E6: Trends & Careers in Media and Advertising ft. Megha Tata, MD Discovery India

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In the sixth episode of Insider Investing, we are excited to host Megha Tata- Managing Director of Discovery India and the President of International Advertising Association (IAA), India Chapter. With an illustrious career spanning over 3 decades with media giants like Star, HBO and Discovery, Megha is widely recognized as an Influencer & Thought Leader in the media & advertising space.

Tune in to this deep dive into her early childhood, journey in media, the future trends in entertainment & advertising, and her mantras for a balanced life. Megha also discusses the recent innovations with Discovery+, the constant need for experimentation & differentiation, how TV & Digital Media is evolving, and her personal investing journey.

Episode Transcript


Hi, in this exciting episode of insider investing, we are hosting MeghaTata who's MD of Discovery in India. In this episode, we cover the transition that is happening in the media industry. We also talk about how influencers are impacting advertising and in general, how Megha brings balance to the multiple things that she does with her life.

Hi Megha, this is a special episode of Insider Investing for us for the very first time we have an industry leader from media and advertising, and you know, one of the things that happened was when we were going through your profile and we were reaching out to you. I saw that you run discovery, you were president of the international advertising association in India, you are a biker, you are a yoga practitioner and you are an Isha volunteer. I was struggling to reconcile how all of these can fit into one CV. How do you make the time for this? 


Thanks Sandeep first of all, such a warm welcome and a warm introduction. Well, yeah, it is a, it is something which I've managed to do whatever capacity, you know, identify time to Focus on each of these things, because I'm of the opinion that, one doesn't have to live a life of either, or it is an end world we live in and it has to be an "and" life. And Why can't I manage both or multiple other roles, which I love to play as well. So yeah, I think it is about having the right attitude.

And that's what I bring to the table and I always try to say, okay, you know, got to do everything right. And, the fact is that, you know, it's, you can't be perfect in everything. Like you get some, you lose some. So I may not be the best biker, I might not be the best executive. I might not be the best teacher volunteer, and I might not be the best yoga practitioner, but I enjoy every role I play.

And I think that to me is more important than whatever you do. You do it from the passion of it, the love of it, and you do it to your best capability and then let the rest flow. So that's how I somehow managed to find time for everything. 


But it's interesting. You say that you know that you have to enjoy what you do.

And I like this. Let's go a little deeper into that. It's today, you know, there's so much pressure of performance at work. And even when you're doing something personally, I feel like there are some of us, myself included, who get very competitive about it, like "Karna hai toh Acche se karna hai" And you seem to have a different philosophy.

You're like, like really revel in what you're doing. How did you come to that point? Like, 


Of course I am. And, and you know, I'm not doing anything like, especially my professional journey has been very, I've been ambitious and I've been competitive, but I came from a point of enjoying the journey than being too, you know, as cliche as it might get, you know, worrying about the destination.

And, you know, this is something I've spoken a lot about wherever I speak. I never tired of saying this, but you've got to be passionate about what you do, right. If you come from the point of fashion, then it doesn't really matter. I mean, don't worry about doing this because I want to. You know, I am doing that because I want to achieve this, but you just do it because you love it, do it because you enjoying it, do it because you really feel that every day you want to get up and do something meaningful that if you come with that attitude, Then I think, you know, anything, all the, everything else is a byproduct, you know, everything falls into your lap in many ways.

So I think, I've I have been ambitious and I continue to be, but it's not at the cost of getting. Like, everything has to be kept aside and I would just focus on getting my career ambitions right. And I think that's a waste of life. That's a waste of time. It's one life you have. There's so much to do. I mean, even if you think, if you're alluding to the fact that I do a lot, I am, I'm doing nothing. I mean, I'd love to do much more, you know, I, so it's just that the timing, you know, There is that much you can do to the table, but I know of people who can do even more and there are people who don't can't even do one thing, right?

So that's the choice you have to have. And that's the choice only you can make. And I am supposed to play these multiple roles or indulgence, some of these things, because I said, you know what I mean, life has to go on. And like John Lennon said that, you know, life will pass you by while you're making plans. I don't want to be in that space.


