Employee Speak : Neeraj Roy , Managing Director and CEO, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.: V3 Issue 1


1. Congratulations on Hungama’s new visual identity!  It is very interesting – do share your thoughts on what prompted this change in identity?

The new logo is more contemporary and is represented by a triangle, which is actually a depiction of the ‘PLAY’ button.  It is formed by the intersection of three triangles represented in blue, green and orange indicating forward and continuous motion. It is also synonymous with the entertainment world, which we are into, be it mobile or online entertainment. The three colours are derivatives of the primary colours from a digital perspective. They actually represent the three digital screens that make up the world today – PC, mobile and Internet TV. The brand name, Hungama, is written in lower case in blue. Blue is a universal, natural and sky colour indicating infinite possibilities. The letter 'G' in the logo is incomplete and will remain so in the quest for perfection, adding irreverence to our brand identity and indicating our urge to challenge convention and define our own benchmarks. It also highlights our desire to innovate and represents a work in a state of motion.


2. You were the only Indian to address the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona in February 2008? In hindsight, has the mobile entertainment industry progressed as envisaged?

Yes it’s been good but it could have been much better had we taken decisions on certain infrastructural related investments earlier.  It’s been now 3 years and we are still talking about introduction of 3G whereas the world is already moving into more advanced environments of 3.5 and 4. The government has aided certain parts of it but has created some kind of an over competitive environment right now. Scenarios where you have 11 telecom companies in 1 single market and another 5 coming up rarely exist.


3. Are you as a company ready with products centered on the 3G technology?

Oh yes! There is a suite of products and services that we have. Essentially, 3G or broadband will enable more people easy access to the internet through the phone. If you look at the internet today as the new form of education and not as a medium of information, then this will not only enhance people’s livelihood but also overall economic prosperity.  Research conducted all over the world shows that there is a direct correlation of enhanced and deeper broadband penetration with GDP growth of those countries.  So I think in that context what it leads to is a more digital lifestyle.  For e.g. young couples using an internet enabled 3G product can keep an eye on what is happening with their children. If a country like ours understands the platforms and technologies for this then as a company we will definitely be  at the forefront of enabling and leading to a digital and mobile lifestyle.


4. Considering that 3G phones are fairly expensive wouldn’t this technology cater to only a certain section of the urban population?

Not true!  In the mobile business niche is the new mass and everything is mass as it were if you see this thing more holistically. Globally the mobile data business will be 124 billion dollars next year, of which Mobile Entertainment will account for 42 billion dollars. In that, music, imagery video, gaming are principal constituents to it.  Now there are two things.  One is the device - the mobile phone, the laptop, the PC, or the television. It has an ability to store more now because memory is becoming a commodity. The second is that connectivity is becoming faster and therefore you can access a lot. And once you start thinking in that manner that’s really what this ecosystem is all about and in many ways convergence is becoming a reality.  You are on your PC or laptop and then you move forward into your blackberry, you are connected and you get into your Tata Sky.  The adoption of this is of course related to price point because it has to be viable for a large enough audience. But today a 3G enabled phone is available for Rs.5000/-.


5. As the new chairman of Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) what are the top two initiatives on your agenda?

MEF, a body that founded in the UK about 8 years back is made up of 250+ of the most prolific companies across a range of businesses that are all a part of the entire mobile and digital entertainment ecosystem - content owners, broadcasters, record companies, companies like ours, a whole host of technology companies etc. Among the numerous initiatives our thrust areas in 2009 are:-


6. How do you see the economic slowdown impacting the mobile entertainment industry globally and in India?

I think there is not an individual or business in this world which has not or will not continue to be impacted in some manner or the other and I mean it.  Whatever has happened, is happening and is likely to happen can only be best described as unprecedented and certainly somethingwhich there will be very few people who can turnaround and say that I have witnessed something of this nature before in my lifetime.  Even the economic depression in 1929-33 etc did not have this enormity and the world was not as flat or as connected as it is today. The scary part is of course that whatever is about to happen is likely to be even more dangerous in many ways than what we have witnessed till now.  So that’s a given.  So everything gets calibrated, adjusted and has a caveat attached to them in the current circumstances. 

