Interviews

Media industry must leverage technology to produce great content: Sarbani Bhatia, Senior VP-IT, Jagran Prakashan

Sarbani Bhatia, Senior VP-IT, Jagran Prakashan

The Pandemic crisis has proved that staying agile is the only way to navigate through difficult times and downturns, which makes the dependence on technology all the more important. To survive these challenging times, and emerge stronger we have used technology to strengthen our business processes in order to facilitate revenue enhancement and cost management while remaining risk-focused. Operating expenses have been curtailed by using IoT to track the multiple segments of the Supply Chain as well as the Printing Process, says Sarbani Bhatia, Senior VP-IT, Jagran Prakashan, in conversation with Elets CIO.

1. How significant is the role of the media during the COVID outbreak? What role can technology play in ensuring better media services?

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been a truly global story of epic proportions and Media has played a vital role all through the outbreak and lockdown period. Bold impactful headlines, abundant stories and widespread coverage have been published, broadcast and uploaded in all forms of media vehicles at each step of the journey, over the last few months.

In addition to covering Covid infection cases and reports on healthcare facilities and recovery, media also helped in spreading awareness and cultivating healthy & hygenic habits and behavorial traits. While stories of recovery and empathetic care by health workers have been heartening, excessively negative and pessimistic reporting has also provoked fear and panic amongst the readers or viewers. In some cases, biased media coverage has also induced anger and hatred in the minds of the public against people of certain communities or nationalities. As the views and opinions of medical experts and Public Health officials have evolved, media has followed the change in approach and advice, thereby educating and enlightening the consumers on the transformed approach towards the disease.

However, the rise of social media and digitisation of content has also resulted in proliferation of fake news, unverified information and distorted facts. It is the responsibility of traditional and trusted media sources to counter all such misrepresented facts and rumours, and spread objective information and rational discourse.

The Corona Virus infection has not only been a health crisis of immense magnitude, it has completely disrupted the economic and social order in which economies and societies have traditionally been conducted. Hence media reporting on COVID was not just restricted to health and science, but also included business, economy, sports, travel and tourism.

Despite all the challenges, the Journalists have done a commendable job so far, by risking their health and reporting fearlessly. It is their responsibility to continue responsible and balanced coverage in times to come.

The Pandemic crisis has proved that the remaining agile is the only way to sail through difficult times and downturns, which makes the dependence on technology all the more important.

The rapid rise of the digital wave has led to a substantial increase in the consumer base by expanding to new locations and demographics. Consumer digital behaviour is rapidly evolving as the world adjusts to a new normal. The increase in demand for content has compelled organisations to innovate and leverage technology to make the content production and distribution process more efficient. It is being anticipated that mobile will be the most important trend for media consumption.The demand for at-home media content has given an impetus to broadband and fibre internet. The much-awaited 5G will contribute greatly in this area. Emerging technologies such as AI, ML and Analytics are being used to predict consumer preferences and improve content offerings. VR and AR are utilised for immersive, enhanced and enriching experiences.

There are opportunities for generating subscription revenue, as people are mostly homebound and are likely to consume a wide variety of content. Therefore, where the distribution of traditional print media has been an issue, e-editions of the newspaper can prove to be an alternate source of revenue in the subscription model.

Monetisation could still prove to be a challenge as most of the media and entertainment Verticals rely on advertising for their revenue; there has been a downward revision in ad spends. Targetted Internet advertising or native advertising using technology could be a major source of revenue.

Also Read: Embracing Digital First Policy to Combat the Pandemic: Jayanta Banerjee, Group CIO, Tata Steel Limited

In short, media and entertainment companies must rely heavily on the most appropriate technology to produce great content, distribute it in an efficient and cost effective manner to the right target audience, and to keep them contented and engaged.

2. Being a known name in the media industry, how is Jagran ensuring a proper employee management system during the Corona outbreak?

The impact that the Covid pandemic has had on the workforce is unprecedented. Our organisation had begun to significantly adapt the workforce to suit a COVID-19 environment in the early stages of the lockdown.

The importance of developing employee engagement and satisfaction is accelerated in these uncertain times .Standard operating practice has been redefined. Hygiene and sanitation of the workplace is being maintained and a lot of stress is being laid on employee fitness. Work-from-home is being granted wherever possible, virtual meetings are being held and work-related travel has been discontinued. Technology is being used very effectively to operate remotely and conduct business operations.

