Made in Chandigarh: ‘Be your own boss’ says former CEO of Zee Telefilms Sandeep Goyal
This St John’s alumnus travels the world, lives in Mumbai, but has his heart here. Meet the head honcho who plays to win, but finds time for philanthropy
I am the chairman of the Mogae Group. Before this I was India JV partner and chairman of Dentsu India & Middle-East. I have also worked as the Group CEO of Zee Telefilms Ltd.and president of Rediffusion DY&R.
My hometown is Chandigarh. I was raised here though my father hails from Moga in Punjab.
I am a gold medallist in BA, English honours, from Panjab University. Later I did my MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, which I rejoined five years ago to do PhD. I have also attended the Owner/President Management (OPM) program at Harvard Business School.
My Chandigarh connect
My entire childhood and youth was spent in the City Beautiful. I came to Chandigarh when I was five years old. I was the first ever student admitted to Sacred Heart Convent School, which used to be a co-ed institute back then. In Class 3, I moved to St John’s School and studied there till Class 10. Then I joined DAV College, Sector 10, for graduation.
Those were some of the happiest years of my life. I excelled in academics, graduating with a gold medal and a university record in English literature. I was editor of the college magazine and also the president of the literary association. I remember winning lots and lots of debates, declamations, quizzes and writing contests.
My parents have been in Chandigarh for over 50 years now. We have our own house in Sector 21. My parents were both in government service. While my mother retired as a senior IAS officer, my father retired as a chief engineer. My sister too studied in Chandigarh till Class 12.
I started some of my best friendships in the city. Today, many of those friends are in faraway lands but our affection for each other endures.
Chandigarh those days had a very eclectic crowd. The present Mumbai commissioner of police, Subodh Jaiswal, was my classmate in college. Many friends like Anil Jain, Manpreet Vohra, Varun Sindhu, Sanjay Bhatia, Pradeep Kapoor and others are in the IAS,IFS and IPS. Tarunjit Tejpal went on to become a famous journalist. The likes of Harit Nagpal, Pankaj Mahindroo, Bharat Puri and Vivek Mohan have scaled great heights in corporate India. Dolly Minhas and Poonam Dhillon found their place in Bollywood. Growing up with such ‘super achievers’ was great fun.
Area of expertise
I have now been in advertising and media for more than three decades. I have had the honour of launching brands like Airtel, Toyota Innova, HDFC Life, Maggi sauces and have handled clients as diverse as Apple to Aircel, Britannia to Bata , Colgate to Citibank, Exide to Eveready, Hero to Honda, Maruti to Maggi, Revlon to Rasna, Star to Suzlon, and Tata to Toyota. I have handled some of the best brands in the world, and produced some very well-acknowledged advertising over the years.
In the last ten years, I got into the digital and mobile space. I set up one of India’s biggest content companies to produce mobile comics and set up India’s first fantasy league. I launched India’s first online media exchange besides pioneering mobile monetization in India through precise customer targeting. Last but not the least, I co-own India’s No.1 food channel, Foodfood TV in partnership with celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor.
My secret sauce
I live by three very important mantras:
1.You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
2.You never win silver, you lose gold.
3.When was the last time you did something for the first time.
The first mantra keeps me on my toes. I chase and convert every opportunity possible. My second mantra ensures I play to win. The third mantra keeps my curiosity alive. I am constantly seeking new experiences, new learnings. Which is why I enrolled for a PhD at the age of 50.
The turning point
I turned entrepreneur at the age of 40. I partnered with Dentsu Inc., the world’s largest advertising agency and launched a joint venture with them. We then extended the joint venture beyond India to the entire Middle-East and North Africa. This transition from just an advertising professional to the owner of such a large enterprise catapulted my career into a different stratosphere.
What I owe to Chandigarh
A lot of beautiful memories. Some great friends. A very happy childhood. A very vibrant and fun-filled youth.
In my own small way, I have started to repay the city of my youth. My company recently adopted the Matka Chowk and is beautifying it. I am really enjoying the experience.
I am also working closely with my alma mater St. John’s on some interesting projects. These make me happy and help me stay connected to the city despite living in Mumbai.
Things I like to do in Chandigarh
I spend time with my parents and meet old friends to relive the beautiful past. And of course, I eat some really delicious food that one finds only in Chandigarh.
How has the city changed?
It’s more crowded, more noisy and more affluent. To be fair, the city is also better connected than what it was 30-40 years ago. Today, I can hop on to any of the 6-7 daily flights from Mumbai alone.
Change I want to see in the city
I want to see more entrepreneurship, more success stories. Punjab has always been known for enterprise. The next Flipkart or Ola must come from Chandigarh.
The best advice I ever got
Son, be your own boss. Nothing better than that, ever.
My advice to youngsters in my field
Stay young. Stay connected. Stay hungry.