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Defining Moments: Sameer Nair: Creative Collaborator

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | September 26, 2013
Sameer Nair, former STAR TV and NDTV Imagine CEO, took up the entrepreneurial challenge in 2011 and he believes that his career has mostly been about unplanned opportunities and obstacles. He talks to afaqs! as he looks back at a few key moments in his career.

I have had numerous lucky coincidences - at fundamental crossroads - that chose the path ahead for me. I always wanted to get into advertising and creative but couldn't get a break. Instead, I went in for Hotel Management from IHM-Chennai and almost joined The Leela in Mumbai. A moment of youthful impatience - I didn't wait for the delayed interviewer - and it was not to be. A small stint of entrepreneurship with few friends in the food business followed, after which I got an opportunity to join Yellow Pages. This, I guess, was my first big defining moment. Had I joined Leela then, my life would have been very different today.

Sameer Nair

Yellow Pages got me into media. From there, I moved to Goldwire Advertising in Chennai. I had gone there to get into client servicing but shortly after my joining, the core creative team left. I inherited the film and TV department. This was another big moment. I always thought I was a creative person, but it had taken me some time to finally gain entry into the club!

Unpredictability factor

My career has mostly been about unplanned opportunities and obstacles. My boss at Goldwire, Aubrey Sequiera, was a creative genius and really big on the audio-visual medium. He taught me everything and gave me a free hand. At Goldwire, MRF was our key client and I did many commercials and corporate videos for them, as well as acquired and edited shows for DD like Street Hawk and Glo Friends. What helped me in the early years was that I was highly impressionable - luckily, some great minds made lasting impressions on me. I remember Anil Kapoor (CEO of UDI Yellow Pages who later left to join Ulka) saying in a company town hall meeting - "Communicate clearly, be polite and you will get away with anything". And when I was negotiating a pay-rise with him, Aubrey told me, "Just focus on your work, the money is not important, it's not going anywhere, it will follow". These two mantras of sorts cleared my head.

I left Goldwire in 1993 to become an independent ad-film-maker when a friend in Star HK suggested a brand new opportunity. I applied for the job of promo producer, STAR Sports but got a call instead from Tony Watts of STAR Movies.

'Star'ry eyed

STAR TV was the big defining moment of my career. I joined STAR when satellite TV was just being born in India. I was out of my comfort zone, moved from Chennai and in a new industry similar to the pioneering wild-west days, but it was fun. The 'mantras' stood me in good stead. I am a creative collaborator. I work with people, I ideate with them, enable them to implement those ideas and help them with execution.

Building mode

In 2007, I left STAR to start NDTV Imagine. Prannoy Roy and K V L Narayan Rao were great business partners but Imagine's journey was a struggle. We soldiered on, made the sale to Turner, then got integrated into the Turner system, after which I left. It was time.

Since then I have chosen to become a genuine entrepreneur. At first, it was scary. But, happy circumstance dictated the way forward. I have partnered with a few ex-colleagues and some new friends, and we are collaborating on some opportunities - One Entertainment Network (video content for online and mobile), Pride Rock Entertainment (Films) and Pride Rock Television (TV). And, over time, the mantra has slightly evolved - communicate clearly, be polite, be persuasive, sweat the detail and seize the moment! And yes, the money does follow.

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