MTV’s channel head Aditya Swami talks to Aabhas Sharma about what makes a brand work where almost everything is competition.
Early in his career, Aditya Swamy followed the path treaded by most people. After college, he went to a B-school, got a job as a management trainee and worked hard to rise up on the corporate ladder. After eight years at Coca-Cola, Swamy decided to take the road less travelled. He joined MTV India in 2006 as marketing head and now finds himself as the channel head. “At Coke, it was fun but the same old routine. Here, every day is a new challenge, and we change the rules of the game on a daily basis,” says the 37-year-old channel head of MTV.
The move from FMCG to broadcast wasn’t planned. At Coke, he did work with MTV on a few campaigns but never cast envious glances. Swamy, who has seen the channel change drastically over the last five years, acknowledges that most people who work for the channel aren’t doing it to make a career or even for money. “It’s just that they all have a keeda (worm) — including me — to change the landscape of where they are,” he explains. He has a young, energetic team, who come up with some of the wackiest ideas. And he says that he encourages them to make mistakes. “Until you try something how will you know whether it will work or not,” he questions.
MTV is not a music channel anymore — it’s more than that. Sticking to the philosophy of trying and seeing, he admits that there have been a few hits and a few misses in the process. “We make mistakes but we learn from them,” he says. Swamy knows his competition is not TV channels. “For me a Twitter or Facebook is competition,” he adds. Things have changed, he says. Earlier people used to ask questions like what kind of movies or music do you like? “Now it’s like Mac or Windows. Today’s generation isn’t the couch-potato type,” he says. “We live in the age of sinnocence where virtues are out and vices are in.”
At heart, MTV will always be about music, he says. MTV Coke Studio, which debuted a few weeks ago, is a huge hit. Much before the first show, its Facebook page had over 300,000 fans. He is excited about Coke Studio and says because of it, he has been introduced to some amazing South Asian artists. Another show called MTV Grind will soon be on air. “We will have youngsters on the beach dancing to trendy Bollywood and other music,” he says. MTV is like an amoeba with multiple faces, he adds.
An ardent music lover, when Swamy is not working he is doing something related to music. He loves sitting on recordings of songs or listen to artists like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead. His wife runs a travel company and “because of her I end up travelling a lot as well,” he says with a smile. Fitness is a priority for him and he is much into gymming as well as yoga. Weekends are reserved for golf and he finds it quite unwinding.
Thanks to his wonderful team, Swamy doesn’t get stressed at all. “The boundaries between work and pleasure often blur here, and I am absolutely enjoying every moment of it,” he says.