Sunil Lulla, CEO – Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, is a respected industry veteran with more than 35 years’ stellar experience across building brands and growing businesses, start-ups, and powering turnarounds across Media, Digital, Music, Advertising, and the FMCG space. He has led some of the most successful companies like Balaji Telefilms Ltd, GREY Group India, Times Television Network, Indya.com, and MTV. Today, BARC India is in the hands of Sunil, who is respected for his immense experience, capability, leadership and integrity, and MediaBrief.com wishes his team and him all the best as he works to steer the robust and respected TV measurement agency to greater salience for even better industry empowerment.
In this exclusive piece, Lulla writes about his personal battle with COVID, the focus areas his team and he decided upon when the pandemic struck, about how, despite the challenges of the pandemic, BARC India has continued to deliver its robust data, also sharing about what BARC has envisioned for 2021. And more.
Why 2020 was truly the biggest year for me
Amongst everything which may have affected BARC’s subscribers, stakeholders, partners, and staff in 2020, it was also the year of big opportunities. The early part of Q1 was full of optimism and BARC engaged with over 1600 professionals from the industry, throughout the BARC Connect Program across 9 cities, from January 2020 to March 2020. It was a great way for me to meet and exchange views with advertisers, agencies, and broadcasters, who were enthused to learn of the changes we were bringing into BARC.
Then came the pandemic and the lockdown! Life changed for everyone. Our priority was the continuity of service and safety first at all costs.
All our staff initiated stringent safety and health measures, taking health seriously, more than ever before. We enhanced our compassion for our subscribers, stakeholders, and partners with our outreach program. Very rapidly BARC was able to seamlessly work-from-home during the initial phase of the lockdown. Just as rapidly as we could, we reopened our workspaces with all the safety processes in place.
BARC continued to deliver its robust data on schedule every Thursday. It effectively implemented the Landing Pages algorithm, much demanded by the industry. BARC held a series of engagements across the country with a number of stakeholders, keeping them updated and to understand their data needs better.
We were also able to deliver a significant and permanent reduction in our costs, making BARC leaner, simpler, and sharper for subscribers, stakeholders, and the industry at large.
At BARC, we initiated an organization-wide review which enabled us to augment, strengthen, refresh, and recreate contemporary, transparent, and robust processes in Measurement, Data Standards, Security, Internal Decision Making, and our outreach to our subscribers and our stakeholders.
With everything else shifting sands in the year, we remain eternally grateful to our stakeholders, partners, subscribers, staff and associates, for ensuring the sustained reporting of the currency across the year.
Since I was amongst the early ones (to be infected by COVID) I also shared widely ‘how to battle it’ with your mind. Even today friends, associates, and family reach out to me for any information and advice: Sunil Lulla
The reality of the lockdown
We ensured everyone’s safety first along with good health practices, protection of the company’s data, and BARC’s processes. We were able to mobilize really fast, thanks to the great team which worked round the clock to make this happen. Our HR and our Technology team did an amazing job enabling us to deliver robust data to our subscribers, stakeholders, and the customers, on priority.
We learnt very fast how to keep our staff and our subscribers engaged and motivated during a difficult period. At a personal level, I followed all the protocols very stringently. The runner in me took to walking 4 kms on the building terrace as one could not step out. Despite all my caution, COVID-19 determined to infect me.
Since I was amongst the early ones, I also shared widely ‘how to battle it’ with your mind. Even today friends, associates, and family reach out to me for any information and advice.
My thoughts have always been about the people at BARC India. Unfortunately, there were a few people who had been impacted by COVID-19 directly, and many more were impacted indirectly due to their families. Some of our colleagues sadly lost family members and friends in this process.
Our HR team was able to create a healthy circuit of medical emergency response processes and provide advice, care, financial help, and compassion to ensure everybody could operate safely.
The lingering weakness (during the post-COVID recovery phase) takes time to resolve; I have figured out how to deal with it. Fear is not a word in my dictionary, and this only reinforced my faith in my strengths and for those who cared for me. I was able to contribute by donating my plasma to those who needed it and I have continued to be a phone call away for anyone who was affected and needed personal advice: Sunil Lulla
Facing the pandemic together but apart
One of the first things we did was to give up many of our smaller offices by taking feedback from our employees and offering them the option to work from home. In Mumbai, as an example, we reopened office on16th June and made sure there continues to be safe transportation for every employee who comes into work, and on time, even now. The onsite work areas are sanitized and are a safe working place with social distancing norms in place.
A blend of virtual and safe in-person occasions has kept energy levels exceptionally high. Be it birthdays, which also included BARC India’s 5th anniversary, as well as a number of events for employee-training and family days.
There is continuous information on health and safety aspects shared with all staff; enhancement of medical insurance as needed; counsellors, re-skilling and training, and also self-development programs which have motivated every employee to do their best.
At a personal level, along with my wife and her circuit of do-good people, I assisted in the Roti Chain, which started by providing about 500 home-made rotis for those individuals who unfortunately were leaving Mumbai. A crisis brings compassion and soon, neighborhoods across Mumbai were turning out 100,000 rotis for those who were transiting. I was able to expand the chain of those contributing so we could feed many hungry people.
Beside television, video on digital has been the growing medium. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the lockdown, has enhanced video consumption. This also helped accelerate the pace at which we will be able to develop a solution of measurement that will provide for video viewing on digital, as well as a screen agnostic measurement, be it a TV, linear television, or be it digital.
There’s much work to be done and we are working with our relevant committees and industry experts to build a ground-breaking product that we can start rolling out in 2021.
In a way, I managed quite well. The lingering weakness takes time to resolve, I have figured out how to deal with it. Fear is not a word in my dictionary, and this only reinforced my faith in my strengths and for those who cared for me.
I was able to contribute by donating my plasma to those who needed it and I have continued to be a phone call away for anyone who’s affected and needed personal advice.
2021 will only be better than 2020. Post the lockdown, there’s a great need for everybody to have more compassion and learn to get more efficient sincerely.
If you care and smile, the world will care and smile back at you. That’s been my mantra for the last 21,900+ days of my life: Sunil Lulla
The year ahead:
Television continues to be the screen of the household. Many million homes are yet to get a TV Set. I see growth in television advertising and I hopefully see us rolling out digital measurement.
With the vaccine being rolled out, we can hope to put the worst behind us and look ahead with hope and promise for a healthy and prosperous year. As travel restrictions ease up, and people begin to feel at ease with in-person interactions, I look forward to meeting up with our stakeholders and subscribers across the country.
Some advice for all…
Stay healthy, stay smart, and stay ahead. So, I focus on my well-being, the well-being of my family, friends, colleagues, customers, and all those with whom we have a relationship in the supply chain. I ask for the best, and I try to give my best every single day. I underline–my drive is to simply work harder.
My idea of happiness:
If you care and smile, the world will care and smile back at you. That’s been my mantra for the last 21,900+ days of my life.