Profile: Harrish M Bhatia: Always on the Move

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media | June 04, 2010
Bhatia feels if a venture is a cakewalk, half the fun is lost and you don't enjoy the game

Even when seated, Harrish M Bhatia is a picture of restless energy. Entrusted by his employers, the Dainik Bhaskar Group, to launch its radio brand, My FM, as business head in 2007, Bhatia managed to roll out 17 stations in tier II and III cities within three years. Not surprisingly, then, he was recently promoted as chief executive officer (CEO) at My FM.

& #BANNER1 & #Bhatia has come up the "hard way," doing the grind in sales for a long time. A mathematics and commerce graduate from Kanpur, with an air force officer for a father, he recalls that in those days a young man's horizon was limited to joining either the administrative services or the armed forces. He, too, tried those options before deciding on a sales job. Later, he followed it up with an MBA degree.

When Bhatia went for his first job at Aristocrat luggage in 1983, he was dismayed to find that the other candidates were much older. He thought to himself that he didn't stand much of a chance. When he claimed to the interview panel that he would deliver better sales than the other candidates, they asked him to prove it - to which Bhatia replied that he couldn't unless he first got the job. He got it!

His first job was a fascinating peek into the Indian marketplace. Apart from learning the rudiments of sales and marketing, his visits to small-town India prepared him for bigger responsibilities later in his professional life.

After two-and-a-half years, Bhatia sensed that there was more action in consumer electronics though, of course, he had no way of knowing just how the market would explode with the coming of multinationals in the '90s. He joined Onida in 1986 and stayed put for a dozen long years. When he called it quits in 1998, he was head for South and West. He credits Onida for developing his entrepreneurial skills because he got the opportunity to make independent decisions and enjoyed working in a highly consumer-centric environment.

From Onida, he moved on to join another consumer electronics company LG. He remembers that experience because "the place offered a lot of knowledge about global markets and provided an understanding of best practices in the consumer durables space."

Having spent a total of 17 years in the consumer durables industry, Bhatia wondered where he should head next. This is when he was drawn to the media and entertainment space. According to Bhatia, the media business has seen a dramatic transformation over the past decade, graduating from a promoter-led state to a professional set-up. Bhatia joined the Dainik Bhaskar Group in 2001 as operations head, Rajasthan, handling the Group's newspaper division. He later went on to head the Gujarat market with the launch of Divya Bhaskar in the state.

"In Rajasthan, our debut was an easier affair, given that the competition (Rajasthan Patrika) did not take us seriously and took as many as five years to register our arrival. In Gujarat, things turned out to be different. The leader in Gujarat reacted from day one to the launch of Divya Bhaskar. Things are tough when the competitor becomes active from the first day," points out Bhatia. He is quick to add, "If your venture is a cakewalk, half the fun is lost and you don't enjoy the game!"

In 2007, Bhatia was entrusted with launching My FM. It's been a busy time since then with a radio station being rolled out every other month on an average in the last three years. The tough bit, though, says Bhatia, has been selling the medium in new markets, convincing advertisers that radio will deliver. His goal is to convince people that radio can be used to build brands rather than just as a medium for tactical campaigns.

Bhatia believes that if you are willing to learn, everybody in the system has something to teach. Here's hoping that local advertisers are willing to learn about radio from him.

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

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