afaqs!

Profile: MK Anand - The science of selling

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | February 04, 2010
Anand's versatility is clearly visible in his profile that stretches from a beginning as a medical representative to his current position as CEO of UTV Global Broadcasting

If things had gone according to plan, MK Anand would have been a scientist donning a white coat.

However, Anand, who is now chief executive officer, UTV Global Broadcasting, realised that being a scientist may not be a well paying profession. "The pressure to get a job was mounting as I wanted to marry the girl (now wife) I loved. So I joined a company called Cynamid India as a medical representative," he recalls.

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Six months into the job, he realised that there were some employees who were holier than others - the MBAs. He enrolled at the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) for a part-time MBA course (he teaches there now). In 1988, while doing a short stint with Delhi Press Prakashan for Woman's Era, Anand's first brush with ad sales happened. "I hated it and vowed never to get into something like that in future," he reminisces. He went on to spend a major part of his career in ad sales.

During his MBA course, Anand had a small stint at a seafood export company called Rallis India in New Bombay, where the fish was cleaned, frozen and preserved. "I was one of the trainees, surrounded by the stink and working in sub-zero temperatures," he says, adding, "Besides, in the MBA class in the evening, nobody would sit next to me." He worked there for 17 days.

Realising that he had to fall back on ad sales, Anand threw his heart and soul into it. He remembers going to every publication with a resume. Finally, he bagged a job in a monthly called Cuisine. It was subscription based magazine, trying to get advertising. "I joined as assistant manager, sales and within six months was the monetisation expert," he says.

Much of his grooming in the ad sales function took place over the 10 months at Cuisine. He learned about printing, subscription and ad sales. "There was nobody to tell me anything, so I applied my own mind. The Woman's Era experience and the MBA lessons came in handy."

In 1990, Pradeep Guha, director, Response (Times Group), hired Anand for the Classifieds section. "I quit just two months back," he smiles. His job at the organisation was more of business development. Soon, he was doing things like intervening in the operations and re-looking how selling was done at the counter. "In 1995, I became the youngest person to become the category head, with a 30 member team," he recalls proudly.

Classifieds, he says, lie in the twilight zone between advertisements and editorials. However, the reader perceived it as a technical product. Anand set out to change the overall look and feel of the page to make it consumer friendly. By 1997, he had become national brand coordinator, Classifieds, reporting to Guha.

In 2000, he was shifted to the display part of the business - a pure ad sales function - that accounted for 70 per cent of the revenue. "One of the key things I did was to challenge the rate card," he says. Mastermind was the rate card document of The Times of India since 1987.

"Although the rates had changed over time, the way it was sold hadn't changed. I created one based on my experience." What came into force was the Maximizer. "It was more in tune with the buying pattern of 2002 than 1987, was easier to buy and sell and enabled business to happen from newer places. It is still in use today."

In 2004, he 'got the chance' to head sales for Zoom, Times' lifestyle channel. "The target given was about a fifth of what I was doing in print. I felt it would be effortlessly simple but realised that it wasn't," he smiles. The TV business was much more competitive. "It took me more than six months to comprehend the speed at which it works," he states. Zoom found its feet gradually. After the business head of the channel quit in 2006, Anand was handed the marketing role and in 2008, was made the business head.

Now, he sees UTV in the position Zoom was three years ago. "It is backed by gumption, investment and ambition and is growing. I need to take it further, bring in operational efficiency and monetisation," he states. At UTV, "building brand Bindass is the key focus. In fact, we shut down Bindass Movies because it was creating a dissonance with brand Bindass."

(Profile is a regular column which peeps into the career paths of senior advertising, media and marketing professionals who are currently in news)