But when you look at the mobile telephony data in India, the last 3 months have consistently been record breaking months.  The reason for that is that the mobile phone today has become such a utility that it not just makes you connect with people but has the power and potential of changing economic lifestyles.  For eg: If there are 350 million people currently accessing mobile services, even ITC and Unilever don’t reach more than 250 million customers.  Now to a customer in a small town, even basic information like electricity today will come at 3 pm empowers him to utilize the time before 2 pm to do other work rather than just wait by the pump.  Even something as elementary as that opens people’s mind. So even if one has to save 1000 Rupees to get a phone connection one will do so.  It is no longer a luxury.  So I think in that context the trend is positive and insulated from the rest of the world.  If the condition deteriorates then there is bound to be more pressure. Therefore ME growth is very closely linked to customer acquisition growth. If customer grows and gets on to a service there is no reason why he will not want his music, video etc.


7. What about the Digital Entertainment Industry? How do you see it getting impacted by the economic slowdown?

People may not want to change their music so often. Until now, that is the first few months of this blood bath; we have not witnessed that trend.   This is unlike a lot of industries which have literally cramped up like the realty industry.  Because construction is cramped up, steel goes through a crunch, cement goes through a crunch.  You cannot produce. And even if you do how do you stock that because there is lack of space.  Whereas our products and services being digital do not have a physical element to it and can exist somewhere in the ecosystem.


8. What are some of the measures that you have taken for managing the impact of the economic slowdown on Hungama?

All CAPEX is being very closely reviewed. We are preparing our people in a fair way, giving our employees a chance to enhance efficiency or pull up their socks if required.  The investments related negotiation process has seen a very hard nosed approach and as a result, we have seen a tremendous amount of positive fall out.  For example when we were looking for an office space in Delhi, we just stalled saying we are not buyers in the market right now.  And within a matter of four weeks we have seen as high as a 30% drop in prices.


9. Please share your thoughts on what you think business leaders should be doing differently to be prepared for or even prevent another economic meltdown like this in future?

I would like to talk about this more from an entrepreneurial perspective rather than how to avoid an economic crisis of this nature.  In my mind there is a very simple straightforward two word solution “Prevent Greed!”   I think that’s essentially what has resulted in this.

What can businesses do?  I think conserving cash is the first on the agenda for any business at this point in time.  It is going to be a commodity which will be fairly scarce.  It will certainly be available for businesses that have robust profitable pieces because it is not as if liquidity is not there but you have to be very tight fisted the way you approach it.  The second part is that you have to at times like this, talk more, both internally and externally. You have to communicate a lot more, both good and bad news.  You should not be shielding and protecting people from bad news or hiding things because I believe these are times which call for demonstration of even higher levels of transparency and trust to the internal and external stakeholders. This will ensure you come out holding hands, forming human chains and saying that we will not succumb to scenarios like this and we will overcome. That brings about a certain sense of motivation and drive. And the third part is that if you are fundamentally in businesses that you are confident about, then I would urge and encourage businesses to demonstrate pragmatic aggression. So you should certainly be on the look out for assets, whether it be human capital or in businesses. But do not necessarily jump to concluding deals right now because you are likely to get some very very good deals at this time so you can consolidate and strengthen your position even more.  In our own small way that is also the practice we are following.

    • Mobile Internet initiative: This is related to what you can do with getting more access to internet through mobile. To give you a perspective - there are a little over a billion people who are accessing the internet mostly through their PC, where as there are 4 billion people who have access to mobile phones, there are only 4.2 billion people who have access to toothbrushes in this world.  So you know it is the highest adoption of any form of technology in the world.  It is our belief that the next 2 billion people will access the internet not necessarily through the PC but through a converged mobile device of sorts. 

    • Ad-funded mobile entertainment: Until now this 30 to 35 billion dollar industry has largely been very transactional in nature i.e., it’s a consumer buying a product from a telecom company. Now the telecom companies are themselves becoming media companies thus reaching 85 to 87 billion consumers.  When you become a company of that size, you are also in that zone where you are a media company and when you are a media company, brands naturally need to participate in that entire ecosystem. So we feel that this wholebusiness of ME which is currently a transaction between a consumer and the operator will soon get a big boost because the brand will then turn around and say… “You know what, you want this video?  This game? This music? This service? I will give it to you or subsidise it for you” and that is what is called Ad-Funded mobile entertainment.  That is another thing that we are looking at and within that mobile advertising will be another area. 