Manpower is being rationalised to ensure that we have the right skills, in the right measure, at the right time, in the right place to constantly adapt to uncertain external trends, agile operating models and rapidly changing customer demands. Workforce Strategy has assumed a lot of importance and a data-driven Analytics approach is being used to ensure the workforce is in line with the business objectives. A lot of stress is being laid on planning, monitoring and upskilling team members. Management has facilitated collaboration among teams in different locations so that they can communicate and work together effectively .Project Management tools are being used to improve team collaboration and productivity.

Also Read: Covid gave Technology the much Needed Trust: Gaurav Srivastava, Head-IT, Xiaomi

Leadership is leading the workforce with sensitivity, compassion and empathy to provide an employee experience that thrives in a digital and remote workplace. Team leaders are urging people to work together creatively, break out of silos and improve workplace culture. All employees are getting digitally enabled, and granted remote access within a secure framework to the computing resources of the organisation.

It is anticipated that some employees might be suffering from uncertainty, anxiety & loneliness working in isolation with no face to face interaction hence constant communication is being maintained in the form of team briefings, virtual meetings and town hall dialogues.

3. How fruitful is the concept of work from home? Do you see its relevance post covid?

In my opinion, Work from Home can be effective and more productive provided that an organisation has its communication, collaboration and coordination processes, in place. It brings in a lot of flexibility, reduced stress and convenience. One can work from anywhere at any time, thereby preparing one’s own schedules to suit life needs, and productivity increases significantly. A big advantage of remote working in large cities is the saving of commute time and expenditure.

While one may argue that the working tends to become seamless and the line between work life and home life gets blurred, the merits far outweigh these challenges. Work from home can be extremely gratifying as one can take out some time for oneself and family. For an organisation too, the expenses for running and maintaining infrastructure can be saved to a huge extent.

If companies have the right processes in place to allow flexibility, this can prove to be a win-win situation for those in the remote workplace, post-COVID, in the long run too. Many companies may offer Work from Home indefinitely even after normalcy is restored. Task Management workflows and Collaboration tools should be used to maximise yield from the workforce. There should be clarity in terms of goals and measurable metrics should be used to assess productivity effectively as opposed to hours put in. It will not only improve the work-life balance for the employees but also have a positive impact on the environment.

4. What new offerings and innovations are you planning lately?

As social distancing, as well as work or study from home, become the new normal, the demand for digital media has risen exponentially and therefore, our organization felt the need to work on making the consumer experience more engaging by providing personalized and targeted content in real-time using AI and Analytics. We now rely on AI to create rich, individual digital experiences by predicting consumer behavior.

We are using AR technology for rich video viewing experiences of digital advertisements along with our digital offerings. Technology has helped us to stay ahead of the curve, right from content creation, through distribution and monetization.

To survive these challenging times, and emerge stronger we have used technology to strengthen our business processes in order to facilitate revenue enhancement and cost management while remaining risk-focused. Operating expenses have been curtailed by using IoT to track the multiple segments of the Supply Chain as well as the Printing Process. The efficiency of the Assets and machines on the shop floor has been boosted through remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and smart asset management.

Cybersecurity postures have been enhanced to address any vulnerability that may have cropped up while implementing remote working solutions. The frequency of periodic assessments has been increased.

5. What new offerings and innovations are you planning lately?

Social distancing, as well as work or study from home, become the new normal, the demand for digital media has risen exponentially and therefore, our the organization felt the need to work on making the consumer experience more engaging by providing personalized and targeted content in real-time using AI and Analytics. We now rely on AI to create rich, individual digital experiences by predicting consumer behavior.

We are using AR technology for rich video viewing experiences of digital advertisements along with our digital offerings. Technology has helped us to stay ahead of the curve, right from content creation, through distribution and monetization.

To survive these challenging times, and emerge stronger we have used Technology to strengthen our business processes in order to facilitate revenue enhancement and cost management, while remaining risk focussed. Operating expenses have been curtailed by using IoT to track the multiple segments of the Supply Chain as well as the Printing Process. The efficiency of the Assets and machines on the shop floor has been boosted through remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and smart asset management.

Cyber Security postures have been enhanced to address any vulnerability that may have cropped up while implementing remote working solutions. The frequency of periodic assessments has been increased.

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