You’ve led teams at Sony, Omnicom & Sky (currently). Were there challenges specific to the industry / company, or you noticed a similar pattern in leadership obstacles?
I have worked in the media world for well over 2 decades but the pace of change in the past 4 years has been seismic! And especially in the past 6 months, the tectonic plates have been dramatically altered! And as a leader, one must be braced for continuous change and be prepared for VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) which has become pretty much the norm.
When I was at Sony way back in 2007, the challenges were totally different in the sense that Blackberry was the hottest device, (the iPhone hadn’t launched till summer of ’07) there wasn’t a Netflix, Amazon was a retailer with books still as its forte, Facebook was a novelty, TikTok didn’t exist and so the world was pretty different. The only competitors were traditional linear TV networks and the challenge was how Sony could retain premium subscribers who were paying for our service above and beyond the traditional public sector / free to air broadcasters.
At Omnicom – I joined in late 2010, the challenge for me was how we could make clients / brands across the whole of Omnicom Media Group future-fit, especially on the changing demographics of Britain where the ethnic / multicultural population was on the rise but brands were overlooking them in terms of targeted / culturally relevant messages.
At Sky – where I am working since 2016, it is all about growth and how we can keep growing within the changing ecosystem with the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Meta, TikTok, Twitter, et all. But my remit at Sky is again to make sure that we are being culturally relevant as a brand – in the Multicultural context in the UK and also how we can leverage the ‘Sky’ brand across International territories in India, Middle East & Africa.
How can brands drive the right cultural connection with their audience?
In today’s environment, brands need to be true and authentic with their core consumers. They must do an audit of their customer base and check whether their communications / messaging / media spend is being reflective of that audience both in terms of content as wells as media plan. If not, they should be honest about it and ask for change from their marketing / communication partners. In the borderless, open world that we live in – consumers are far more sophisticated and educated than the times of David Ogilvy in his heydays – way back in 1955 one of David’s famous quote was ‘The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife’. So I leave it to you and your readers to know how the consumer has evolved a good 70 years since!!!
Do you think inclusive marketing is a must in the modern landscape?
Absolutely! No one today wants to be one of the many and get overlooked but they want to be acknowledged, respected and wooed at the same time. And ‘inclusive marketing’ is key to all this. Everyone likes a personalised service and the same stands true for marketing…..as an example – when I walk in to the supermarket to buy a chocolate, all the brands right from Nestle to Mondelez stand an equal chance of being picked up in my shopping basket. But if a particular brand ‘x’ were to connect with me in an inclusive manner, respecting my culture and background, the probability of me picking that particular brand ‘x’ over others is significant! Think about it…..and all of this is possible only when you indulge in inclusive, personalised marketing initiatives.
One recent example is the ICC World Test Championship between India & Australia promo that I did the voice over by working with my colleagues across at Sky Sports and Sky Creative. We ran the promo during the finals of the Indian Premier League (IPL) finals that Sky broadcast in the UK and I received some rave reviews on this initiative.
Being one of Europe’s largest media companies, how does Sky continue to drive innovation and make entertainment simple and more accessible?
Sky has a bunch of passionate and committed colleagues with a ‘never say die’ attitude and we are well known in the industry that one mustn’t ever bet against Sky. Our single minded obsession in listening to our customers and make TV viewing, especially with the plethora of available content led us to creating Sky Glass, followed by Sky Stream (a puck device that turns your existing TV to a Sky Glass interface), Sky Protect…..the list goes on and on. We listen to customer feedback, try our hardest to mitigate the pain points is what leads us to creating better experiences for our consumers. It’s all about simplicity and ease in a complex world!
You were born in India and have established a successful career in the UK. Has your diverse background made you a better leader?
Without a doubt! Growing up in a secular country like India teaches you a lot about diverse thinking in a subliminal way – as East of India is different to West, and same for North of India compared to the Southern parts of India. And growing up in Mumbai which is a cosmopolitan hub with people all over India, you learn to adapt pretty quickly and work in an amicable and amenable manner. All of this has in a natural way helped me in good stead whilst working in Dubai, Singapore and London (since 2004 when I moved to the UK). And probably last but not is the least is the family-oriented thinking that was imbibed in my early years by my parents!
Another big thing for me is that I treat people the way I like to be treated!
What’s your leadership philosophy?
Lead by example from the front but with empathy. Also surround yourself with people who are good at complementary skills so that ‘together’, we can all make that ‘big difference’.
Debarshi Pandit , SVP- International Business / Head of Multicultural Business + Co- Chair of Multiculture @Sky Network
An entrepreneurial, commercially savvy business leader with an eagle eye for generating incremental revenue opportunities, Debarshi has worked in international advertising agencies the likes of Omnicom Media Group, McCann-Erickson & Lowe of the IPG group, and Ogilvy and Mather, of the WPP Group across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Currently, he works at Sky (Europe’s largest entertainment company) heading up an incremental revenue-generating unit primarily through inclusion initiatives.
Possessing an entrepreneurial zeal and being a cultural evangelist, Debarshi runs a newly created unit wherein his objective is to drive a positive organizational culture change through the ‘Believe In Better’ philosophy of Sky by working across various business units, indulging in a holistic approach and exploiting synergies to a competitive advantage.
Debarshi’s remit is to identify the unique Multicultural targeting opportunity that could be leveraged by Sky compared to its immediate competitors. And his work is evident in the new ethnic advertisers who have come on board at Sky when it aired the Indian Premier League cricket, ICC Champions Trophy, Pro Kabaddi League including unique targeting opportunities during the festive periods of Ramadan leading to Eid and Diwali through Sky’s unique addressable TV offering Sky AdSmart.
Debarshi’s role is also to enlighten and empower media / creative agencies to target audiences indulging in cultural viewing of content from across the globe making the right relevant cultural connection between brands and viewers. In the process, Debarshi tries to make sure that media campaigns are being inclusive of the wider society.
In addition to the Multicultural portfolio, Debarshi also covers Sky’s interests on the DSTV platform in Africa, Middle East and also India where his mandate is to work with clients, agencies, partners and make them aware of Sky’s commanding leadership position in Europe.
Debarshi has also been invited in his capacity as a speaker & judge for award entries to numerous prestigious events in the media calendar like the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, Festival of Media Global in Rome, Diversity in Media & Advertising and the Festival of Marketing in London.