Manav Sethi Eros Now

Manav Sethi, formerly of Eros* talks about his journey as an intrapreneur, entrepreneur and marketer and how he’s always stayed ahead of the curve.

*When this episode was recorded, Manav was with Eros. He has since moved to Octro.


Saurabh:  Hey, this is the marketing connect podcast a show where we get up close and personal with some of the most celebrated Market years in the country. We talk to them and discover new answers of marketing that we often miss after all. We are the show for marketeers while marketeers listen in. 

Talk to any successful marketeer in the country and they will tell you that the content that works for them tends to be on one of the following four pillars astrology, Bollywood, Cricket and devotion better known as ABCD in the marketing department. So today we have with us Manav Sethi of Eros Now helping us demystify the pillar around Bollywood film.

Manav:  Hey, guys, my name is Manav Sethi. I’m group Chief marketing officer for India’s biggest Bollywood Studio called Eros Now we have just started around merger with a Hollywood entity called STX International thereby creating India’s first case study of Bollywood merging with Hollywood. We also run and manage one of the largest OTD platform, which is about under 80 million plus.

Saurabh:  I want to thank you for this, welcome to marketing connect podcast. So excited to have you, a quick question. If you ended by saying that you needs about 80 million people. So you want to elaborate have a how did you reach? [1:18] 

Manav:  Most people here are in Eros  as Group has two distinct kind of businesses. One is the studio business and the other one is the OTD  platforms. All right. We’re in all the movies and shows go live. In fact, we have one of the entities which I’ve also done pioneering work in short form content formats where we have launched quickies, which I like 10 minutes episodes and we’ve also done some direct to digital Premier so short films as well. So, you know as I said, And if you look at recent quarterly earnings utilize that we have bought hundred eighty million plus registered users. And these users are the users who have come to our and consumed interacted engaged with content in some shape and form over time. As far as OTD platform is concerned. We are one of the earliest sort of OTD movers in this space. And I’m also very happy to share that we are the only partner on Apple TV plus platform outside of any US. So we are the only International Partners on Apple TV plus, right? So that is The Testament of the vision that the shareholders have had and also the execution in terms of content slate that has been built over time in terms of movies and shows.

Saurabh:   Manav I want to ask you loaded question but you mentioned that you know, do you look up to certain people in the industry and to the world around you to look for opinions and answers. Who are your marketing Gurus? Who do you approach? Who do you go to for inspiration? If you have a problem, would you go and ask and you know knock on the doors of who you spend time with you name some people it will be Amazing. [3:3]

Manav:  Yeah, so I think looking from India stand point there are few friends that I have in you know, where I knock the doors that whether for marketing or on the size of the present juncture, right? Sameer Nayar happens to be one and  Sanjiv Gupta. He was the guy who, you very much build starred in India and South Asia and you know, the guy who helped pick me to launch ALT which is again largest SUV play Ekta Kapoor. Sanjiv Gupta was the youngest CEO of coca cola India, and he was on my phone when I was doing Askme a Nachiket and Vediya was CEO at ALT again, right and then Rajan Anand is such a treasure and you know, I mean I have so far not met a guy who is so, you know accessible rounded. It has a worldview in yet has my King’s English. I think these are the few people who I’ve been lucky to you know, for a leadership is so is the case. And with Ajit  when you know, he was Hotstar as well. Yeah. I’m a lot of intelligent people that ecosystem has. 

Saurabh:  So next question in my room like on the similar lines. I was talking to another guest on the And he said that you know he watches a lot of films and those films give him ideas for marketing like, for example, he mentioned that he watched this movie called lagan with Amir khan in it and how could the character could actually motivate his entire unit Village who filed against a British in common message common theme, so some film work includes a good idea in terms of generating ideas for marketing and enriching yourself what other want a national base that you, go about and learn about marketing?  [4:58]

Manav:  I think marketing is one sort of domain which is very tightly build or knitted with consumer Behaviour. Right? So I think for any marketer or for any marketing enthusiastic, it is very important to sort of not only understand the consumer but also to understand the underlying consumption shifts consumption current which are taking place and that could happen while you are, standing in a kirana shop or a grocery store to when you are in a mall to when you are talking to a ten-year-old girl. I mean I live you a very classic example that happened to me about a week ago, I’m in two weeks ago when my daughter school got shot and suddenly they all were moved to a online, you know, I think they’re using Google meet earlier that they were using Zoom. So I think so. She said,  why don’t we have a video platform which is meant only for kids where you can’t see anything except a kid’s face. 