Determine who Controls Your Life: Activity Corner: V3 Issue 1

Locus of control is the degree to which people believe they are masters of their own fate. Internals believe that they are masters of their own fate. Externals see themselves as pawns of fate, believing that what happens to them in their lives is due to luck or chance.

To determine your locus of control read the following statements and indicate whether you agree more with choice A or choice B.


Scoring direction to “Determine who controls your life”

Give yourself 1 point for each of the following choices: 1B, 2A, 3A, 4B, 5B, 6A, 7A, 8A, 9B and 10A. Scores can be interpreted as follows:

The higher your internal score, the more you believe that you control your own destiny. The higher your external score, the more you believe that what happens to you in your life is due to luck or chance. Internals typically are more satisfied with their jobs and more involved in their jobs.

Source: Robbins, SP, 1994, ‘Organizational Behavior’, 6th edition, Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Book Review: V3 Issue 1

Title: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Steven R. Covey

Publication details: Simon & Schruster Ltd, Great Britain, 1992

Number of pages: 355 pages

Since first being introduced to this classic book on personal development as part of my MBA course, I have revisited it several times and got something new out of it, every time. I again find ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven R. Covey relevant for today’s business context of uncertainty and economic upheaval. We are experiencing higher levels of stress with events like salary cuts and layoffs. In times like these it is essential that we stay grounded within ourselves and not loose faith in our own abilities. This book helps focus on the things you can control i.e., things within your “Circle of Control” rather than “Circle of Influence” and helps you stay confident and less stressedIt says…“It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.” What is more the book’s step-by-step holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for living gives one the security to adapt to change, and the wisdom and power to take advantage of the opportunities that change creates.

Covey begins the book by discussing how we all have our own paradigms (map of how we perceive the world and how we think the world should be), the source of our attitudes and behaviors. We must begin ‘Personal Effectiveness’ by examining our own character, paradigms, and motives rather than looking at our problems as "being out there". This ‘inside-out’ approach says “If you want to have more freedom, more latitude in your job, be a more responsible, a more helpful, a more contributing employee…” Hence, Covey argues that character and principles are keys to success, effectiveness, and happiness in life. And that there are no quick fixes that will work permanently.

Covey then details out the ‘Seven Habits’ that will help you develop personally and so become more effective in how you live, work and relate with other people. The ‘Seven Habits’ help us move through three stages of personal development. The first three viz., be proactive, begin with the end in mind and put first things first, take you from dependence to independence. The next three viz., think "win/win", seek first to understand and then to be understood and synergise usher you along to interdependence, and the seventh viz., sharpen the saw is needed to reinforce the other habits. The habits are inter-related and synergistic, yet each one is powerful and worthy of being adopted and followed in its own right.

Apart from explaining vividly and developing a case for inculcating each of the habits, Covey also provides concrete exercises to apply and develop these habits over a period of time. For instance for the habit ‘synergise’ he suggests “Make a list of people who irritate you. Do they represent different views that could lead to synergy if you had greater intrinsic security and valued the difference?” The examples scattered throughout the book help reinforce the value of each habit. Covey illustrates the think "win/win", with the story of how a management training program was revamped. This not only resulted in saving costs for the company by reducing the training period drastically, but also in producing highly motivated and well trained set of management trainees.

What made the book an interesting read for me was that it integrates many useful concepts - personal scripts, importance and urgent quadrant, abundance mentality, principles of successful change, visioning, empathetic listening, effective delegation...the list can go on and on. Also the fact that Covey is quite specific helps. For example he recommends that one must devote an hour everyday to sharpen one’s saw viz., the habit of self renewal.

Like many self-help books, much of what you read here is common sense. However, what Covey manages to do so successfully is to convince the readers to take a long hard look at themselves. But, the only real way to test the value of the habits is to work on them and find out for oneself. While anybody embarking on a journey of self development will find this book valuable, it is a must read for every aspiring Manager.

Leading in Tough Times – Some Perspectives : Feature Article; V3 Issue 1

In easy times resources are relatively abundant and the environment is relatively stable. Employees are excited, committed and eager to contribute. Potential customers are cash rich and are willing and able to buy your product. You can reasonably assume what works today will work tomorrow.  In difficult times the opposite is true and the business is challenged on multiple dimensions. What this essentially means is that in tough times leaders need to review and re-calibrate their leadership stance to sustain energy in their companies and to ensure their companies continue thriving.


