In conversation with Rahul Rao, Business Head, Zee Punjabi

Our shows are rooted in Punjabiyat and bring alive the Punjabi way of life: Rahul Rao, Business Head, Zee Punjabi

Zee Punjabi has been ruling the roost in the space of Punjabi entertainment, thanks to its stellar engaging content line-up. Steering the ‘success’ ship is Rahul Rao, Business Head at Zee Punjabi.

Rahul is an MBA from Symbiosis University Pune with a double major in marketing and finance. In a rich and diverse career of 16 years as a Marketeer, P&L owner and business leader across industries Rahul has launched brands, led challenger brands to leadership and forayed into and set up new geographies from scratch.

His current stint has been with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd covering regional entertainment and movie channels across 3 Indian languages – Bangla, Oriya and Punjabi, the last being the historic channel launch of Zee Punjabi.

IWMBuzz entered into an exclusive candid conversation with the man of the moment on Zee Punjabi’s growth trajectory so far and future plans. Excerpts

Thanks a lot for your time, tell us a bit about Zee Punjabi and its journey so far?

Zee Punjabi has been amongst the most successful regional GECs launched in the country and it has been performing consistently since its launch over a year ago. Exciting is the word I would use to describe the journey of Zee Punjabi, from a fantastic launch to entertaining people in tough times to creating some memorable shows in the last year and a half, I would say we’ve packed quite a punch and created a great first impression on Punjabis across the globe.

In an era of digitisation, what is the USP or special content flavour that attracts the audience to Zee Punjabi?

Authenticity I would say, “apni mitti ki khushbu” in our characters and stories is what resonates deeply with our audiences. Our shows are rooted in Punjabiyat and bring alive the Punjabi way of life which is so relatable to the audiences. Because Punjabis live their life king size and have big dreams and aspirations, we’ve captured that essence by bringing some of the biggest superstars of Punjab on our shows – Harbhajan Singh, Jaswinder Bhalla, Neeru Bajwa, Sonam Bajwa, Jassi Gill, Gurpreet Ghuggi and many more.

Zee Punjabi has roped in some really known stars as part of different shows: does it help garner more buzz and revenues?

Given the popularity of some of the renowned stars we have on our channel, it certainly helps build the buzz but its success is dependent on the love these shows get. Viewers love to see their favourite superstars on their TV screens, however with a plethora of choices now available to the viewers with the click of a button, we need to always put our best foot forward and deliver compelling content while riding on some of the biggest faces in the market.

What would you say is the biggest USP of Zee Punjabi vis a vis its competitors?

If I were to sharply define one singular USP I would say it’s our unwavering consumer focus which manifests in our shows.

Holistically, how do you see the Punjabi entertainment space growing when compared to other regional markets?

Punjabi entertainment has shown robust growth be it music or movies or GECs, we’ve seen growth in TV consumption with new launches across music, movies and with Zee Punjabi in the GEC space. Punjab is still in a nascent stage when it comes to TV entertainment compared to other more matured markets which suggests the growth should be robust.

Tell us a bit about the next upcoming shows in Zee Punjabi’s kitty. What should the audience expect next?

The audience can expect new to market content like the Harbhajan Singh fronted – Punjabiyyan Di Dadagiri, an entertaining quiz show which is an inhouse format. Additionally, we will bring back our hugely successful weekend comedy chat show – Hasseyan Da Halla with the one & only Jaswinder Bhalla. We will also launch two new fiction shows – GEET DHOLI – Sufne De Thap which is the inspirational story of a young girl who decides to pursue her passion and take her father’s legacy ahead while challenging gender stereotypes and TEDA MEDHA SADDA VEDHA a slice of life comedy with a huge Punjabi joint family at its core.

Any innovation/new ideation you feel television programming or television business needs to adapt to usher in the next level of growth?

I think there are a lot of good ideas and innovation happening on regional TV, new shows, concepts and ideas are being unlocked which help in creating a distinct identity for regional TV channels and drive viewership in their respective language. Content in one’s native language is serving the consumer need but it’s how that content is being served to the viewers which is causing this growth in the regions.

Finally, out of all the shows at Zee Punjabi, which one is your personal favourite?

That’s a really tough question to answer, being a part of the creative process and close to all the shows I won’t be able to pick one favourite. Having said that, I believe we have done an outstanding job in creating fantastic non-fiction shows including reviving the age-old game of Antakshari.