Mr Amit Khanna is part of the esteemed panel of Jury members for India’s 100 Most Powerful Business Leaders Music Conference to be held on the 12th and 13th June in Mumbai.
Music Inc. is a conference that aimed at finding solutions on how to improve the packaging of music as a product by aligning it to media, advertising, brands and technology. The conference is a push towards a collaborative effort for creating innovative music experiences.
Mr Khanna’s contribution as a creative producer, writer, film-maker, talent promoter and mentor affords him a preeminent status in this age. Guarding vigorously against nostalgia Mr Khanna continues to actively debunk myths that surprise all with revealing insights about modern living bringing us closer to the reality of our times. I had the privilege to interview Mr Khanna about his work spanning over 50 years.
From writing lyrics, scripts, producing your first film in 1980 to serving in different capacities in different boards of both government and non-government film and media related bodies and then finally as the Chairman of Reliance Entertainment. How would you describe the journey spanning over five decades?
I got involved in films in 1969 via a chance meeting with Star-Filmmaker Dev Anand while still in college (St Stephen’s College, New Delhi). Dev Saab must have seen some spark in me that while I was still in College. He asked me to manage Nav Ketan’s work in Delhi, which incidentally involved liaison with Government and as well as getting involved with his distribution in Delhi.
In 1971 I went to Kathmandu for Hare Rama Hare Krishna (I even wrote the dialogue for a couple of scenes). Earlier I had done theatre, Journalism, Advertising, Radio and TV while in College too. So when I passed out in 1971, Dev Saab asked me to come to Mumbai and work with him. Although initially, my parents were against my joining films but seeing my interest allowed me.
Then happenstance gave me an opportunity to lead the then largest Film Company when I was just over 22 years old. I got involved in every aspect of filmmaking. Since I had been writing poetry (in Hindi and English), I ventured into lyric writing and script writing. (Check my filmography on my website www.amitkhanna.in).
I was working 18 hours a day seven days a week doing different things. My age and my educational background aroused a lot of curiosity among film industry and media at the time. Even singers like Lata Ji, Kishore Da, Rafi Saab, Asha Ji and others and other film stalwarts found me a strange mix of a creative person and a business head.
In 1976 I turned Producer, and this got me involved in the Film Producers Guild which at that time had only 35 members -all veterans from V Shantaram, BR Chopra, Raj Kapoor, and others. I was the youngest member and became its treasurer in 1976 and later its VP and then President. Since I was articulate, I was a natural choice to be apart of all film delegations meeting the Government. I was also well networked with parallel cinema and the film festival circuit. I also developed friendships in Advertising and Corporate circles with almost all the leaders in these fields. I also began writing on Industry affairs in various national publications.
I was one of the first to get involved with video and TV in the eighties.I kept in touch with global trends and best practices and started introducing it in the disorganised Bollywood industry.
In 1989 I set up Plus Channel India’s first Media and Entertainment Conglomerate Plus Channel and later in 2000 became the founder Chairman of Reliance Entertainment. I led the company’s diversification into various segments from Radio, Films, TV, New Media to Gaming. I also led the foray into Hollywood including the partnership with Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks. I quit in 2015 to devote my time to academic writing and mentoring.
You recently mentioned that almost all are underprepared for the technology upheaval-taking place. What are some of the steps that should be taken to combat this, especially in India?
My views on technology are well known. Hollywood is five years behind the curve and Bollywood 10 years. Entertainment businesses are reluctant to change and are late adopters. The Digital Age caught the whole Media & Entertainment space by surprise and since they were not prepared even the large studios are facing threats from new age companies. The entire business model has been turned on its head and technology is changing so fast that unless you track its future, you are left behind.
We are now entering the immersive phase of digitalisation. VR and other technologies will change the way we communicate. Interoperability of devices and formats will make an interface between the real and virtual world into one seamless experience. As Matt Britton, the CEO of Crowdtap an expert in future marketing puts it succinctly following points about the future Economy. The key jobs will be deeply artistic or deeply scientific, and the rest will be automated. So you need to be able to do what machines can’t (art) or be able to program and build the machines yourself (science and engineering).
Rapid urbanisation is creating a new class of consumers who are less obsessive about owning property, vehicles or even cooking at home. Convenience and costs are determining consumption. The opportunity to market through competing for brand messages is going to become more limited as the delivery mechanisms optimise to create a more convenient user experience. Convenience means streamlining choices. Which could put many lower-tier brands in a bother. In Society 4.0 brands will be more impacted by experiences that stick in the user’s minds than marketing. The experience may be even more important than the offer, since, in this world, users may not care to compare many offers.
In a world where attention is a scarce resource, what are some of the marketing trends that are going to come up in the next ten years?
It’s not merely attracting attention in this multimedia environment but keeping the consumer engaged. Its only through engagement that monetisation happens. In 3 years it will be all about the personalised segmentation of media and curated content. We are currently seeing what I call mass customisation of Media(e.g. Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, I tunes, Spotify and on-demand services online, mobiles and OTTs. Concepts like farm to fork, cradle to grave and use and throw are a part of the new Mantra
One of the most sought-after things would be authenticity. Consumers will be in control in the new ecosystem. Health, Eco-friendliness and service delivery will become key. Other changes would include: Artificial Intelligence will deliver real-time service improvements on a range of platforms. Visual communications will be dominant on social media. Sensors and all-time connectivity will make the measurement of sales, promotion and usage and experience will become exponentially interesting.
The new focus will be Creativity, Originality, Reciprocity, Empathy and Intuition. From a Rational, Logical, Predictable world we will move to a Random world influenced, directed and driven by Empathy and emotions from Competition and Manipulation to Collaboration and Problem Solving; From Hierarchical.
There is so much unlearning to do before we begin learning anew. The newspaper ad, 30-second commercial, hoardings, neon signs radio jingle even online videos will have to transform into immersive but shorter experience. Subliminal communication, neural messaging will be the new brand bonding tools.
I believe we are now in an age of mass customisation and consumers are being addressed as communities and groups. In a few years, it will all about personalised segmentation. Everything for everyone, customised. This kind of cataclysmic changes requires us both as marketers and producers(providers) begin understanding the language, needs and demands of Post millennials. This is a world under reconstruction_ socially, politically and economically. We have little choice but to evolve.
What do you feel about the way music is consumed in India currently and changes we need to make to prepare ourselves for the future?
Music is largely consumed on the go. Whether it is on FM Radio, Phones or other devices. The shelf life of songs has come down, but listenership and revenue streams have expanded. Live Entertainment is another massive opportunity in music. Again it is about customisation (playlists, favourites). The Internet has democratised creativity and the distribution, and it is up to the Industry to figure out a revenue model to attract and engage consumers. Now with AI and voice cognitive computing every kind of content will be available on tap.