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Exit Interview: Sanjay Trehan On His Two Years At NDTV Convergence

sanjay-trehan-05After a two year stint at NDTV Convergence, CEO Sanjay Trehan has put in this papers, Exchange4Media reported earlier today. Trehan had joined the company from Indiatimes, where he had been VP (Broadband). We had spoken then about his plans for the NDTV Convergence, and this seemed to be as good an opportunity as any to get a sense of the work that has been done – both terms of products, and financial performance. We also asked him how his first year at Convergence was different from the second.

Trehan told us of two new developments at NDTV Convergence: the NDTV.com site has been revamped, and they are now streaming NDTV Profit online during market hours. He also shared inputs on revenues for NDTV Active, and Convergence as a whole. Excerpts from the interview:

Who will take over from you at NDTV Convergence?

Trehan: I have no information on NDTV plans to do. I put in my papers only yesterday.

Will you be moving to a standalone Internet company, or to an Internet company associated with a media company? There are two names doing the rounds right now…

Trehan: I am going to a brand where…it’s a brand that one will be proud of. Due to a non disclosure agreement, I am not at the liberty to disclose. It’s a brand where one has the opportunity to make a significant and disproportionate difference.

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You’ve spent the last two years building products at NDTV Convergence – Active, Khabar, among others. After having put products into place, wouldn’t you have liked to stay on to see the fulfillment on the revenue side?

ndtvTrehan: Last night we launched the new NDTV.com, and I’m enthused about the fact that was the last of my unfinished agendas. It’s a nice feeling to leave on a high when my mandate to incubate and launch various products has been completed. We’ve been working on this for the last 6 months. The site has been developed in collaboration with NBCU (Ed: NBC Universal has around 26% in NDTV Networks PLC, the parent company of NDTV Convergence). We have some interesting features and functionalities – the site has a liquid design, which means you can move the modules around. We’ve launched an interactive video wall.

There’s a lot of implicit personalization and contextual linking of stories on the site. This is the first step before we move to our ultimate destination of the semantic web space. So some semantic web elements have been incorporated. We have also used innovative iconography, inspired by Apple design. Last night we also made available the live transmission of NDTV Profit as a channel on the web. This is the third channel that we have made available live, between market hours – from 9:30am to 4pm. This is ad supported, and free of cost. In a nutshell, it has been a positive and enriching experience.

So wouldn’t you have liked to stay on to see the fulfillment on the revenue side?

Trehan: Lets talk about NDTV Active – it has already become profitable. We were doing Rs. 70,000 per month revenue six months ago. Now we’re touching around Rs. 5 lakhs. The page views that I’m serving are close to 4 million on NDTV Active. In a philosophical way, I would have liked to take these products to the logical evolution, but one has to look at…the complete picture and not one part of the picture.

The information that we have on the companys performance is related only to your first year there – the turnover was Rs. 4.9 crores for 2007-08, and a 5 crore loss…

The turnover has increased by around 100%. It’s only been a short stint of two years, and we’ve also managed to create 10-12 products, and hardly burnt any cash.

Is the company in the black?

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Not yet, but at the current traction, the company is well poised to be EBITDA positive.

We’ve also heard about significant cost rationalizations over the past few months..

That is across the media, but there have been no job losses at Convergence as of now. We are in the process of realigning certain SBUs.

When you had joined, we had discussed the fact that NDTV properties were fragmented. Some properties like Music, Cooks, Doctor still remain…

What you’re seeing at NDTV.com today is step one of the revamp. In the next three to four months, you will see all these properties you’ve mentioned, collapsing and converging under a holistic lifestyle and entertainment banner. We are collapsing NDTV into five strategic verticals, and NDTV.com will be the mother ship.

How does Tubaah fit into this?

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Tubaah is a product concieved as a video content aggregator – and it will be harnessing non-NDTV content. It’s a standalone brand. The brands that we will be building are – NDTV.com, NDTVKhabar.com, NDTVProfit.com, Tubaah and NDTV Active. The smaller verticals will fall into lifestyle and news. Convergence will also be managing the channel properties of the group – NDTV Good Times, Imagine, Metronation and Arabia.
You were are Convergence for 2 years. How would you compare the first year with the second?
When I came in, there was no office and no team. I would like to think that I was like an architect, doing the groundwork, preparing the foundation in the first year. The second year has been very exciting because we were working according to a specific gameplan. We had prepared the blueprint when I came in. Each of the milestones were clearly articulated – I wanted to get into the Hindi video space, the video aggregation, mobile WAP space. I want to convert NDTV.com from a news vertical to a gateway. The last 12 months have been very fulfilling.

(Updates: changed photo; Closed Comments; Moderated some potentially defamatory anonymous comments on request)

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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