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'Leaders raise the bar'

Rahul Johri, senior vice-president, Discovery Networks (Asia-Pacific), overlooks the growth strategy of India's leading factual and lifestyle portfolio of TV channels. He spoke to HT on a range of issues covering leadership and management. Himani Chandna Gurtoo reports.

business Updated: Jan 09, 2013 21:58 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo

Rahul Johri, senior vice-president, Discovery Networks (Asia-Pacific), overlooks the growth strategy of India's leading factual and lifestyle portfolio of TV channels including Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo, Discovery HD World, Discovery Tamil and Discovery Kids. He is the driving force behind the networks' pioneering localisation strategy. To ensure channel penetration among the masses, he launched multiple language feeds across brands. With over 19 years of experience in the industry, Rahul has worked across media verticals, from news channels to magazines to news dailies. He spoke to HT on a range of issues covering leadership and management. Excerpts:

What is leadership for you?
Leadership for me is about transforming vision into reality. It includes instilling trust and energy in the team and empowering them to drive and deliver results. It's about delivering focus and generating resources required to reach the desired goals. Consistently raising the bar of performance characterises a leader. And lastly, it means inspiring creativity while demonstrating utmost integrity.

Who is your inspiration from your industry? And beyond industry?
I am inspired by Mahatma Gandhi for his belief in "you must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Moreover, I drive my inspiration more from ideas than from people because I believe that successful ideas have many masters and are often not a creation of an individual, as we often tend to declare. Therefore, I believe that it is more valuable to admire the journey of a brand, product or idea from all counts than restrict the same to an individual's contribution. And, these sources of inspiration are not limited to any sector, geography or profession.

What is your leadership mantra? Also, which is the most important trait that a leader must have?
My leadership mantra is that it is the consistency in decision making that leads to success and not a few random actions. Everyone can have a few ideas, but a leader has to develop an environment for such ideas to flow in consistently.

The most important trait that a leader must possess is 'trustworthiness'. It is the trust and confidence that the leader imbibes in his team that forms the foundation of a company and ensures effective decision making. Just like in a family, it is the overwhelming atmosphere of trust that helps a company in building a prosperous future.

A great team makes a great leader or is it a great leader who makes a good team?
Just like any team sport, I believe that a leader is as good as his team. To become a great leader, it is in his interest to create a prodigious team by demonstrating fortitude, insight, probity and selflessness. A leader and his team reflect similar values and virtues.

Do you believe that a bad economy tests leadership qualities?
The ability to convert adversity and despondency into opportunity and hope is the hallmark of a leader. A leader is evaluated equally in both days of boom and gloom. Expectations of stakeholders are highduring both environments. It's just that he or she is critiqued more during tougher times. A bad economy tests a leader's conviction and prepares him for greater times.

What is the best leadership decision that you have taken so far?
Discovery Networks has strengthened its leadership position in the non-fiction entertainment genre in India over the last few years.

My decision to increase Discovery's network portfolio in India from 3 to 8 channels, and thus allowing everyone's role and contribution in the company to grow, has been a most gratifying experience. The satisfaction of expanding the Indian television landscape by introducing new television genres and redefining existing ones, such as the Kids genre and the High Definition experience, is unmatched. Our localisation strategy encompassing programming, production, languaging and marketing have led to the company being regarded as a thought leader in the Indian television industry.

What would be your worst decision as a leader?
I sincerely wish I had done everything I did a year in advance. India offers a great opportunity, of course, riddled with challenging complications, which Discovery is ideally poised to realise.

Being a leader of Discovery Networks in the Asia- Pacific region, how do you keep yourself updated about the content that your competitors run?
Being a part of a global company like Discovery, with presence in over 200 countries, offers us strategic advantage wherein we do not have to constantly look over our shoulders, especially when it comes to content. We have very strong relationships across the globe and robust internal systems that keep us informed about all strategic content developments well in advance.

All in all, Discovery's worldwide leadership in the non-fiction genre brings compelling benefits which allow us to remain ahead of the curve and set new production benchmarks.