It isn’t easy being the Business Head, LIVE Viacom18 and Consumer Products at Viacom18, but Saugato Bhowmik does it with a sense of easy can can only be achieve after years of hard work and experience. We got a chance to sit down with the man for a few minutes to discuss things like Hip Hop, Pune and Vh1 Supersonic’s transformation theme. This is what he had to say:
The Sherp: First off, it was a great move to move to a February slot and break free from the whole December clutter. What led Supersonic to make that move?
Saugato: Like you said, there’s too much clutter. There’s so much happening in the last month of December. Conventional wisdom is that everyone wants to take December at their slot, which is true. It is the festive season and everyone is in the festive mood and that’s great. But, when it reaches a point where there’s too many things happening, you will only end up cannibalising each other. Being a part of an industry-leading organisation, our job is to create the industry and not to fight it. In order to create the industry, we all need to invest in creating different venues, different destinations and different time slots in the year so that we can attract more and more people rather than cannibalising the same set. By being in the same month, what you are effectively doing is telling the same person that there are five places to go to and nobody has the time and money to go to all five. They will choose one or two, maximum. Whereas, if everybody were evenly spread out, there’s a much higher chance of that person trying to make it to all five or maybe at least four, thereby growing the industry. Our aim is to help the industry grow. This is why we made a bold move to move Vh1 Supersonic to February, because it’s clean and there’s nobody around. It’s roughly forty days after the New Year festivities and people are thinking about their next break or party. It’s also away from any possible examinations, which we do consider. So it’s a nice wedge in between.
The Sherp: Since you’re shifting away from Goa, do you see newer audiences getting attracted to Vh1 Supersonic in Pune?
Saugato: Of course. Goa is a beautiful, fabulous place and we all love Goa because it was the birthplace of Supersonic. We will always have very fond memories of Goa. It was quite a heavy decision for us, but that said, Pune is a uniquely set place and is the youth capital of India. It is beautifully connected to Mumbai. There are a lot of people who would not want to go all the way to Goa and spend that kind of money, because Goa becomes very expensive, specially for youngsters. Those people would just love to drive down, take a bus, pool into a car, take a train to get to Pune and attend the festival. It’s far more affordable and, at the same time, it’s still attracting the cream of the two most cosmopolitan cities of the country which are Mumbai and Pune. A lot of the crowd is also coming in from Bangalore, Hyderabad and other parts of the country. After announcing Eric Prydz, we have people coming from the East and North too, because that’s the level of fan following. This move from Goa to Pune is turning out quite well for us.
The Sherp: Can you tell us a bit more about the transformational theme that the festival is going with this time?
Saugato: Audiences are always seeking that moment of experiencing something. They see such live, experiential property venues as ideal places to receive such a big amount of stimulus. This is the same audience that is always on the net, constantly on Snapchat, constantly trying to find the coolest places to hang out, sharing the latest viral videos. They need constant shots of excitement and adrenaline, and that high are those little transformations. So, for us, we believe that it is our brand duty and our brand vision to provide that level and quality of transformation and even transformative experiences that will address this need of the hour. We work very hard to balance out the need for transformation because it can happen from many things, not just the music or the line-up, but every little thing. A very well-curated market, a food truck festival, a well-curated flea market, high quality of technology set-up which will enable a flawless experience throughout the festival, great games there, a good crowd, good vibe, security, great sanitation; all of it come together to create an environment where people leave behind their facades and express themselves in their own true way. That is transformation to us and that is what we aim to create and that’s the theme that will remain the brand’s philosophy for years to come. We might articulate it differently as the years go by but the fundamental thought will remain the same.
The Sherp: You spoke about Supersonic accommodating many other genres in editions to come. What made you start that entire transformation process with hip-hop this year?
Saugato: Hip-hop has a fabulous fan following and I can’t think of any other brand, festival, live entertainment piece that is doing any justice to this. Hip-hop is also another form of self-expression that originated in the West but has found a very different expression in India. Our Indian hip-hop stars have created and made their own version of desi hip-hop. It’s almost a movement, if you think about it, and we want that movement to find a voice at our festival and we’ve had fabulous responses from our audiences when they heard that hip-hop is coming. Where will they get international-quality hip-hop coming to India? That’s why we’re going to do much more on this topic. It also helps people to look forward to different genres. Hip-hop comes alive on stage when dancers start performing along with the artists, while EDM is very heavy on lasers and LED screens with big DJ consoles. So the two experiences are very different and it’s great for the audience as well.
The Sherp: Can you tell us about your plans for Viacom Live in 2017?
Saugato: Watch this space as it’s going to get bigger and better with a lot more IPs being crafted to address all the different segments and preferences that we have identified in the Indian market. We are doing a lot of hard work to create the right business plans around each of them and, sooner or later, you will start seeing different IPs launching from our portfolio plus consolidation of all our existing IPs as well. We have MTV (Bollyland) which is happening this year and more will happen next year.