Possibilities Ambition Passion

From a Marketer’s Lens

Kaumudi Mahajan shares her perspective

When Kaumudi Mahajan joined Star from MICA Ahmedabad, her bosses asked her to do nothing but watch television. For 7 hours every day for two weeks Mahajan watched the entire range of Hindi entertainment channels and made copious notes about her insights. She was tasked with making 15-minute presentations daily about what she had learned. As a self-proclaimed “studious” teenager, Mahajan did not grow up watching TV but was instantly hooked. “I am now an addict,” she laughs. “I feel extremely entertained watching Hindi and Marathi soaps.

Ten years later, Mahajan has won a Star Excellence Award and heads marketing at Star Pravah, our Marathi general entertainment channel with a lean yet power-packed core team. In December 2014, Mahajan took on the tough mandate of transforming the channel. When she stepped in, she knew that the most crucial challenge was to understand how to uniquely distinguish Pravah as Marathi and cater to that sentiment compared to what every Hindi channel was offering.

Mahajan and her team met over 100 viewers across age groups from four towns and four villages across Maharashtra. They met 12 experts ranging from a historian to a divorce lawyer, a writer to a sociologist, with the focused goal of capturing the pulse of Maharashtra. The results were fascinating. “We found out that while it’s an intelligent, forward-looking and educated community, it’s also looking for bold inspiration,” Mahajan explains.

 

“We wanted our characters to be fearless in the things they do, to explore new relationships.”
Kaumudi Mahajan

Armed with insight, Mahajan set about charting a brand imprint for Pravah. “We wanted our characters to be fearless in the things they do, to explore new relationships,” she describes. It’s why Pravah decided to extend the limits of tradition and the already existent forward-thinking nature of viewers to all aspects – from children’s careers to the acceptance of a working woman as a daughter-in-law.

The work has paid off. In the last six months, viewership of the channel has doubled, and three new shows have just taken off.

From marketing to motherhood

With a career comprised of exciting challenges and huge responsibility, Mahajan says the highest point in her marketing life has been motherhood.

From the consumer insights team, when she was asked to move to marketing, she was also undergoing a private battle to have a child. “I was undergoing fertility treatment for more than two years” she says. As she began to enter a shell, wondering about her priorities, the team’s support buoyed her. “I remember sitting in meetings with Sanjay Gupta, our Managing Director, and just grabbing my bag and leaving if it was time to get an injection for the treatment. I like to say I have a Star baby. I conceived on the same day that the maternity policy was announced here.”

During the six months of leave after giving birth to a baby girl is when Mahajan became determined to return with an even greater passion, committed to being a role model for her daughter. And of course she watched lots of TV, sending a report every 2-3 weeks about what her observations about programming were. The affable Mahajan insists she has other hobbies though, among them Bollywood dance and collecting stationery.

 

The sky is the limit

Diversity of experience is intrinsic to Star’s DNA. “It’s why I’m still here ten years later,” Mahajan says. “Every three years I have done something different. Any time I have tried to feel even a little complacent, such a big challenge is thrown at me, that I feel excited again.”

As far as the future is concerned, she’s not worried. “Everything at Star is an opportunity. Star gives you the chance to take a risk and doesn’t punish you.” Mahajan says she’s brand agnostic when it comes to what she handles next at Star but what matters is the role and her bosses. “Maybe I’ll work in HR next,” she laughs. But for now, the marketer has a firm handle on what the crux of her job is. “If you can touch the heart of the viewer, that’s marketing. Whether a person loves the show or not is a decision made by the heart. The rest is just rationalizing."

 

 

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