And I was thinking wow, is that the next platform waiting to be build? But if you add now you try correlated, you know with what Steve Jobs said. He said that you know usually consumed. I don’t know. What do they want. I mean you have uber as an example you have iPhones as an example you have e-commerce as a completely shifted trend to at cetera.  So coming back to your core point of whether a movie gives an idea or whether a book is an idea whether a clock gives an idea, I think marketing is one such thing where you know, it is it is largely understanding of people and a lot of connecting of dots but from a source of learning. It could be a movie. It could be a song. It could be a stand-up guy. I mean if you watch Hasmukh from Applause on Netflix recently you do the you know, there are certain insights in at as how a young boy from hinterlands and come to big towns like, Bombay and mix with it and if you try corelate it with the add film that Piyush did I still remember where there is sofa in it  I mean look at the inside and so, you know as Sameer used to say to Applause now and that in India were the sarcasm between Nagin and Narcos  so, you know, right so you have you know, English-speaking sort of 200 300 million potential audience in the country, right? But those eight hundred nine  hundred people and ten billion people don’t Consume don’t speak English as their first language. Right? Right. So I think for them grow from a marketing standpoint and I thought process the inside the communications of creative your USP the value providing all of that, needs to be looked at from a complicated by imagine. If FEVICALL was making an ad in English largely, you know for English-speaking audience but then the D G and the colmes, you know really required being that, you know key inside that how when you give your sofa for the better. It is likely that that furniture guy goes out and buys what it is to use on one side you have in these Hindi speaking, people which is the majority vernacular play and on the other side we have  English speaking people these things as were smaller 200-300. 

Saurabh:  So I’m going to continue to the conversation. So as a person who manages a large time on OTD platform and production of content and international marketing expanse  is how do you balance?  how do you choose what you want to put money on for example How do you know that? This is where the focus would be? [9:48]

Manav:  I think even when I was doing e-commerce site and I think these are the inside that I built. Those days as well. I think I was one of those few marketers in the country who was spending 80% of the marketing Budget on digital image that is one side and I was very clear that if the consumption is happening on digital platform, right if you’re in primary guy is consuming online and then you want to go and catch him offline and I should have you know anything. You know when we were doing our askmebazar and ask me scaling up getting up we realized that in our media plan, Usually when you go and buy media agency prime time and that’s what you try to do with your projects. I realize that our peak consumption happened in the traffic at 20-200.

And a when we stared correlating it with other e-commerce platforms as well on this man’s a similar Trends were working with them as well. And then we said in earlier. Why is it that you know, I should be having a single spot at nine o’clock 9:30 or 10:00 because my guy is already mind as he’s not watching TV in all of that’s why second we also realize that you know, these are the guys who are possibly added is key you in the car door. They were browsing. 

Finally on the move like they were in a stationary. So Wi-Fi was the primary mode of that so we realize which means it is not get their homes, right? And we all know that India is a single TV households, which means that you may be doing these browsing on your device sitting in a room where possibly don’t have it and looking at my adds. So why should be I spending time on that time band so I think that’s the play where data plays an important role for a marketer. For a marketer today, unlike a traditional FMCG work When you were selling soaps and shampoo there was a lot of seasonality that came to you on the table because in Winters that this flavour will work. We all know that, the glycerine soap box which is let’s say a pears soaps Orange Soap sells more in winters. There is pears aloe vera or oil which sell in summers. It’s a seasonality, right? So any new guy who would come he would lie on this whereas, when I was doing for alt platform, where I understood that India doesn’t pay for content. Imagine I launching a platform with only 22 shows all of those are made in Hindi and all of them are behind a one, nothing is free. All right, you are asking people to play. So coming back to your point. I think it is not. So choosing where to spend choosing how to spend is a function of you know, you are A) good experience. Of course, you build certain adjacent build certain, you know, again go back to my statement of connecting the dots you Learn certain things in kind of correlate them with the so you try to not of experiments when you are sort of launching something in a territory where has never been done was never done before then. When Askme was launched  there were Amazon, Flipcart were the one  doing primer PG. Trying to sell a Relaxo chappal to a guy in Lucknow  and trying to sell Nike shoe to a guy in North East who has opines to pay and buy because Nike will not open a store in Shillong. So then you try to corelating not with you know, whatever knowledge that you have acquired so far. And on what your progressive data will bring back. That is something that I mean look at your social channels like earlier days if you recall every consumer feedback to happen they had to a primary research, secondary research even org marks today if you follow your social channels or your play store reviews you know every minute that how your consumer is reacting what are the main points and I think that is very   important  And this market will show you how to delete, you know, deep dive and you had those again, you know pearls which are lying out there to capture that is again only step one step two is how do you make them as a factor of the improvement? And so if you’re delivering  just supposed to happen, you know on a particular day and not happening right then the guys thing is not a Believer then you just can’t stop at saying okay. We are looking. Into it, right he needs to know when it is going to reach him which means that add your back and you should have had a process in place where the ticket is tied in with the logistics team you is not going to the outsole. Outsole is partner has a system in place which gives in the real-time almost real-time status as to which city with centre the compartment is and in how many days or are there is going to be checked so that within the next three hours Into it, you know here is that you have a hundred bucks accepting this in a and here is a definitely that God stuff will be cheap. So those are the things that you know requires a lot.