I love the fact that you talk about the passion and in the moment living it, because that's really when your best work also comes out. Right? Sometimes we probably overthink a lot of stuff as, especially at some, a lot of our listeners are working professionals. They think a lot about every action that they do and what it will mean in the long term.

But sometimes it's doing what feels right at the moment and enjoying it is probably the way to go. 


And some might feel it a bit simplistic and say that you try enjoying it, but still we have a lot to struggle with, but yeah, I mean, when I said life is a walk in the park, I mean, there is no utopia which exists.

You have to create your own utopian existence and you create your Utopia. Now you create your place of happiness. You create where you can, you are content because what makes you happy may not necessarily make me happy. Right. And vice- versa. So then why do, why does it have to be that one size has to fit all.

You know, your own happy space and your balance, you know, create your happy balance or where you manage your professional and your personal goals, then it's your choice. I mean, you have a choice. The fact is that every human being on this planet has a choice to be what you want to be. If you choose to make your life miserable, that's because you made that choice.

So you can blame everybody in the world largely because A, B and C X, Y, Z happened. I'm sorry. I mean, I don't believe in that. I mean, to me, I follow this thinking, you know, what my guru speaks and I really believe in that concept. It's not just because he's my guru, but because I really believe in the cause you have the choice to be what you want to be.

And so you really don't, you  know! 


I can see the Isha thought process, shining through, across the zoom call but, It's also interesting. Your own upbringing Megha happened across the country. You are in the armed forces. Family members grew up all over, as you said, Kashmir to Kanyakumari. How  much of that informs your journey in media and advertising?


Well, I think,  I, it would be a bit too foolhardy of me to say that I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I was a kid traveling around the country with my parents. I wasn't, I was, you know, I, in fact, at that time, when I used to move from one city to the other, I, me and my sister used to always be let up parents, are stepparents, you know, they, how can they take away from every three years, some schools, new friends, and, you know, we don't like.

I used to cry every time we leave a city and back up our bags and move into another place. But I think in hindsight, that really became a bedrock of who we are as individuals, both my assistant and I, and I think the fact that there is no other better learning. Life. And, and, you know, when you travel, you, know, so much about people and culture, and at that age, you don't understand that this is good for you, but I think all what we absorbed as kids in that, in different environments, we worked and we lived in the study in.

I think playing a key role in making us as the individuals we are to me was wonderful. In hindsight, like I said, it was a wonderful experience, but getting into the media and entertainment industry was just by fluke. You know, it was luck by chance as they say and right place, right time things just played out.

There was no clarity I had at that stage, what I wanted to do, but clearly, you know, I, if I was to play my life all over again, I would not change anything. I would go through this, uh, the choices I made pretty much the similar way. And, and so I, and life, of course, drag lots of things in place as well.

But I made those choices. Some were good, some were very wrong, but they all added a sense of learning. 


You know what the interesting thing is, like if you think about it, and today probably we don't realize it, but there's this one big change that has happened in the media today, media is dominant. We see it all around. You know, you're consuming media on your phone, on your TV and whatnot, but go back to 1992 And the early days satellite television was just coming in. It was probably not as much of a hard sector as it is today. How has the industry changed and maybe some parts of your journey also, right? you set up BDBI in India from scratch.

I think almost from scratch. I think it has a very small market share to have a leading news channel. Talk to us about that whole experience of almost like their entrepreneurial journey with the media. 


Yeah, it's interesting how you did. so when I started my journey, which was now I mostly put 30 odd years ago. I think, uh, it was clearly a very different world.

Right. You know, there was only one television channel which was Doordarshan. You probably were just born then. But, we came from an industry where it was by and large led by newspapers. Okay. So it was, uh, you know, the largest industry. There was no TV. There was no radio. And they were definitely not Digital. In that environment, when Star happened, when Zee happened on actually the first international channel, which made its inroads into the country was CNN. And that's where the Indian audiences saw. You know, a window to the world.

SANDEEP: All the Iraq war probably.


Right. So that was the first exposure that you can have sitting in India. You know, an international would play out change in the overall, I mean, of course it was very niche, but when Star happened and that completely changed the way people were viewing content.

