Suraj Ramnath

"Had it not been for the UTV buyout, I'm not sure I would have left Ronnie and Zarina": Zee's Aparna Bhosle

We profiled the recently appointed business head of Zee TV.

Aparna Bhosle (46) who was recently appointed business head of Zee TV and also continues to lead FTA channels was previously handling the premium cluster as well. She joined Zee Entertainment Enterprises in February 2012 as programming head for ZeeQ and was then promoted to business head of Zee Anmol and ZeeQ.

"Had it not been for the UTV buyout, I'm not sure I would have left Ronnie and Zarina": Zee's Aparna Bhosle

Aparna Bhosle

Under Aparna's leadership, Zee Anmol went from No. 4 to No. 1 in GEC rankings. She played an important part in the launch of ZEEl's English movie channels - &Prive HD and &flix - and getting premium content to Zee Café.

During a chat with afaqs!, Aparna shares he tale of how she got into the media world after working with liquor brand Diageo and her goals for Zee TV.

"I did my MBA in Marketing from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies and Diageo was my first job. On campus, we had something called a 'dream company'. The minute you get your 'dream company', you're out. At the time, Diageo was coming to campus and my only reason for putting them as my 'dream company' was because this was in 1995 and there were no women in the liquor industry in India, barring Manohar Chhabria's daughter Komal Chhabria. Of course, she owned the company. I wanted to see what made it so special that apparently only men could do it. I was there for a little over four years," she says.

In usual circumstances, people have a job in hand and then quit their existing employer, but that's not been the case with Aparna. "When I switch off in a job, I switch off. I launched the 'Keep Walking' campaign for Johnnie Walker and the government was coming down hard on alcohol and against surrogate advertising. I was advertising a surrogate brand and got really sick of doing the same thing all the time. So I moved on and was home for little over a month without a job," she shares.

While holidaying during that break, Aparna met someone who mentioned that Wisden was setting up a team in India. "I had no idea what Wisden was. I later found out that it's 'the bible' for cricket, a sport I detest. Somehow, that worked in my favour. They offered me the job and I was just the first or second employee. We set up the company and got Sambit Bal on board to launch Wisden Asia Cricket, a magazine," she says.

At Wisden, Aparna was part of designing properties such as Wisden Indian Cricketer of the Year and Wisden Cricketer of the Century. "Also, the name Wisden carries a lot of weight so if you design TV programmes around that, the country would be pretty crazy about it. Hence, we launched those events. And then, during the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka and World Cup in South Africa, we designed Predikta because people love gambling. Of course, we couldn't have given away a cash prize, but we had plenty of sponsors to give away things like shoes, bags, fridges etc. Electrolux and Pepsi were the big sponsors," she elaborates.

Aparna worked with Wisden for four years before she left. "While watching the India vs Pakistan semi-finals at Pretoria, an rather exciting match, I realised that the next high in my career would only come four years later and I didn't want to do it anymore, so I resigned," she explains.

After that Aparna was on a break for a couple of months when she received a call from a head-hunter saying Ronnie Screwvala was launching a kid's channel. "UTV was a strange story. I have a marketing degree and did marketing for Diageo and marketing and sales for Wisden. I decided that I didn't want to do marketing or sales any more and wanted to learn something new," she highlights.

She applied for the job, was interviewed by Ronnie Screwvala, the founder of UTV at the time and cracked the interview, but for a role in marketing. "At that point, I said 'thank you, but it's something I really don't want to do. Is there anything else?' Ronnie asked me if I knew how a channel ran to which I said no but was curious nonetheless. He told me about distribution where I'd have to deal with cable operators and I didn't want to do that. He then told me about several other posts in marketing and operations, neither of which interested me. And then spoke about programming. I asked if it meant choosing programmes for TV and he admitted it was a little tougher than that. I got the job and launched Hungama TV. Within a year and a half we took Hungama TV to the No. 1 spot," she details.

Aparna gives Zarina Mehta, Screwvala's spouse, all the credit for what she is today. "Zarina has had a huge influence on me. Most of the stuff I have learnt in the media is because I worked very closely with her. The entire credit for the success that Hungama TV could even achieve was because of the mentality that it is an Indian channel, taking on Cartoon Network and Pogo which had deep pockets, unlike us. I'm still very thankful for her guidance support."

During that period, Disney first acquired Hungama TV and then UTV group after three years.

"That's when I had to leave. Actually, if it wasn't for the buyout, I would not have left Ronnie and Zarina; I truly enjoyed working with them. They liked to take chances, fail and learn from that; it's not something you find in a lot of people," she adds.

Post the acquisition, Aparna worked with Disney for a brief period and re-launched the Jetix channel as Disney XD. Later on, she moved to FoodFood for two years. However, because of the uncertainty post the 2G scam and the parent company Astro, not being able to enter India, she quit and joined Zee Entertainment Enterprises where she will soon complete seven years.

The BARC data for week 38 shows Zee TV at No 4 in the Urban + Rural and Urban markets.

When talking about her goals for Zee TV, Aparna shares, "Some big launches happened during Q2 and Q3. I think we will sustain, but don't know if we will make a leap in terms of rank. My long-term goal, of course, is for us to excel. That means you take a channel to the top, ideally, or the No. 2 spot. I am a little different with every genre because of my FMCG grounding and I'm very process oriented. Unlike FMCG, in media where creativity is involved, it comes with giant emotions. Teams are working with emotions day in and day out, so you tend to do the job emotionally and circumvent some processes, but that always takes a toll. We don't want to be process oriented but make sure there are processes in place that assist everybody in the end, to become a formidable player in GECs."

Have news to share? Write to us