Venugopal Iyengar, COO Digital, Planetcast International
Talk us through an average day in your role
My day usually revolves around three things: people, products, and international business.
Most of the top half of my day is about quick reviews with my product and business/sales teams to check if I’m in the way of anyone trying to get things done. I set aside an hour each day for hiring. We’re constantly hiring given our expansion of products and markets. And about half the week is spent with our international teams as the US and Europe are major priorities for the coming three years.
Second, from a product perspective, a huge part of my job each day is about listening – absorbing customer and market input from our eyes and ears on the ground to help us design product strategies and future roadmaps that help our customers flourish while driving our business forward.
Our technology building blocks are already in place – so my third pillar is about tailoring our proven media services for international needs. That means regularly bringing together voices from regional sales leaders, customers and our global technology partners to create flexible solutions across markets and enable new customers to test our theories.
But it’s not all about work. I enjoy going out for lunch with colleagues and friends, catching up on our families and personal lives. Striking a balance has always been important for me, and it’s critical to establishing a sustainable and healthy team culture.
How did you get started in the media industry?
I’m a production engineer by training and hold a marketing MBA, but I started on the content side of the media industry after trying my hand across a few other sectors – manufacturing, research and retail. I got into media because it sounded like an exciting opportunity, and my first break was working with Disney in India – I haven’t looked back since.
I’ve spent the last two decades working in media – the first decade was all about content, working with exciting brands like Disney and Viacom, as well as domestic majors like Zee and Sun. The last decade has all been about distribution, starting out with satellite (DTH) as it exploded around 2010, and then in the OTT space working with a start-up developing our proprietary platform and deploying it for some of the biggest media and telecom brands. This is right where the biggest shift in the industry is taking place with rapid digitisation and the explosion of OTT consumption.
What training did you have before entering the industry?
My engineering degree and MBA weren’t exactly built for media, to be honest. After a few jobs in research and retail, I tried out a position in media because the industry fascinated me. A four-year stint with MTV Networks made me a lifelong fan of this industry and I’ve never turned back! In hindsight, I’d say the engineering and MBA gave me an analytical and problem-solving mindset which is hugely useful when you are trying to understand the content-consumer connection.
In the broadcasting world, this helped me understand content performance metrics, television ratings, and how audiences engage with content. Analytics is a big passion of mine, and it allows customers to have a deeper sense of what’s going on within their business – and, indeed their entire market.
Why do you enjoy working in the industry?
What’s not to like! Television has always been a mirror to society, giving great insight into how people think, and which issues resonate best with audiences – that’s fascinating. I used to work at a leading movie channel in India, and we were constantly surprised by the type of content that pulled in the highest ratings.
The impact of technology over the last decade has been game-changing, empowering new and innovative ways of storytelling. The status quo of television has evolved rapidly, with more personalisation than ever and consumption across an explosion of devices and formats. FAST channels are a great example of that, as the media industry comes back full circle to combat subscription fatigue and provide highly tailored, ‘lean-back’ digital viewing experiences. Sitting at the heart of an industry in constant flux is hugely exciting, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
What piece of advice would you offer someone looking to explore a role similar to yours?
Be fascinated by your domain, and everything else will follow. If you’re truly inspired by media and the trends and technologies around you, the passion to innovate and solve problems to do things better will come naturally. Of course, key technology skill sets such as coding or data science can act as a fantastic foundation. But to be effective in media and entertainment, you need to develop a healthy curiosity about the content-consumer connection, and the interplay of technology and user experience. If either – or both of these – fascinate you, then you’ve come to the right place!