I mean, to bring in international content like "Bold and Beautiful" and "Santa Barbara" and, you know, that kind of content, something which the country had never seen. And so suddenly a certain strata of society was finding that like, you know, life was based on when bold and beautiful things happened in Santa Barbara happened.

I still remember people were making their social plans based on like, I remember BoLD & Beautiful was at 8:00 PM AND Santa Barbara was at 8:30 PM. Everyone said you either come before 8 or you come after. 9:30 PM 'cause at one and a half hour. This is my time too. There was a very bingeable kind of content like the induction of soap opera into India.

And that was a game changer for the industry. And that's when people started understanding the value and the international content. And then of course, you know, other players came, see happened, Indian, Indian content happening. The world completely changed. That's when you realize that, you know, in hindsight, again, that we were part of history being made. At that time, when we joined all of us became the Motley crew who were part of the, like I say, they were the original stars of STAR. Um, they, we didn't know we were making history, you know, but we enjoyed every journey of it. We learned through the way we made a whole lot of mistakes.

We created jargon, which became industry norms. And that is, that's a highway. It's money gone by high, really? You know, and that's something you don't know you're doing it, why you're doing it, frankly. but, but it's wonderful to know that we were part of that whole you know, the whole tectonic shift, which happened in media consumption at that.

But from then on now, all my God has changed and how it's got even more complicated. It's even more exciting. And it's even more challenging. I think that is where,  probably the, the overall, I guess excitement lies for this industry right now.


I'm glad you think I'm that young, but, wonder years changed my life. So I do remember that entire experience we would come back home or leave from school.

Otherwise we would make a record, but we came back home early, just so that, um, we could, we could watch wonder years, but, you know, even lately a dramatic shift in how media and how probably you create and deliver content right. In the time that you've been running discovery, there has been a shift almost from, or what we think in e-commerce or startup world, uh, B to B to probably a D to C kind of a shift that has happened.

Right. And increasingly, now content is now. No longer one to many it's many to many, because there are so many content creators earlier studios used to create content networks used to create content. Today the guy on the street can create content and deliver it using YouTube. So, talk about these two factors.

The first being, how content distribution changed for you at discovery, and then this multis. A shift in content creation where different people are creating content and consumed by. 


Right. So discovery again has been one of the, you know, media organizations, which has, um, been originally. Like a linear business, like broadcasters, television networks, huge businesses across the globe, um, acquisitions happening around the globe by linear television networks, the pay-TV networks, the feed to air networks.

So it is a very television business and, and I think like many broadcasters who realize that. You know, that there is a business of today and there's a business of tomorrow and that transition had to happen by most media broadcasters, but they all happened in various stages of that journey. Right? Some people started earlier, some people need to, and some people who haven't started, you know, have a difficult way to survive.

And people shut down because they couldn't sort of manage to understand where the, how to work on the potential opportunities in the media industry. So I think when discovery is, well, it was about understanding that yes, we have a great network or linear business, but there is an opportunity. In the B2C space, like you rightly said, we were a B2B player moving from B2B to B2C, had to be done.

It wasn't an op, it wasn't a discussion. It was not an option. You have to get into it if you want to survive and thrive in this industry. So, and that's what happened, you know? So we were probably one of the later entrants in that space, but much like in the World. We have always grabbed our niche. You know, we've always been a complementary player.

We're not mine, what I started in the beginning of this chat was that we are not an either or we are aligned as like, if you want, you may have. Coming in from your general entertainment, you desire to watch that content. But you also like to watch content like us, you know, and we become the best platform to be a complementary platform into your daily, uh, you know, content needs, which you have.

We are not competing. We are actually complimenting- You know, so that is why we feel that Discovery Plus when we launched, created that opportunity for even in the OTT space, because while this is how we, we did in the linear world, because while they were being mass channels fighting, the big GCE wars, Discovery, created its niche and continues to lead in that even today.

Because there is a, there is an audience who would like to watch content like us and similarly in the discovery plus world. So that's what has happened. So I think, it's, it's, uh, that's where the changing, consumers, you know, so, you know, consumer is the key, right. She needs to be provided content wherever she wants to watch it.

