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Versatile Storyteller

By Ajita Shashidhar     September 17, 2016

The queen of television soap operas, Ekta Kapoor, Joint Managing Director and Creative Head, Balaji Telefilms, says 24 hours in a day are not enough for her. This isn't surprising, as she is forever hopping from one content meeting to another. She is, after all, the creator of the most hit shows on Indian television.

It is television that keeps the cash registers of her Rs 247-crore content company ringing as the Bollywood foray has been a mixed success so far. There are even talks of possible shutdown of the Bollywood business. Kapoor denies this. "I am restructuring the film business but certainly not writing it off," she says.

However, what is currently making Kapoor burn the midnight oil is Alt Digital, her latest venture that will offer digital content for mobiles, computers, tablets, smart TVs, etc. She is excited about it as she will finally be able to own the intellectual property (IP) rights of the content that she will create for the platform. Kapoor had always wanted to be a broadcaster and was close to launching a Hindi general entertainment channel in 2008, but the global financial meltdown forced her to shelve her plans. "Every investor I meet tells me that when I own the IP, there will be a sea change in the way the market perceives my company," she says. She has proved her creative prowess by doing films such as The Dirty Picture and Ek Tha Villain that don't fall into the category of family dramas that she is known for. She says her digital content will be even more out of the box. "Eighty per cent content will be something you have never seen in India," she says. On television, too, Kapoor has been trying to break out of the saas-bahu mould that she is synonymous with by doing shows such as Jodha Akbar and Kavach.

Raj Nayak, CEO of Colors, says Balaji, and especially Kapoor, knows the pulse of viewers. "She is able to hold people's attention for months. I have no doubt that she will be able to strike a chord with the upper-end digital audiences, too." Nayak says she is the most professional and hands-on creative person he has ever interacted with. "The moment she realises a show isn't doing well, she herself suggests that it be pulled off air."

For the last couple of years, Kapoor has been trying to transform Balaji from a family- and promoter-driven company to a professionally run business. "I attended a programme in Harvard in 2013 where I learnt the importance of delegation and skill sensitivity to run a business. I realised the importance of having a larger manage-ment bandwidth to build a scalable business." Kapoor's first step towards professi-onalisation was setting up a board of directors with independent members. She also roped in former Star India honcho Sameer Nair as the Group CEO.

Nair, who gave Kapoor her first break in the world of television by airing her soap opera, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, on Star Plus, says her understanding of the business has evolved significantly over the years. "When I first met her way back in 2000, her only forte was story telling. Over the years, her understanding of business and numbers has vastly improved."

So, where does Kapoor see Balaji Telefilms five years from now? "I want to own customers across platforms and connect with rural masses as well as the upmarket millennial with equal ease," she says.


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