EXCLUSIVE | Shailesh Kapoor, Ormax Media: Pandemic 101 — We are what we learn

Image-exclusive-shailesh-kapoor-ceo-ormax-media-mediabrief-1.jpg

Shailesh Kapoor, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ormax Media, brings 22 years of rich and varied experience, of which he spent the first nine in the media industry in various roles in marketing, content, and strategy, working for businesses like Sony Entertainment Television, Zee Cinema, indya.com, Zoom, and Filmy, before giving in to the entrepreneurial urge 13 years ago, to found Ormax Media.

Shailesh has been respected for his out-of-the-box and entrepreneurial approach to every project he has led, and it was his proclivity to work from a crossroads of strategy, research, innovation, technology and measurability that shaped Ormax Media, India’s first specialised media consulting firm.

Over the last 13 years, Ormax has helped empower Media- and Marketing heads across brands, with credible and respected industry products in the areas of testing, tracking and forecasting key business variables such as viewership, box office, celebrity, and many more.

In this exclusive piece, Kapoor reminisces  about how his team and he faced the brunt of the pandemic, about the changes that 2020 brought in his personal and professional life, and reflects on Ormax Media’s top resolve: to deploy all the learnings they could to  define and pave the road ahead for the next 4 to 5 years. Read on.

To call 2020 an unusual year would be quite an understatement. I don’t think many of us have seen, or will see, another year so disruptive in our lifetimes. It may not be the most memorable year in the classical sense of the term, but it certainly won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

At Ormax Media, we were giving final touches to our annual business plans for 2021-22 when the pandemic knocked on India’s doors in March 2020. We follow an April-March financial year, and 2019-20 had been easily our best year in our 12-year history. We were buoyant and raring to go for another year of making a difference to the India media and entertainment industry through our work. Little did we know of the speed-breaker, or the iceberg, ahead.

The first week or two after the lockdown announcement were a blur. Even if you are gifted with an incredible ability to think on your feet (and I don’t rate myself very high on this attribute), no prior experience could have prepared you for this degree of disruption. A large part of our work depends on meeting consumers face-to-face. That came to a standstill, as did our tracking work, especially because theatres were shut and there were no movie campaigns to monitor. April 2020 income dried up to less than 10% of an average month in the preceding year.

No pay cuts were implemented, and no placement offers for new recruits withdrawn. Instead, we slowly oriented ourselves to the idea that 2020 is the year to craft how the next 4-5 years for Ormax Media can look: Shailesh Kapoor

It’s said that testing times bring out your true character. How different members of the team reacted to the situation reflected upon their individual characters. The reactions ranged from those offering to take voluntary salary cuts to those who slacked it out like it was a paid vacation. The entire range of complexity of the human mind was on display, especially because a palpable health risk was always at the back of the mind too.

I am usually instinctive in my decision-making, and the pandemic period re-confirmed that to me. I didn’t overthink the financial impact at all. No pay cuts were implemented, and no placement offers for new recruits withdrawn. Instead, we slowly oriented ourselves to the idea that 2020 is the year to craft how the next 4-5 years for Ormax Media can look.

Developmental work on a whole lot of new ideas took off, especially in the streaming category, in content development and in the regional language space. A lot of the groundwork done during the lockdown, and the period that followed, will see the light of the day in 2021. And we can safely say we have our hands more than full, with many exciting new things in the pipeline.

But I wouldn’t say that defined 2020 for me. More than anything else, the year gave me the opportunity to look at things without the day-to-day operational hustle blurring my vision. The idea that you cannot fully control the future, despite the most immaculate planning, is a liberating one. It allowed me to take focus away from unnecessary worries related to uncontrollable aspects of the business, and focus more on ideation, product innovation and nurturing the organization’s culture.

Developmental work on a whole lot of new ideas took off, especially in the streaming category, in content development and in the regional language space. A lot of the groundwork done during the lockdown, and the period that followed, will see the light of the day in 2021: Shailesh Kapoor

But if I had to sum up the most fundamental shift in my thinking, it would come down to looking at moments of happiness at a daily level, than over extended periods of time, like months, quarters and years. Positive, organic experiences, however small, are no longer being lost in the quest for pursuits that have a longer horizon.

A lot of what one wants to change in one’s work or personal life is about changing one’s habits. And the thing with habits is that they are hard to change. Over the last 3-4 months, I have started writing down my learnings and thoughts from 2020 in great detail, simply as a way of ensuring that they are not forgotten as things get back to normal and the ‘hustle’ begins again.

2020 has been a tough year for many families, especially those who have lost someone dear to them. If there had been no deaths and sufferings around us because of the pandemic, I would have even thanked 2020 for allowing us to think about ourselves and our lives differently. While no two people will have exactly the same learnings from the pandemic, I’m sure a lot of us have found something of value from it. Something that we would like to take forward, through the rest of our lives.

Here’s hoping that we don’t lose what we found, in 2021.

Your thoughts, please