You have to follow her wherever she wants, right? So she wants it on TV or she wants it on a smart device or she wants it to watch it on, on the go. Then you got to give it to her. You don't have a choice. So as. As a content creating platform, you know, yet all content creators in some form of the other, we have to be able to bring, we have to connect that.now, or you're reduced to be via.

Now it's a detective now it's about optimizing that and hence in my view, content becomes an even more critical player in the overall mix because consumers are spoiled. Social media has cleared enough and more opportunities to consume content of whatever they want. The duration of content is only reducing, you know, the ability to stay on to watch any content more than a few seconds is like people are saying, oh, it's boring because it's two seconds.

If it's a minute long. So, you know, you're dealing in a very complicated and. Right. And so how do you meet content sort of, standout will be a very integral decision or integral role to play for, for, for media houses to survive because everywhere everyone's creating great content, but how do you sort of


Stand out and make a differentiated, you're not talking about that.

Standing out under your watch discovery pulled off a KOO. Which was to get a sitting head of state on to assure, which is into the white. How did you pull that off? Because it was just unheard of to see prime minister Modi of all people on a show with Bear Grilys in the jungles of India, swimming and rafting and whatnot.

How did you manage to convince the government with that. 


The fact that I tell you then I have to Kill you!

Just Kidding! While it was just worked out. Well, I think at both ends was indeed a Koo and it was the first time,  you know, the head of the country was in that. And I think people were really excited to see. In, and out of that they had never seen before. So, you know, it really worked out well.

And I really appreciate everyone who was involved, this was completely the team's doing to have put this whole thing together and make that come alive yeah. And it was a, it was also a breakthrough for break, for back wheels, because for him to, you know, I think that became a big.  Groundbreaking content proposition in the country.

In fact, that year when we showed it on our network, we became the number one network in the country. Like it was unheard of that an infotainment genre can even beat the GEC's. Unheard of. So in that slot specifically, you know, we were number one, beating all the GCE channels. So that clearly to your point did say that sort of differentiated content does stand out, but it's also that to can't create differentiated content all the time.

You know, there are, there are a few times, you know, where one idea just works, you know, and a similar kind of promotion and idea might not work on any other platform. So sometimes, you know, Crazy algorithms and laws, which take place, which makes certain things, you know, completely, hit the ball out of the park.

And so by the fact still remains that you need to create, keep on experimenting, keep on bringing in a content proposition, which would keep that really spoiled consumer, giving him/her a whole other reason to keep on engaging with you and your platform. So it becomes that much tougher today than a decade ago.


And I guess then that comes back to the fresh content, new ideas in a sense, therefore, isn't it more harder now for you to encourage that, like get Discovery and the creative teams to start thinking beyond the. Because you know, there's YouTube on the other side, which is competing for attention and somebody out there in some part of the country is creating very innovative stuff without any of us knowing about it.


Yeah, absolutely. And which is why discovery plus became that platform for us. So in fact,  you know, while discovery stood for what it did, the plus, what gave us the opportunity to explore. So much. So there is a whole lot of content on the platform today, which we've never shown on TV before and not have genres we have explored, which we've never sort of done original content before. For the recent show we launched called "Say Yes to the Dress".

Now it is an ad international IP, which is a very successful IP on TLC. It has a very limited plate, you know, it's very, very niche, but we created an Indian version of "say yes to the dress", which is all about the big fat and then wedding. And the bride has to choose a dress of her choice for her events, customs, whatever they have, uh, you know, the Sangeet, Shaadhi or whatever.

And it's doing really well and people are consuming it and it helps them bring in new audiences. Like for example, discovery plus has a very male skewed audience profile, right! The content was such, but we started exploring lifestyle content. We created this show called "Star vs Food", where we had the top people from various parts of life, volleyball and sports and, and, and social influencers who came and created some fabulous kind of, you know, and, you know, guided by some celebrities.

