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Profile: Vijay Sampath: Playing it straight

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | January 05, 2012
Sampath, CEO, ACK Media, believes that one must live by choices and not be dictated by circumstances.

'There is no overnight or permanent success in life. Every day has to be earned' is Vijay Sampath's mantra. The CEO of ACK Media (formerly Amar Chitra Katha), believes that one must live by choices and not be dictated by circumstances.

Vijay Sampath

Sampath is a private man who doesn't like to share his secrets, but he does tell us that he nurtures a dream of setting up a small farm where he plans to grow exotic fruits and vegetables and spend time writing and travelling the world.

During a 23-year-long career, Sampath has dabbled in media, consumer products and franchising. For him, every new juncture, every new domain was a discovery, and there was a sense of satisfaction he derived from each field.

However, the most challenging job he faced so far remains his very first assignment -- as assistant sales manager at Blow Plast at the age of 22 -- straight out of B-school. "Leading a large team, mostly twice my age, achieving stiff sales targets in a high performance environment, and dealing with a huge trade network, was the most valuable learning experience of my life. It shaped my entire future thereafter."

Sampath joined Blow Plast in 1988, and left the company in 1995 as product manager. He handled various responsibilities including marketing of hard luggage brands such as VIP and Alfa.

Sampath reveals that he always had a creative streak in him right from his school days. It was so strong that he even toyed with the idea of joining advertising while at college and B-school several times, but never got around to seriously pursuing it.

Then, as chance would have it, during his tenure with VIP Luggage in the mid-1990s, he became a major buyer of print, TV, and OOH, and his interactions with the media fraternity grew. "It was at that point I was convinced about getting into this space. The opportunity with Zee came along in 1995," he says.

With key assignments at Blow Plast, Zee Network, Bennett, Coleman & Co (as vice-president, corporate, for about four years), Vijay has worked with leading brands, created and led innovative business units, spearheaded corporate strategy and been an entrepreneur. At Zee Telefilms, he worked as executive vice-president, while with Zee Interactive Learning Systems he was appointed vice-president for five years, where he headed the retail education business of the group.

Self-driven, Sampath prefers to lead by example and confesses that he is best in the company of honest, driven, and responsible team members. But, he says that he has low tolerance to unreliability, pomposity, buck-passing, and decision paralysis. "I am extremely careful about people's feelings, but also restless about getting things done," he adds.

Before joining ACK Media, Sampath was with India Capital Advisors from March 2010 as a partner, making investments in media-related startups.

After two decades in the business what keeps him going is the fact that he gets to create a new consumer experience everyday. "The media industry encourages creativity, discovery, even failure. However, content integrity and creativity get compromised by content's Yin-Yang relationship with revenue," he reflects.

Sampath is of the view that this is the right time to be in the media industry. With the growth of user generated content and 24/7 access to content, it will play a big role in shaping society. The value he imbibed from his parents is modesty. Dignity of work and respect for knowledge are other tenets that he lives by. "Life," he says, "is a continuum. One has to have the same honesty in relationships at home and work."

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