Trust is like a book hard to write, but once destroyed difficult to write back again. This is one of the important lessons learnt by Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific and Chairman, Star and Disney India, in his 30-year-long career.
Shankar, arguably the most powerful person in Indian media today, was speaking at the AAAI Subhas Ghosal Memorial Lecture 2019 at Four Seasons, Worli, Mumbai, to a glittering audience consisting of who’s who of the media, advertising and marketing world.
Shankar started by saying that his visit to a district in North-Eastern Bihar in the early days of his career (when he saw government professionals work selflessly to serve the needy) changed his world view forever. He then realised that the real India is lot more layered and nuanced and the worst mistake that one can make is to try to put it into stereotypes and clichéd ideological categories. That experience became one of the critical lenses to look at the country for the rest of his life.
Another important lesson Shankar learned was that the ones who succeed are the ones who are able to grapple with all the elements of complex life and do not rush to hasty conclusions.
His fascination towards TV journalism came when he saw the first Gulf War being telecast on CNN. Shankar said, “The telecast of the first Gulf War in CNN is the most life-changing event. That is what I fell in love with at that moment”. The next thing that he did was to quit his existing job and take up a new job, which was at a much lower pay, because of which he went through a rough financial patch. But that rough patch was a series of learning for him at both a personal and a professional level and the most important learning was — “always follow your heart, listen to the inner voice and do not worry about the consequences”.
Shankar concluded by saying that one of the best things that has happened to him is staying in the media industry, which enabled him to know the country better. This is because he took the risk of quitting his previous job for something which he really wanted. Risk-taking is a part of life and as a journalist, one should take that risk. When one doesn’t know what to do, the best thing is to ask someone who understands it better.