DOWN, BUT NOT OUT

Submitted by admin on Mon, 01/15/2018 - 13:10

Times Network is re-building its Mumbai operations post the recent fire at Kamala Mills Compound, which shut down the functioning of its 1,20,000 square foot office. Impact talks to the management and staff, who are rallying together to ensure there is minimum impact on business


When Jagdish Mulchandani, President & CFO, Times Network got a call around 12.45 am on December 29, 2017 informing him that all channels of Times Network were off-air due to a fire which had engulfed two rooftop restaurants - Mojo’s Bistro and 1Above in the Kamala Mills Compound, situated barely 15-20 metres from the Times Network’s uplink room - his first priority was to ensure that the network’s channel operations weren’t hampered. 

It was only when he reached the premises that he realized the magnitude of the fire which had, by then, spread to the Times Network office. In the midst of chaos and panic, the immediate job was ensuring the safety of all employees, retrieving critical pieces of equipment and making sure that the 11 channels of the network were up and running as soon as possible.
 

Rescue and response
After the fire was doused, the initial few hours were spent retrieving servers and other critical equipment, while simultaneously connecting with Planetcast to start the process of uplinking the channels from Noida.

Makeshift arrangements for employees were also made immediately –with some team members being rushed to the Times Noida office, while another 850 employees were housed at the offices of parent company Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL). (At present, the Mumbai employees of Times Network have been accommodated across four locations in Mumbai and the Times office in Noida.)

By Friday morning, the team managed to have three news channels – Times Now, ET Now and Mirror Now – on air. Neighbouring brokerage firm, Motilal Oswal, also pitched in, lending space to ET Now for temporary operations.
 

It took another day for the entertainment channels to return to the airwaves. Says Mulchandani, “There was minimum loss of business. Initially, ads did not run because the servers didn’t reach Delhi in time. But by evening, our channels, barring HD, were on air with ads. I’d say it was a miracle, like starting the channel operations in a day.”
 

Ensuring minimal business disruption

The decision to move the operations of Times Now to Delhi in November ensured the on-air disruption didn’t last long. “The reason we did not have a serious disruption in our operation is that over the last three to four months, we had substantially upped the ability of our Delhi facility,” says MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network.

The new normal includes meetings in the cafeteria and employees sharing work stations. In fact, with the four senior managers – Anand, Mulchandani, Vivek Srivastava and Nikhil Gandhi - now sharing a cabin and interacting constantly, things are getting done that would have otherwise required a formal meeting. Engaging with employees is also an ongoing process. S. Srivathsan, Head - HR, Times Network, says, “We are advising our senior managers and leaders to meet and address people so that their fears get allayed.” Despite the space and resource constraints at the stop-gap arrangement, the management says that all employees have put their best foot forward, risen to the occasion, pitched in with extra hours to ensure that the daily operations go on as normally as possible.

Asked about the immediate challenges, K Yegneshwara Iyer, Head of Technology, Times Network, says, “Providing all our users the facilities that they are used to while working is a challenge. For instance, we do a lot of video work and the building we are currently operating from doesn’t have the Internet bandwidth that our teams need. We are focusing on trying to get one of our high bandwidth lines shifted to this tower.” A core priority is to ensure that all support services continue and the “regular bread and butter processes like appraisals” are put in place soon so that business can proceed as usual.

Our content was un-retrievable for a while - all promos, graphics, ad servers were unavailable; moreover, the uplink facility was gone. The first step obviously was to ensure viewer experience was least interrupted. The channels went up within 20 hours of the fire, albeit without promos and in the next 24 hours, even promos went up. The technical and content teams worked non-stop for 48 hours.


VIVEK SRIVASTAVA

EVP & Head, Entertainment Cluster, Times Network

When the fire broke out, some members of my team were in office. We realized quickly that our facility would not be operational the next morning, so we began sending whoever was awake to the airport to take the early morning flight out to Delhi. In Delhi, we arrived with nothing. No graphics, no software, no archive footage, no PCR. The aftermath of the fire had hit Mirror Now especially hard, because, unlike Times Now and ET Now, we had no parallel set-up in Delhi at all. But the teams at Times Now and ET Now helped carry us through. Some worked through the night to build a makeshift PCR and studios for Mirror Now. It was amazing to see every member of the network lend support.


FAYE D’SOUZA
Executive Editor, Mirror Now

The show must go on and that was our biggest focus. Multi-tasking comes naturally to folks at ET NOW and so a few senior colleagues in Delhi stepped up and took charge of producing the show. We didn’t have our normal screen for market open with the bells and whistles, but we had a screen and that in itself was nothing short of remarkable.


SANDEEP GURUMURTHI

Managing Editor, ET NOW

The path to recovery

December showed positive signs for the media industry with advertisers returning, but what impact will this event have on Times Network, given the significant increase in its operating costs this quarter thanks to the fire?

Mulchandani says, “There will be minimal impact to the revenue growth and the sales team will still be focused on their numbers. However, the senior management will now have to invest more time and energy into normalizing operations. While it will take some time to assess the extent of the damage, a big challenge and concern is the damage caused due to the water and soot, particularly to the equipment and infrastructure. The network is in the process of appointing a technical consultant to test all its equipment before it can be used, a process that can take a couple of months.”
 

He continues, “There is also no clarity as to when the company will get possession of its office, which will now have to be refurbished. The company is evaluating alternative options to consolidate its studio and corporate office function and it may take more than six months to settle into a new location.” However, with Times Now moving base to Noida, the requirements for the network now would most likely not be what it was earlier. Anand says, “We are looking at temporary studios for both Mirror Now, ET Now, and to some extent whatever the Mumbai requirements of Times Now would be. It should take about a week or two till we make our final arrangement. However, this is not affecting our current performance in terms of TRPs or ad volume which are the basic critical parameters of the business.”
 

A salute to the Mumbai spirit
Anand has high praise for those who helped get the network back on its feet. “We were on air in minimal time, as Planetcast aided in the migration and transition of our 11 channels. We are thankful to them and Motilal Oswal, who immediately invited ET Now to set up base in their offices. I would also like to thank Falcon - our facilities management partner, whose employees managed the chaos admirably. Network18, Viacom18 and BARC also reached out to us and assured us of their support, if we needed it.”
 

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simran.sabherwal@exchange4media.com

Category: 
Volume No: 
14
Issue No: 
32