That was a big explanation. We did, we did really well, now, "Yes to the dress", which is in the wedding space is something they're doing. And let's see how that plays out. And initial reaction is very positive. In fact, one, the song we launched the promotion song called and, sajana's "Say Yes to the Dress", which was done by my chart, has hit the million new views.

So, you know, so you heard that song?


Yes, I heard the song and it's interesting right!There's a crazy collaboration happening. Discovery on one side and you have Badshah then you have the show. I think interesting stuff is happening. 


That's how you have to play. They still have to keep creating interesting, opportunities and engagement of content to keep that consumer happy.


Yeah. Yeah. And the same thing, I guess, for advertising to right. Makeup, in some ways you don't, you're used to seeing TV commercials, et cetera, but now suddenly there's this whole influx of influence. Every day, we had asked how as a Wealth Tech platform, are we engaging with influencers and working with them?

How was advertising then changing? Because again, the agency approach on one side and here, these influencers were independent creators, massive change there too. Right? 

Absolutely. In fact, I, the fact is that, you know, there was a time when celebrities were influencers today, the influencers are the celebrities.

SANDEEP: That's very well said.


So that's how the whole ecosystem has changed and they play a very critical role in, actually making or breaking a brand or a product or a launch of anything. And every, a lot of brands and even some media brands are using those influencers. To engage with them, to bring in, to drive a certain point.

So yes they will. And that is, that is a fact. We all have to acknowledge it. There's no point fighting. You have to embrace this change and use it to your advantage. And so it is, it is tougher for, you know, marketers and advertisers agencies to now compete with them. They have to find smarter ways to find solutions because brands find it, um, uh, far more engaging if you're able to, you know, if an influencer is able to create content, which is.

Refreshingly different than that 30nd play, you know, so you're not taking away the value of a 30sec commercial requirement, but again, it is the devolution of the industry and, and I think we need to find solves the problem of course, is that like anything new, which happens one day? It is. Limited data to prove what's working and how it's working.

There's a lot of gut which goes in while you can, you know, digital is a very data analytics driven, um, medium, uh, but sometimes you still don't know what to pay for. Like, what is your ROI happening to that? And that's a lot of that debate and questions, which a lot of marketers are asking today.

And that's where I, I mean, we've got to see how that plays. 


Yeah, but I guess over time, probably measuring systems will get created on top of this influencer layer. Right. Because that's what probably happened when initially television commercials started. And then later on days, we used to measure how they performed or over a period of time.

Is it too early to call that this is the end of the Madmen style advertising agency? 


No! No! I think nothing. See, that's the thing about most of the people, you know, when then when television came, Newspaper will die. Then when radio came, there's a TV and newspaper over that. Then when digital came, they said TV, newspaper, and radio, everything will die.

Nobody died. Everything is flourishing. Everything is coexisting. I mean the last report, if you've seen both TV and digital have grown in India as one of the few countries, which is showing this parallel movement of growth and will continue to grow, because like I've said in the past, there are many India's with them.

Don't you, you cannot, the one size cannot and will not fit all. And India is one of the countries where you live in multiple centuries. At the same time, you are talking are a set of audience who want to watch content about child, marriage. And certain  audiences want to talk about gay marriage.

You know, that's the wide spectrum of content creation you want to put out there. So there is an opportunity for everyone to survive. It's just that you have to find a sustainable business proposition. You know, we all want to do lots, but is it practical? Where's the money. Where's the revenue going to come from?

Because the revenue is the biggest and other, the monetization of the digital platform is the biggest challenge right now.


With all of this change. How short, like somebody who's building a career now in the media space, think about. How much, like, should they index very heavily on the digital systems?

Should they get some experience in the studio system or the network system? How are they today, if you want to do it all over again and think about it. And I know you said that you live in the moment, you don't plan it, but how would, how should a young upcoming professional think about her career and in India now?


I think digital is the way.  it is the present. It's not even the future. It is the present. If you're coming into this industry, that experience and understanding is an important part. I mean, we came from a generation that graduated from one medium to the other. My kids are born in this medium, like for them it's normal and natural to consume social media. And they are far more proficient in that than I am. You know, I have known to my way, but they were born with it. So there's a fundamental approach to it. And that's the audience we are going to be gauging to look at. A large part of our country is in that age group. If, if you go to cater to that kind of audience, you need to talk in that language.