Sustaining the energy

Let’s begin with the balance required between optimism and critical skepticism. In easy times, it is the leader’s responsibility to be skeptical when everyone around is getting excited and thinking everything will work. Being skeptical enough to ensure that passion and drive find effective and productive channels, works in good times. In difficult times, you need to lean towards the other end ie., keeping hope alive and reminding everyone about the numerous possibilities. Grounded optimism, reinforced with data keeps team energies buoyant. It’s a delicate balance to strike – grounded optimism which convinces the team, not exaggerated optimism that makes the rest of the organization skeptical. Stay credible enough to persuade. And also be inspiring.

I like this example of inspiration. At the end of World War II, Japanese business leader Matsushita stood before a gathering of his dejected, demoralized workforce, in an occupied country, with all the company’s inventory taken by the occupying power. He spoke about how taking the lead in quality and innovation and low prices would force competitors to do the same and “in 250 years would eliminate poverty in Japan.” He sat down to silence. Then, one by one his employees stood up, some with tears in their eyes, and said “I think I could dedicate my life to this.” Much of Japan’s progress can be traced back to moments like this in its history. As a leader you must also leverage the power of a shared purpose in these tough times.  Focus energy on long-term goals, especially stretch ones. Goals set a direction. Every day, people will think of that goal and how to move towards it. A stretch goal is like the Star. If you keep your eye fixed on the Star, you aim high and challenge your abilities - you may not reach the Star. But you will also go farther up than someone who is looking only at the apple on a tree. In difficult times, stretch goals look even more unattainable than they do in easy times. You will find people throwing up their hands, saying “That’s impossible! I’m just going to stay focused on the apple.”  As a leader, watch out for this tendency and help them deal with it.

Now in the process of reaching for the Stars there are bound to be mistakes. Adding to that, the cautious sentiment slows responses to changing environmental conditions, stress levels are higher and mistakes tend to get magnified. Also mistakes are more often visible since the world is less forgiving, now. Make your people realize how in such times, it is even more important that we handle mistakes and disappointments well. Mistakes are part of learning how to be effective in the current context.   If we handle a mistake well, the penalty is small. If we mishandle it say by covering it up etc then the penalty can be severe. Honest mistakes are not avoidable and rarely will they destroy a company. But not dealing with them in an honest and straightforward manner can have far reaching negative consequences for the company. Feeling less valuable, less knowledgeable, and less effective are likely outcomes of making more mistakes.  And this can sap productivity. As a leader, you can help ensure that those perfectly normal feelings do not interfere with your team members’ ability to contribute. Ensure your people retain confidence in themselves.

Another thing that can happen is infighting. When budgets are tighter, it is quite common to see employees becoming defensive, territorial, and competitive. Intensified negative politics at all levels can sap valuable energy and focus, causing a failure in meeting the challenges of facing external threats from competitors, customers, and suppliers. So, create more opportunities to bring your people together, encouraging questions and healthy discussions.

When the going is good there is money to spend on training and benefits, career growth opportunities exist, monetary rewards are strong. Limited business growth impacts all of them and employees may feel financially challenged.   Let people know that "we are in this together." You must also make sacrifices if you are asking or expecting your people to do so. Consider the example of Delta Airlines. While the senior people at most airlines took bonuses amidst record losses, the CEO of Delta Airlines turned down his yearly salary. This prompted a business column to say that Delta was "least likely" to go out of business of all major U.S. airlines. So, say a big ‘NO’ to any management bonuses while initiating layoffs.

Talking of layoffs, in tough times, employees get nervous about job security, career progress and sustainability of company operations. When things are going good, employees hearing about them through newspapers is fine. But bad news should always be conveyed by insiders first. Leaders should keep the channels of communication wide open, keeping people informed about what is happening and how the company is responding. When rumors do emerge, respond promptly. Communicate more than usual and more than you think you need to. During tough times employees need to see more of you. Taking regular rounds and chatting up with employees is essential in such times to be more visible and accessible. There is the story of Xenophon, a Greek military leader in 400 B.C.E., who believed in the value of making himself accessible to even the lowest ranks of his men. With the Athenian army in danger of imminent attack and its back to a raging river two of Xenophon’s foot soldiers managed to locate a river crossing that would allow the army to escape. Because of the trust between the leader and his followers they went directly to Xenophon with their discovery. Xenophon took immediate action, and the army succeeded in escaping.