Saurabh:  Manav do you want to quickly talk about your journey like from the time passed off your college till the time? [16:34]

Manav:   Sure, I think you know after my MBA school I was the second Third guy to be hired from the campus. I was very happy and elated to join a company which was into software automation solution sell. I was a clear that I’m not going to go in the old economy world because tech and 99 as this is 2001. Internet was sort of still coming up with few of the markets crashing in the US and so my first job was in financial automation solution sell. I used to sell banking automation solution. Those were the days when fans are incrementing or Banking and Brands in solutions. So I was hired from beneath the north market so I was happy very detailed. But when I look back now, I realize that you know, it was a mistake in the sense that I never had a boss. I was with a person sitting in Bombay. So it was in me to learn on the trade learn from my mistakes while I’m doing those but thankfully that guy was very good. He would encourage me on calls, those days there was still not a video call and not become scalable. So we’ve got on cause he would Mentor mean so I’m not too bad right now. But also sort of built-in of self-reliance self-questioning self-assurance. Within one and half years. I got post by a competitor which was again into financial automation solution, but the scope got expanded write commands button into Capital markets was looking into  solution deposited office. Implementing the largest nms. Eskom which is network marketing solution. They had a smart tag business a lot of exposure into one of the main site be used to sell sap. I think this is AI was a big rage on provides application integration. So did not stuff there that guide and but then I was itching to go in to world and that’s when I got hired by Webdunia. So Webdunia started as local language internet platform, and I think we would be a good opportunity to look at what daily hands and others are doing now and the kind of value, you know, the be guys are giving damn. I think we were way ahead of time. So we sort of build, local language. And in those you recall India times higher ability to mail in Indian languages is something what be a part of. For the very first time I remember I was beautiful Microsoft and we need project arad koam in Haridwar virtual aarti was sort of ad I remember those day Wass was at its prime at it’s fine wallpapers ringtones astrology with hay days you know, it is reliance had put it bats CDMA network so India times at launch 8888 and knows where the but also those are the days when the Wass was grappled with Telco’s, you know, largely controlling the ecosystem. So avoided I was working for WebDunia. I was working very closely with India times and we sort of not only powered on the Consumer Internet site, but we also work a lot with the on the price side on the BCCL and side. So we build there automated their entire agency booking system right when it is old days. You were to require to walk into offline store to given classified ads and they because the print run had to happen at a particular time. So they would not accept a ad Beyond threshold. So if you want to add to go out to court tomorrow you had to sort of go to an offline outlet with that. I add maybe a day and asked earlier. So these sort of automated all of that integrated with sap and stuff like that. So while I was working very closely with India times- Reliance Entertainment had formed. I think the first thing that they did was acquired at Labs from Anil Ambani’s party side. This is around the same time the split had just happened and Rajesh had moved from India times to lead the entire entertainment English any hand pick me to be part of the corporate strategy road. So and those are the days when I was also studying law after my MBA I done it part time from the University while one paper is still remaining. I had unfinished law graduation but in fact know what that thought me and what that Allowed me. You know when I look at things right and MBA with law gave me the ability to move from a pure play scenes alliances to a strategy. 

