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Home > Business > Special

Sameer Nair, game maker

Sonali Krishna in Mumbai | March 23, 2006

From selling burgers and chicken rolls to being the most influencial person in popular television entertainment, Sameer Nair, the recently named CEO of Star Entertainment, has had a rather circuitous journey.

Earlier this week, in a major organisational rejig, Star India split the company into two units: Star Group and Star Entertainment.

While Nair has been made CEO of Star Entertainment from chief operating officer of Star India, Peter Mukherjea, News Corp's market strategy man in India, has been made CEO of Star Group. Mukherjea was earlier CEO of Star India.

Nair will now be the authority of all the day to day operations, including programming, marketing, advertising sales and distribution -- the main revenue centres of Star India.

Nair never thought he'd be India's leading soap seller (soap opera, that is). He started off his career wanting to be a scientist, and has traversed various paths including selling space in Yellow pages, working for a Chennai-based ad agency, Gold Wire, and even having a go at cinema as an independent filmmaker.

Nair's tryst with Star India began in 1994, when he began as a director-producer for Star Movies, Star's English movie channel. Nair's job was essentially to create snippets of content revolving around Bollywood personalities including interviews, behind-the-scenes and on-location shoots.

Nair's talent was soon recognised by upper management, and he was put into the main programming team and then made head of on-air promos for Star Plus. In 1999, Nair went on to become head of programming for Star Plus, which was then lagging far behind Zee TV and Sony.

Then came one of the most dramatic audience-gathering strategies Indian television has ever seen. In July 2000, Nair unveiled the drop-everything-and-watch quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati.

Overnight, Amitabh Bachchan's charisma with star-struck audiences (and their love of lucre) turned the fortunes of the Star Network around, catapulting Star Plus from No. 3 straight to No. 1.

Having got the crowds, Nair wouldn't let them go. Nair sequenced the show with a flurry of soppy family dramas (now famous as the "K serials"). The channel has been the market leader ever since.

In 2002, Nair was promoted to COO of Star India. In a matter of six months, Nair ramped up Star's distribution from 5.4 million subscriptions to over 10.7 million.

Nair was also instrumental in launching Star Gold, Star's Hindi movie channel, and the pruchase of Vijay TV, Star's Tamil channel. He also helped the group regain operational control of Channel V.

More recently, Nair launched Star One, another Hindi channel aimed at viewers of a slightly different psychographic profile.

So, what now? The man borrows the Fox Sports tagline: "Same game, more attitude". Luck, he believes, is a result of diligence, and success and failure are in the detail.

His favourite boardgame is Risk (a game about world domination), which he plays regularly with his 13-year-old son. This year shall be eventful for another reason: he is getting remarried this April. Appropriately enough, perhaps, he says, "The game has just begun."

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