based on data and analytics.
Q. You’ve left an organised, evolved sector to join one that thrives on chaos…

Actually, there are quite a few commonalities between the sectors.

The consumer is common: In one, they consume goods, in the other, they consume content. The distribution landscape has similar peculiarities: In FMCG, there’s conventional retail or mom-and-pop stores, which are comparable to the analogue cable distribution system in media, and the last-mile operator; in FMCG, as distribution through modern retail sets in, so does DTH in media; retail margins in FMCG are related to shelf availability, in media it’s visibility; in FMCG, the product is the hero; in media, content is king.
Q. Whenever the economy is not doing well the first sector that takes a hit is media…
Let’s look at it at two levels. In the long-term, India is on an unquestioned growth path. Even at 5-6 percent, we are growing faster than most parts of the world, and there’s room to build brands across categories for 1.2 billion people.

Will more brands be built? The answer is an unequivocal yes. If both these things are correct, the role that media has to play in partnering advertisers and marketers is significant.

In the short-term, these challenges set us thinking, they force us to evaluate our business models and find avenues for generating revenues beyond conventional means.

Q. What are the lessons you have taken from FMCG to media?

A significantly deeper understanding of the consumer. The second lesson would be analytics. The third would be the art of market development and the scientific manner in which we go about it.

And the fourth is segmentation: As the market becomes more premium, you must start segmenting.

Disclaimer: Viacom 18 is a part of the Network 18 group, which publishes Forbes India

(This story appears in the 28 September, 2012 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)