welcomes as our guest Ronnie Screwvala. Ronnie is a first
generation successful Indian entrepreneur and author of Dream with
Your Eyes Open.
Ronnie pioneered Cable TV in India way back in the ‘80s and he went on to build a diversified Media and Entertainment company – UTV – and in the process partnered with The Walt Disney Company, News Corp, and Bloomberg amongst others.
After divesting the company he founded to Disney, he served as the Managing Director of Disney in India. Today, he is the Founder Trustee of Swades Foundation and is active in new businesses in Sports, Education, Digital as well as being an active Angel and Venture Investor.
Norm: Good day Ronnie
and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in business ventures and what keeps you going?
Ronnie: I think from a young age I was clear I wanted to be on my own and create and run my own company. I had a strong interest in all things Creative and so my first enterprise was to pioneer Cable TV In India ( today India is the Largest DTH market in the world and Cable TV reaches out to 180 mill + households ).
My Passion for Theatre and
being on stage at an early age - purely as a hobby lead to Media and
Entertainment and got me to found what was then a creative television
production company and that scaled to be one the largest media and
entertainment companies in the sub continent. I think the idea of new
challenges - and being at the tipping edge of being disruptive and
innovative in whatever sectors I work in keeps me going.
Norm: How would you describe your experiences in partnering with The Walt Disney Company, News Corp and Bloomberg? What was the best part of working with these companies and what did you learn from them?
Ronnie:My first experience with News Corp was in 1991 when Rupert Murdoch came to India having recently acquired Star TV and he visited our very modest office, and this lead to them taking a significant stake in our company UTV at an early stage . That was formative years in media in India and they were supportive with strong strategic inputs and global learning.
Many years later, we created a Kids channels in direct competition with Cartoon Network/ Nickelodeon and Disney and it became the No 1 Kids channel in India - and that started our long and strong relationship with The Walt Disney Company - when they acquired the channel from us and invested into UTV.
The next 5-6 years they played a very active role in the rapid growth of our company when we diversified into Broadcasting/ a Movie Studio that became to be a leader in its space . Disney is the best media company in the world, values Brands - takes a long term view on each market and always always focuses on creative excellence and they imbibed all these qualities in me and in UTV.
Bloomberg was another
memorable journey and partnership - as we at UTV were the the very
first content partnership that Bloomberg entered into where they
allowed their brand to be affixed along with us - calling our
business channel in India "BloombergUTV" and it was a first
for them as creative and content control was with us - and that spoke
of their trust in us and our track record
Norm: If you had to choose, which business person would you consider a mentor?
Ronnie: I am not big on mentors or single mentors. I think I have learnt a lot from various leaders and from various circumstances but have not been able to single out one.
Norm: Do you feel that most business owners don't use their imagination when it comes to marketing and sales?
Ronnie:I think as a leader - it is your task to build the Brand and the culture of your company and you wear that hat on no matter how large your company . All Marketing and later sales spawns from how consumers and clients view your product and first your brand and in many cases the leader / founder also has his personal brand rub off on the company
Norm: What motivated you to write Dream with Your Eyes Open and what would you say is the best reason to recommend someone to read your book? Where did you get the information for the book and how long did it take to write the book?
Ronnie:Entrepreneurship in India is at its tipping point - as with a new Leadership at the political level - there is a great deal of optimism and I thought this is the best time to share my last 20-25 years learnings and anecdotes and failures and few success so that it could be an inspiration to many sitting on the fence or deep into their business and looking to Scale or even the professional in a company looking to be a strong leader.
For someone reading this
book I would say I share triumphs and setbacks - as also how to
survive in a David - versus - Goliath world The book is
my views and takes based on my learnings and all my first person
anecdotes. It took me many late nights and weekend spanning nine
months to write the book.
Norm: Could you tell our readers something about your book?
Ronnie: It starts from my very early years - where at the tender age of ten - I in some ways had my tryst at my first entrepreneurial moment . The book talks about - being the Outside and yet prevailing + How to seek opportunities and then know what to do with them + how Theatre shaped my early days and gave me clarity and confidence that till date makes me what I think I am + Scaling your business + Innovation and Disruption is the bedrock of the 21st Century companies + about spotting Trends as also Trucks headed your way + and about staying the course as Entrepreneurship and running your own enterprise is not an "outing" but a journey
Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
Ronnie: Well when you go back 25 years in your life and in such detail - it is a cathartic experience and in a good way - and it surprises you - as suddenly its 25 years or experiences and learning that you a re re visiting and then penning on paper and it makes you really summarize your life in ways you would not have thought
Norm: What did you enjoy most about writing your book?
Ronnie: It got me back in touch with young entrepreneurs of all ages and at various stages - it got me to get feedback from many at the early stages of my book and my daughters friends gave the best and most brutal feedback and it sobers you - but it also helped the later drafts of the book.
Norm: What would you like to say to business people who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating a viable business, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough?
Ronnie: Stay the Course as success comes when you stick around - and dream big and when you do - Dream With Your Eyes Open
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Dream with Your Eyes Open?
Ronnie: Everywhere !!
Norm: What is next for Ronnie Screwvala?
Ronnie: a lot ....in my second innings I have committed our family foundation which i am involved with my wife Zarina and my daughter Trishya with - to work in rural India and lift one million people out of poverty every 5 to 6 years .....and I am building disruptive businesses- ground up all over again - in Sports In Education and in Digital Media with some great co founders and team members
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Ronnie: I think we covered it all and thank you for this opportunity