Tata Sky, one of India’s largest DTH operators with 18 million subscribers, is battling the restrictions of a lockdown with a surge in TV consumption. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar spoke to Harit Nagpal, managing director and CEO on the challenges. Edited excerpts:
How are you dealing with this crisis?
On March 7 we had discussed the possibility of a lockdown and how would we ensure continuity of service to 18 million subscribers. The daily sales and the 4,000-5,000 repairs we do every day are not as important as the continuity of service to our subscribers. Therefore, we identified a few people who will be locked into offices just to maintain operations. Over two days, we identified 72 people primarily from Information Technology (IT). They have been there since the night of the Janata curfew, 35 people have been living and sleeping at the uplink centre in Chhatarpur (New Delhi) and 15 at our IT hub in Bengaluru. Our call centres are shut. But we identified agents who can attend the diverted calls from home on their laptop. Currently, we can attend to only 30 per cent of the calls. (The Tata Sky call centre gets about a lakh calls every day). The aim is to take this to 50-60 per cent. We have added 14 services like choosing or dropping a channel to those which can be managed via WhatsApp. A bunch of field service guys were identified to look after repairs only for older people. They have to wear gloves, foot covers, mask and carry a disinfectant with them. We are still managing 700-800 repairs a day only for senior citizens. A few days ago we started offering eleven of our services, education, fitness, cooking, free for a month. They are usually priced at Rs 60 a month. So all work is being done, even our year closing is happening.
You are a large company and can, therefore, weather this one better
We are fortunate because our goods and services are virtual and we can be paid virtually. If we physically delivered products, things would have been difficult. Since many partners may not be able to send bills, we are paying them according to the February bill. These are our security suppliers, the 2,500 repairs and installation partners we have who in turn have 25,000 people on their rolls. So they can pay their people.
What is the short and long term impact this could have?
The best processes are created when your back is against the wall. Now for every new process, we are asking ‘what if this happens?’ and we design an even more efficient and reliable process. We are moving things as much online as possible. We have 3-4 months of stock of set-top-boxes and we are not acquiring any new customers because we cannot install. The topline will be flat, but we will cut costs to maintain bottom-line.
What is your learning from managing this situation?
If I can work under these circumstances, then why not during a normal situation. My home office is fine, I can work from there and can go to the office for two days instead of five. Why do I need to travel to Bengaluru and Delhi for half-hour meetings? This is a paradigm shift. It will reduce costs and wastage of time.
Any challenges you might face?
In the short-term, there is no problem. If after 3-9 weeks we don’t have fresh content, then there is a problem. Studios are shut, the content pipeline is dry. After re-runs why would a customer want to watch the same stuff again? How long will you do that?