Saif Ahmad Khan
On December 6, HT Media formally notified employees to “prepare for the worst” to deal with the “turbulent business scenario” in post-demonetisation phase. “Demonetisation has crashed an already declining market and no one can tell when conditions will improve. It could be a few months, six months or it could be longer,” wrote HT CEO Rajiv Verma to employees last Tuesday.
To deal with the crisis at hand, Verma instructed the staffers to embrace for a radical change in their manner of functioning besides working towards consolidating and removing costs. He laid out five “guiding principles” to be followed by his team to get past the “difficult situation”.
Stressing on the necessity of “management discipline”, the employees have been asked to prepare two lists. “I would like each of you to make two lists – one are the critical priorities – things we absolutely must get done – and the other is the list of things you will need to put aside for now – the “stop doing” list,” the email noted.
Verma emphasized the need for implementing a “bias for action” citing it as the reason behind e-retailer Amazon’s success. From now onwards, the default answer to all initiatives at HT will be in the affirmative. “If you want to stop something, you have to write a memo on why you said “no” – in other words their default answer is always yes,” he said.
He urged everyone to “remove barriers” and function with a “sense of urgency” so as to save time and outpace competitors. Another key point that he raised was in relation to increase in collaboration. “Going forward, I expect a heightened sense of “active collaboration” and by this I mean that each function – media marketing, HR, finance, editorial and the various businesses actively work to support each other and reduce any friction in getting things done,” he mentioned.
Lastly, he called upon HT workers to be optimistic as the organisation gears up to weather past the storm. “We are entering a difficult time, but we will not panic, and we will not engage in cynicism. We must leverage the strategy of instilling optimism and self-confidence but staying grounded in reality,” Verma added.
HT Media is the publisher of mass dailies like Hindustan Times and Hindustan. Besides HT, both the properties of ABP Group i.e. The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika are reportedly laying off employees. While the print news sector has for long been affected by the disruption caused due to the emergence of digital journalism, the central government’s demonetisation policy has led to a dip in ad spends which has caused media revenues to dry down.
The period post-Diwali generally registers an increase in consumer spend which in turn leads to a higher ad spend by companies. Hence, media companies benefit a lot during the ongoing season which contributes a substantial chunk of their revenues. However, this time around, quarterly results, as well as the overall financial year numbers, may take a hit due to the sucking out of cash from the market. In such a scenario, more companies can be expected to cut down on their costs, sack employees and halt staffing for the time being.
(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist. Views are personal)