You need to walk that talk and hence anybody coming into this industry who feels that. I don't need to understand that the digital ecosystem is being a bit naive. And I think understanding that is important. and I also understand the opportunities of the future. you know, so there are a lot of conversations happening about AR-VR, you know, how that's going to

SANDEEP: Metaverses, now they call it!


Yes. So now how would that play out in the overall content consumption ecosystem is something, you know, would be interesting to see. I don't, there is no data right now, right now. These are conversations but, we need to have an eye and an ear as well.


Yeah, absolutely. Who knows in the next, into the while we ourselves might be in the way. No way. Interesting. Megan, uh, I think there's a lot of change that is happening. you personally have been at the forefront of AI driven a lot of it. Uh, and how has this whole meditative approach to yoga helped you in this journey?

Has it. Like a sort of a grounding in some sense, or is it something that you do on, on the weekend and has very little bearing on, on your day to day? 


No actually on the contrary Sandeep, I think I'm in my journey on the path that began about, I think 7 to 8 years ago or so. And I always talk about this again, that I wish I had gotten my much earlier in my life. You know, it completely changes the way I see things and I do things. professionally as well. I have grown as an individual as I have as personally, and I think it is, you know, to me, yoga is a way of life. You know, yoga is not about finding time to do a certain set of exercises.

You know, yoga is just being the way we are, and that's yoga. Like when you get up. You know, and what does that mean to me? Is that how you are as an individual, which is what I started in the beginning is like the choice you have to be who you are. And that is how lucky you have the ability to be in a particular way, because you then create an aura around you and the response you have.

And the individual, you become the decisions you make, how you interact with people, your response to what comes back. You know, this is all interconnected. So for me, that is just the way it is. And, it is what it is. And I, that has sort of built me as an individual. It's amazing that I've, you know, ever since I started this journey, how I have been able to do so much more than the same 24 hours.

Oh, I used to get all stressed out and, you know, not it up. And there's so much to do. How is this happening now? I'm doing far much more in the same limited number of hours we all have in the day. And it is instead of dragging you out completely, of course you have your moments, you are human and all of that, but it's, I think it's just a very integral part of every human being to have a certain type of spirituality, you know, Because that is an integral part.

People seem to feel that that's okay. That's how I do when I retire, my parents can do that. And my grandparents can do that. I don't mind coming on a weekend. I go on a weekend, be a weekend Yogi or something like that, but that is not, that is recreation. That is also, you can do that. Sure. But that's not, that's not yoga, like a big proponent and a strong believer because I lived that life.


And it helps you do better, I guess and that's, that's probably, what's important. 

Megha, one thing we all ask all our guests as we sign off is, how, how have you been investing, the surplus capital that you have? Do you actually get involved? Are you sort of, are you stepping back and letting somebody else do it?

What have been the learnings for you around investing?


So, you know, I, am, um, I do have people who guide me, and I, and I believe that my biggest guide in my life is my husband. Of course, who, you know, has been a big supporter in helping me, you know, God, my destiny in terms of investments and things there.

But I guess, I am a Nascent investor. Um, I also go, I invest in equity and debt and some bit of properties,  sort of a balance, you know, you clear these buckets and you're just making sure that you're well balanced in those buckets. And so that if anything goes up and down, you're still. You're averaging out.

All right. So that sense of basic common sense I bring to the, you know, I work on and of course I do have professional help to guide me through that journey as well. Cause I'm not very. Set up financially trained in that sense. So yeah, I do get some help on that.


And you're so good at what you do that it's probably the right thing to do to give it to a professional, Megha what I'm taking away is this whole sense of balance that you bring, from your life, from your journey and what you're doing at a one point of time, being able to achieve so much, it's really incredible to have you on this show.

Thank you for taking the time. And I really feel that we took away a lot from this, really appreciate it. 


Thank you. Thank you, Sandeep. Thank you so much for considering me to be on this platform and, u really appreciated this chat. Thank you so much. 


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