So I worked with reliance to be part of the corporate strategy team that worked on launching businesses across FM radio the back because into online gaming collect data, which are into online social network, then big flakes. It says into online DVD rental business, and of course you launch reliance big motion Pictures they do. I also acquired animation business and you know sort of built a huge Animation studio. And while I was doing corporate strategy, I was also heading the mobile TV initiative in those days Qualcomm at a technology called media flow Nokia was working with EV pH and there were, you know competitive Technologies like as the MVP but one of the key meeting it turns out that Reliance Communications has Sub 1 meter satellite imagery and in top 20 cities in India are because they were working on  where fibber was to be terminated on the building and do remember that our comments the largest all top three guys who you know, which owns optical fibber in the country because they were looking at a FTP be kind of a model they had sort of done lot of SUV surveying and sitting in there knock at the BKC. They would know that face building on Turner Road in Bandra have X number of load has this particular socio-economic segment then you the let/long right and they were using all this in largely for enterprisers and network planning and how the sla’s and That’s when I recommended that. Why don’t we launch it as a consumer platform and everyone jumped on the idea. We were lucky to get a million dollars from unlimited office to Anyone this plan and that’s when I assumed up operational role. And so I thought of you know, sorry to build big maps from scratch hired the very first guy. I got my lab to BKC , you know higher 20-30 key guys to work on it hired a team of Partners who would go out with a GPS data collect let-long for Yellow Pages and all, so we build an entire at come from fat and with into quarters of working on it. I had Navitech prior to being acquired by Nokia willing to invest five million dollars in the business. Good days, ADA said that we don’t need the money let them come back, once we are looking at formal money raised and once you’ve built and it’s logically, but then 2008 happened we had just launched and entire money market claimed they were told that for all the new economy businesses. You want to go and make money and that’s when we Consolidated all the new economy businesses within Reliance Entertainment and went out meeting on the potentially invest in today’s money. Of course, you know this to the significant shareholder in lines on the other side. It was not easy for any other people which guy do to communities in both the right. That’s when at last The guard are I went to money at the dial. And I said money. You have the to the beat offline yellow pretty simple. We have printed online platform created Yellow Pages data will acknowledge is the perfect merge waiting to happen. So within I think two to three weeks of doing the due diligence they sort of put in a term sheet for a position of but again, I think the alliance was non-committal to you know, let go of that play. 

The idea was to market with the radio business to congratulate the local business. I can but I was not sure, you know what to do that when you know me with my technology head I stepped out and that’s when I dabble with you started. I started to work on, you know, advising few early stage companies. And while I was doing that two of India’s largest Yellow base is completely merged are namely in for media and Astro group of Malaysia, they had written the round of investment and that’s when they hired me to sort of, you know, bringing the digital fool for the company, but then Astro happened to be our largest shareholder by then but by difficulties Gap and they took us all to exist country at the last it’s hard but that was a great experience when we shut that down and kamee who was working with Ekta Kapoor was group CEO of Balaji telefilms. They were looking at launching India’s first SPO replay and they smartly so in high insight. They took a caution called not to hire any guys from the broadcasting side is that we need a guy who understand digital one understand digital marketing at a scale. We’ve done some very Community. That’s when he reached out to me and said, why don’t you come on board and launch Alt. To me that was not the king. Step because you’ve done classified Yellow Pages and local search and you’ve done e-commerce in market places video on the internet, you know is coming just enough and that’s when I you know, sort of moved from a 60 million annual marketing budget to I remembered the first year Alt marketing budget for 7 million dollars . Imagine in seven million dollars and I need to have a team of about a hundred fifty people at asked me and I think at all – and it’s secretive about 15. 

But amazing if we invited here, so imagine that you are actually working on Breaking the question that Indian don’t pay for content. Right and I think these successfully did that and that you’re my joy lies so, launching brand platform and I think we launched with seven shows if I remember 6 Hindi and 1 Tamil. 

We launched and scaled it. Within two quarters of launching Alt we had Reliance Jio coming up and picking up 24.9% pay for about 419 cores in the company. So that was true Testament of success of what we did and two-three things that we did very unique from a marketing standpoint because I didn’t have humongous budget and I To create a top end of the funnel right because people on one side were consuming Netflix and Amazon prime and on one side. I was launching Alt we started to give one episode free on YouTube this is because if you don’t have humongous  budget to buy a day to spend on print on TV Etc,    How do you brought this upon and how do you reach out? 

Then you realize that YouTube is still the large, you know, the lowest common denominator when it comes to mobile video. I think I don’t be leveraged on the type of the Builder back and I think at work very well, but you know for us and google also wanted to Showcase it as a study then and when I left Alt because of I had launched about way to 45 shows. We had launched in a lot of  the country? So tired and then? You know happened so but the entire are has been a journey has been very interesting. 

In fact, I did couple of things pioneer think until we were forced to do sort of marketing integration with a AIB did create a campaign called AskAIB which actually won a bronze MV at Goa festive plat know you can go on YouTube and you can check those videos. I think every video got some tens of millions of views without us being a single penny. Those are all organic a ask ones on the Rocky and Mayur were the one. I think Rocky and mature were known only in the offline. World, I did a campaign with them their indicate less find thousand best places to eat in the country. So we sort of created a crowd, you know campaign. We said okay if Rocky and Mayur says this is best butter chicken in  Delhi , is that Moti Mahal.