Now I know I have not touched upon the business aspects in our discussion. I leave that to the management strategist. But a clear opportunity exists to align the entire organization for efficiency. Improve the coordination and alignment of departments, strengthen performance tracking and review mechanisms, focus on waste management, lean principles etc.   Leaders should frame an agenda and meet with key stakeholders to gain support and build commitment to efficiency goals.

More than ever be curious, become aware - to understand and deal with your company’s situation better.  You need fresh ideas to help you respond to the new challenges and opportunities effectively. Read more broadly than before. Be alert for trends, ideas and approaches that you have never explored before. Question your assumptions. Always ask yourself: “What if…” and explore possibilities.  Connect with leading thinkers in your industry.  

Lastly a word on values and culture, Ok maybe more than a word. Under tough conditions, typically rational people can start to act in ways that are self-destructive and dangerous for the organization. In such scenarios organization’s values and culture can protect against this. A person previously good with maintaining client relationships may now start focusing more on squeezing the client rather than considering the best interests of the client. But a company that values client progress will be able to discourage such behaviour. In difficult times leaders have to pay even more attention to the values and culture of their organization. One way to do this is by a leader personally responding to changes effectively.


Personally responding to changes effectively

Your assumptions dictate your personal response to changes. Personal responses predispose you to certain behaviors or practices. Your behavior sets the tone for the behaviors of other people in the organization. This is how your company’s culture is formed. Hence responding effectively to any change be it recession or some other crisis is essential. Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. in his article ‘Here We Go Again Leading in Tough Times’ describes the following three common personal responses of a leader to change, with corresponding alternate and effective responses for each one.

Exemplary leadership
The most striking leadership we have seen in recent times has been the way Barack Obama ran his election campaign despite being faced with many challenges. Business leaders can draw lots of lessons from the way he organized and led his campaign team.

  • Obama created a grassroots movement by building an ever expanding organization of empowered leaders, who in turn engaged people from their social networks like Facebook.

  • The entire organization was aligned around a single goal of electing Obama as President, a reaching for the Stars goal.

  • Everybody operated with common values - "Offer messages of hope, don't denigrate our opponents, refuse to make deals".

  • Campaign leaders subordinated their egos and personal ambitions to the greater goal. Those who deviated quickly exited.

  • Obama set a clear, consistent tone from the top and never wavered, even when things weren't going well.

  • Obama's greater mission transcended internal goals, such as fundraising, endorsements, and campaign events. Each of these areas had goals tied to the greater mission.

  • The campaign team used the most modern Internet tools to communicate, motivate and inspire people and to guide their actions. Each day, 5 million people received personal messages from campaign headquarters or even Obama himself. This organization collaborated across a wide range of geographies and campaign functions, all tightly integrated nationally and executed locally.



There are several ways to lead differently in tough times. The ones I have listed are only a few among them. But what is important for you as a leader is to reflect. Reflect on every aspect of your leadership, on what you normally do and then see what you need to do differently. Some actions may have to be done a little differently and, others quite differently. This approach will see you providing effective leadership for your people, in good times as well as bad.



  • Lehman, J, ‘Leadership in difficult times is different’, Jan 13 2009, http://www.livemint.com/2009/01/13212610/Leadership-in-difficult-times.html?h=B.
  • Dr. Izzo, J, ‘Leading in Tough Times’, September 2008, http://www.theizzogroup.com/pdfs/NL/The%20Enlightened%20Leader%20Volume%2025%20Sept. %202008%20Dr.%20John%20Izzo.pdf.
  • Colan,L.,J, ‘Here We Go Again Leading in Tough Times’, http://changethis.com/pdf/53.03.DownturnLeadership.pdf.
  • ‘How to inspire people in tough times - Kotter on Matsushita’, http://www.theleadershiphub.com/blogs/how-inspire-people-tough-times-kotter-matsushita.
  • George,B, ‘Obama: A leader for the ‘we’ generation’, Jan. 19, 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28693786/.
  • Slack,K, ‘Leading During a Recession’,http://www.forum.com/libraries/white_paper/leadrcssus.pdf.