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Defining Moments: Saurabh Yagnik: People's Man

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | January 14, 2015
The EVP and business head, English channels (Sony PIX and AXN), Multi Screen Media, feels that every change in job has been a defining moment in his professional life.

After I completed my chartered accountancy in 1994, I joined ITC as management trainee in the internal audit function. I had another offer - that of CS (company secretary) from a company of equal stature but I chose to join ITC. It was indeed the first defining moment of my life. Suddenly your entire perspective changes when you look at large organisations across the country. As a youngster, your mind is impressionable and you see the size and scale of operations and being with ITC, you say 'wow'!

Saurabh Yagnik

I feel that every company that I worked with has shaped me into the professional that I am today. Every person I have worked with has groomed me. And hence, getting opportunities to work with companies - be it in the FMCG space or broadcast - have been my defining moments.

At ITC, I interacted with senior people, travelled across Kolkata, Tamil Nadu and Nepal and saw different cultures. Travel and dealing with different settings and businesses really shapes you as a person. You tend to understand the diversities of the country much better and know how better to deal with people and situations.

After spending five years at ITC in different roles, I got an opportunity to work with Hindustan Unilever. That, according to me was my second defining moment. HUL was an institution in itself and the role and responsibilities I was handling was very exciting. At HUL, I worked across sales branches, factories - making lotions, shampoos and talc - for seven years.

With 12 years in the FMCG space, I thought of doing something different. That's when the opportunity to head FP&A (financial planning & analysis) and treasury function at Star came. Moving from FMCG and joining Star to enter the media industry was another one such moment. Much was happening at Star back then. Uday (Shankar, CEO, Star India) had just taken over and was building the team. After three years of taking care of the FP&A, Uday asked me if I would like to move to a business role and head the English cluster of the company.

Initially, I was apprehensive but then took up the challenge. When I started, it was a business that had migrated from Hong Kong to India. So, I had to learn and run it simultaneously. But it was an interesting period! We brought Koffee with Karan back on Star World, launched Star World HD and Star Movies.

All was going well at Star, when the opportunity to take care of Sony's English movie business came. You can be with the leader and it's great fun there but being with a challenger brand and doing things to turn around that brand gives much more satisfaction. I took on the challenge.

That was Sony Pix and I had a fantastic stint there. We looked at our strengths, the competitive landscape and through meticulous brainstorming sessions, we built three elements - invest in content, innovate to break clutter and build perception to keep Pix top of the mind. We relaunched and changed the positioning of the channel, talked about the "amazement" and strengthened our library. When I look back, feel very satisfied with the way we worked on Sony Pix.

Eventually, AXN also got added to my existing portfolio. The channel had its own set of challenges with a very different landscape that emerged post digitisation. We are building great properties, have struck great deals with companies like CBS and as we go forward we need to do more and more. Being in the media business is like being on a treadmill. The moment you stop, you fall off.

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