Saurabh:  According to you which are the next three best butter chicken places or if the best chart in Lucknow, is that a good brunch where to get the best our food? [31:32] 

Manav:  The best chart is in Bhavatvansh You’ll be surprised to know that within I think again a quarter or two of that campaign got right my searches on food through a by 20% which means more the need for restaurant Partners who are on a similar thing with Twinkle Khanna she’s known for her Interior Designing and Furnishing, book happened to her later and we sort of you know with the glitch started to create look book. So when video blog, you know was talked, right we were in We doing on time. So with Rocky  Mayur, Twinkle Khanna Veer Sanghvi . So, we did videos which are largely on the vertical specialized formats waiting so lot of earring there.

Saurabh:  So is it isn’t this coming back again. It’s all people are now starting to do vertical videos again, right? All these channels coming up May it be comedy show or food shows are

 some channels also coming back.[32:24]

Manav:  Hey at that is absolutely The Logical cot. I mean what we looked at way back in 2014-15 if you realize, Tiktok were coming up and those are the days when there were no video influencers, Instagram was still shaping up Instagram was a novelty. It is a logical post to arrive because from people don’t want to rush as far as the reviews are concerned from a man who don’t know and today a consumer is also smart and he knows that reviews for a particular restaurant may be motivated all the interviews so you might have been followed a man who you trust for food, who you trust for clothing, trust for fashion you trust for furniture and you trust for Fitness, which is why you see all these scalable recurring forms of consumption or vertical across food, lifestyle, health and fashion. That’s where you will see lot of video let Commerce and consumption, triggering up and it is surely logical. 

Saurabh:  That brings to you a question that obviously we are living in, you know, super different times and everybody with corona virus and the world has been you wait till about four months ago is now obviously changing. So as a marketeer that you know has the pulse of the market and knows what content people want. what do you think is going to happen in next six months. Do you want to say what will happen in these coming months?[34:4]

Manav:  I don’t think no one has that answer now! But what we have seen so far is his life entertainment phases like education phases and phases like health. These are the few verticals which have been uplift in consumption in the online form and I think these will continue to grow and this will also allow certain models to come up . I remember I was talking to this person yesterday who was asking about that how you know, this will shape up their TV versus OTD place, which I said but it is any which way is a structural shift, right? We are individuals moving from TV as a household device to mobile as a personal consumption device. What Covid-19 will do is and because it has already made next tens of millions of people taste OTD for that trial trigger, which was waiting to happen. And these people were not willing to do possibly because they said, oh we’ll do it. Once you’re free. Today, they are free and which is why they’re spending more time on the quality platform and which is why there is discovering the flexibility the non-appointment viewing the flip up of content the shows that they may have never even watched, in the trailers of the entire spectrum of shows so as I said like Nagin to Narcos. Those are the new consumption patterns are emerging. And in certain cases these will become available new normal in certain cases. This will acquire significant minority shareholding as far as the consumption at least till such time that this or say see you will be a lot more empathetic. It will be a lot more utility let , you will be lot more, social responsibility let. So I think that to that extent it will change the number one. Number two, it will also start reflecting in your media makers. So I mean you and I both know that the print I mean you didn’t have the print circulation amplify. So TV and take a lot of it because no new shows are coming in attitudes are coming. Right which means that the digital has become a I mean, I’ve been watching Netflix in the recent past continue to take Mass heads on YouTube and it which was not the case earlier. So I think those things will happen is you will see a lot of efforts on detention program because, you know that acquiring new customer in it is may not be the case. I’d I think you know for her OTD platform if you rely right, we’ve always been sort of sum up with too much choice. The content discovery has been talked about, has been energy today for a marketer in it allows a significant opportunity because never ever it has happened that a show like Narcos or a show like the Gandi Baat or a show like body has been watched by a 100% of potential right? You carve out up again  you show your come to the end. But in those days when you were launching two new shows every month your velocity. We of communication creative and cam was such that your focus on older shows was only as much. Today, because no more new shows are coming in. No more new content is coming in. Right you have that opportunity to take those hidden gems and bring it out and take it to their audiences so that were lot of focus on retention program right into that effects of communication and the communication strategy began and has to be. 

Saurabh:  You just heard the latest episode of marketing connect podcast. A show for marketeer by marketeers. Here’s the show was brought to you by C4E and the podium.

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About Marketing Connect

In this podcast we get up close and personal with some of the most celebrated marketers in India.


Saurabh Garg is an entrepreneur, writer, and an adventurist. With The Podium, he wants to learn the method in the madness from other entrepreneurs, creators, and adventure junkies.


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