CTO Rajneesh Mittal’s Approach to Digital Transformation for Zee Entertainment Enterprises

“Technology has now become such an integral part of all businesses that I don’t have to worry about driving digital transformation. There are always problematic areas which can be taken care if relevant technology is applied. I do exactly that bit by bit and it has resulted in a digitally transformed enterprise. This has been my approach to digital transformation.” says Rajneesh Mittal, CTO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.

He claims that he is neither a thoroughbred IT person nor did he begin his career as an IT guy. He’s been in the telecom industry for roughly 18 years before joining Zee Entertainment and calls this his first job as a so-called IT person. Through his last stint at Vodafone Business Services, he got to interact with a lot of CIOs, CTOs and their teams which gave him the exposure and he started developing fascination for the enterprise side of things. In an exclusive interview with BW CIOWORLD, Rajneesh Mittal, CTO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. talks about his role as a technology leader and how he is driving digital transformation in the entertainment business.

BW CIO: With growing online businesses and customer engagement through various digital engagement platforms, social and cinema, how are you embracing the new channels (OTT platforms)?

OTT platforms are essentially a means to distribute your content but you need to have really good content with you. We at Zee have been in the content business for the last 25 years and we have a very strong presence in regional language as well. We cater to a broader India. The capabilities that OTT platforms provide to their users is available through our OTT app Zee5 as well; which is doing very well now. That content is also available to the people who want watch wherever they want. We are embracing all sorts of content distribution channels and while retaining the core strength that we have which is our content and content creation capabilities. Putting both of these together and leveraging technologies wherever we can, we are trying to reach out as wider audience as [possible, simultaneously keep updating our creative talents.

BW CIO: How are you keeping traditional broadcasting businesses stay relevant in the digital landscape?

Broadcasting is not going anywhere as television has a wide range. What we are doing is we are using technology to make content more appealing so it looks good on television screen. There are technologies like augmented reality and virtual studios which help in creating much richer sets. A perfect example would be of reality shows where you can have visually stunning studios for shooting. You can have 3D graphics to get very nice appeal. We are also trying to bridge the offline-online divide where viewers watching television can interact with the content and our advertisers on that content. There are many technologies available which help in pointing users to their alternate screens.

BW CIO: How are you driving digital transformation for your enterprise?

My approach to drive digital transformation is a little different. I’m not a theory guy, I look at business problems and I try to solve them. My strong belief is that you don’t have to work on strategies such as extensive roadmap but just look at your business, observe the problems very closely and you will find out that there are areas where technology can help. I do that bit by bit and the end result is a whole digitally transformed enterprise. Following this rule we have transformed so much in the last three years.

As we get content from multiple locations and production houses, we get hours of content on daily basis which goes on air on television through episodes. That manual time that we used to spend has now been turned into automated workflows which have saved a lot of our time and the processing of content has now become seamless. We’ve also put a content collaboration solution which helps people collaborate remotely for content no matter where they are through cloud.

Gradually we have done so many things that digital transformation is happening on its own. I don’t have to worry about saying that I’ve digitally transformed the enterprise or not but I have solved immeasurable problems using technology. Technology has become so core to businesses that I don’t have to drive the digital transformation.

BW CIO: Your most satisfying project and its quantifiable outcome?

One of the most challenging and satisfying projects has been deployment of Content Management System (CMS) here at Zee Entertainment. It is a modern and fully integrated platform to manage over 200K hours of media content. It supports seamless content operations across various geographies worldwide. CMS powers and automates the content syndication business. Various value-added services are added as plug and play extensions on an ongoing basis to the platform for solving complex content business use cases. It promotes collaborated content review for 200+ creative brains working on content through day and night.

BW CIO: How large is your team? How do you keep them motivated?

I have around 40 people which is a healthy mix of software developers, IT guys, operations folks, content technology people. I take care of the entire technology bit, not just the information technology but media technology as well. So we have a mix of skills that we have in our team.

My way of working focuses on always figuring out how to do new and challenging things. I believe it is not just to figure out a new product. Innovation is not just in those things but even if it’s a regular mundane IT operations job where you are supposed to handle things such as customer complaints, even there you have a lot of failures where you can improve upon and innovate. I, for example, tell my IT operations guy to look at the past six months of data and reduce 50 percent of its complaints in the next 6 months of time. So then we begin working on the root causes and removing them as there’s a 80-20 rule wherein 80 percent of the problems generate from the 20 percent of the areas that we can actually easily fix. This is the theme that runs across my team and we encourage each other to figure out ways to fix issues and continuously dig out new things.

BW CIO: What do you take as your top priority being a CTO?

I want to be less of a CTO and more of a business person. These days it is not just backend IT or backend technology as technologies are really an integral part of media and entertainment. For example unless I understand the content creation process, I wouldn’t know what I can do from a technology standpoint on what can be done to make the content more visually appealing. I have to understand everything like how I sell my content, ads and inventory. So unless I understand that, I would not be able to add value to these things. So my top most priority being a CTO is not to spend time on technologies or being a CTO but actually sitting with my business peers and understanding the business by discussing and debating. Then I figure out the better use of technologies which help in showing better look and feel, which increase the sales more efficiently and which will help us reach a long tail of advertisers.

My role as a CTO is lesser of a CTO and more of a business person. I spend majority of my time in talking, discussing and understanding the issues with my business teams. Then figuring out becomes the easy part when you have to pick solutions and fit them in the requirements. But since you have to understand the requirements first, that’s where I spend most of my time as my top priority. Otherwise I’ll restrict myself to the so-called IT work or once in a while I’ll practice some technology thing that I read about somewhere. But this way I won’t know how it fits with my business.

BW CIO: How do you keep up with the constant change in technology?

I read a lot and attend a lot of seminars. In general, I like to see what is happening around and keep myself abreast with whatever avenues are possible then I do a lot of trials and experiments as well. That’s the best way to learn new technologies, prioritize them and apply them according to our business needs.


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