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Rajan Singh AVTA (Hitz Rao)

Media Executive Rajan Singh opens up to about the industry

Hey, I was also focussed on revenues too and my record speaks for itself! I left all three major TV companies with huge revenues and year on year double digit increases.

Rajan Singh

You recently left Lyca Media after what was initially a 6-month agreement but stretched to nearly two years, what was behind the decision?
Lyca was great experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was brought in to put systems in place as a consultant but ended up practically filling a full-time position, which meant my other businesses that I was consulting for were suffering. I thought with everything in place at Lyca Media it was the right time to move on. Lyca is in a very strong position right now and will go from strength to strength.

You’ve done a full-circle in the industry, with all the major Asian broadcasters, radio stations and the biggest Asian events in the UK, is there anything left for the living legend to do?
There is still a lot to do; bigger TV channels than ever before, launch more radio stations and much bigger events than before. Also, my new target is to be successful in building a property portfolio.

Look, I am still a young guy who loves taking risks, play to win, and above all, not a “YES MAN” but challenge people who think they know it all. Most importantly, making sure the people I work with learn and enjoy what they do; work hard, play hard if you are in my team.

Finally, I would love to improve my golf handicap which is rubbish currently!

Since you left Star TV, UK broadcasters seem to primarily focusing on just their revenues – with not many local events being done to the level you had set out. Do you agree?
Hey, I was also focused on revenues too and my record speaks for itself! I left all three major TV companies with huge revenues and year on year double digit increases. The only differences are that some senior executives now have different pressures and skill sets, some do not like to be hands on, some believe in strategic talking and getting others to implement. It’s what you as an individual make of the position but I found the best policy was to be hands on and say it as it is and then move on. I also made sure my team did new things and could develop new skills, one minute doing their day to day job, the next minute looking after some of the biggest stars from around the world. Doing events, meet and greets, charity football and cricket matches were getting the channel closer to the communities we serve.

2016 was quite a dramatic year for Asian media with plenty of new players in the market – not just television and radio, but also media agencies, what’s your take on the year gone by?
Just another corner shop! What can one say is new, creative, innovative? There is nothing exciting, but channels launching that have nothing new to offer, agencies launching and targeting the same businesses and even undercutting their agency commission just to survive, that’s not exciting but pure survival.
This year gone by, we got some new channels and lost channels. New agencies started others down sized, some joint forces to reduce costs and one would say nothing to write home about. 2017 is going to be very much the same, apart from one major change in Asian television, which I am sure we will talk about later in this interview.

Returning back to Lyca Media, do you feel you gave the two radio stations all that you could to boost its presence in the London market?
No more could have been done but the important aspects were stability, give both stations an identity and reach a break-even point which all three objectives were achieved.

Sunrise Radio has given Lyca Media a tough time in RAJAR, how reliable do you find the measuring body?
Let me correct you, Lyca Media has not had a tough time, when you are less than three years old and following a legacy of over 20 years, it’s remarkable what Lyca Media has been able to achieve within a short period. I still get people telling me that they listen to Ravi Sharma on Sunrise Radio which may also reflect in RAJAR results.

As for RAJAR, it is what it is a sample for advertising agencies to trade with and make their life easier. Any radio presenter should not really worry about RAJAR but the quality of their show and how they put themselves about in the community, build profile and get their name in people’s heads.

If you were back in control of a television channel, how different would you do things to “change the game” again?
I really don’t think I would want to be in control of an Asian television channel in today’s market as there is never full control. If I had full control and responsibility, it would be extremely tempting.

I am currently working on channels who are looking to change the game but they are not Asian more mainstream and have the investment.

The UK television market is set to change this year again after Sky Asia Pack’s future is decided, what’s your take on this?
It’s simple, when the renewal comes up sometime in the late summer Sky will move the Asian pack into their basic pack same as where the Star channels are currently. That will mean more of a level playing field for most channels. The issue will be where new revenues will come from and how each channel places itself strategically from now to then. The other factor to consider will be how Virgin react to this! Their Asian pack has been stable for a while but not growing; will they think of moving most of these channels in the basic or reduce their price.

The bigger problem is what happens when 21st Century Fox which owns all the Star channels buys Sky. This buyout will probably happen in 2018!

Fox and Star will then be part of Sky, I would imagine.

My strategy would be very different from right now but really cannot indulge into that as that’s how I earn my living as a consultant!

AVTA, World Food Awards and BEDSA, you’re the pioneer in successful Asian mainstream events – which one event do you enjoy doing the most?
All three are great events. But as I love sports I would say BEDSA would be the one event I enjoy slightly more than the other two.

The AVTA’s last November was once again a stomping success, when looking at the numbers, do you think an event like this has A. the support from the industry B. the longevity to run it as a business model?
The sponsors love it, if you are a winner you love it, the rest will always find some fault. This was never going to make huge amounts of money, I am very happy it balances the books. It was something I thought would bring our industry into one room, which it does quite well.

Will you be organising any other events this year to complement your existing three? If so, what do you have in mind?
I really want to but not sure I have the time. There is one big project that I may be working on that might absorb all my time but I am still negotiating the terms with the TV Channel.

You’re working with many non-Asian television channels too including African, tell us about this?
I am currently working with Nigerian, American and Christian channels. The model is simple, which I have done over my career, taking a channel from its host country and distributing it across the world. I am also working with Satellite companies and governments to improve communication infrastructures.

If you were called up by an existing broadcaster as a consultant, would you consider the opportunity or is UK Asian television behind you?
I think its behind me now. Also, doing AVTA’s means that I need to be independent of any Asian channels. If I was ever offered an exciting opportunity where, as I have said before, I am in full control – then I would ethically remove move myself from the AVTA’s by either selling the company or resigning from all its processes.

What do you think the one thing we should watch out for in the industry this year?
A new TV platform

How would you describe your 30-year odd journey in the UK Asian media sector so far?
Fantastic! Travelled the world, lived in four continents, worked for some of the biggest companies but, most importantly, had great fun.

Final words?
Finally want to wish the all new the very best for the future. Hope it goes from strength to strength as it’s the one site that most Asian TV executives go to for what’s happening in their industry.

  • Kabir Chopra

    We not only saw Star as a network being more approachable during Rajan Singh’s time but also we saw STAR as a team. Now its either my way or the high way attitude from Star. Hopefully things shall change soon, when they face real competition from rivals like Zee and Sony. Rajans name resonates in the UK media even today and his hands on approach was always the best for investors like me to put my money on a channel which has people such as you and its not always about taking away the clients money, but built relationships