The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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How I Made It
Purnendu Bose
CEO, Sahara One, India

The next time you switch on the telly to catch India take on England, give a thumbs up to a boy from Durgapur who started life as a sales officer in remote Raipur. He now heads Sahara One, the channel telecasting the high-profile series.

Purnendu Bose is a man in a hurry. He has changed as many as eight jobs in 16 years. His debut job, after passing out of Calcutta University, was with Macmillan. “I could speak only broken Hindi,” he says. “Yet, I registered a 478 per cent growth in the first year.” But the job could not keep him satisfied. Schools buy books once a year. What does one do after that'

So Bose shifted to fire-fighting mode, selling fire extinguishers. The stint proved a dream run, with Bose taking over as branch manager. By then, he had earned a name as a trouble-shooter and was regularly travelling up and down east and central India. No one imagined that seven lakh fire extinguishers could be sold to Indian homes. Soon, he was driving his first car ' a Maruti 800 ' at 26.

One thing that bothered him, however, was that no matter how well he performed, he was piped by his colleagues in Mumbai. “Mumbai I realised, was where the action was,” he says. Soon, he landed in the country’s commercial capital and joined Maharaja Appliances. He helped launch the country’s first dishwasher. Three promotions in three years and he was made the zonal manager.

The next port of call was the Easy Call Paging Service. This was a tougher challenge. “Ours was the fourth entrant in the market and had to fight for space.” Even as he rose from being the chief sales manager to general manager, the soft-spoken man was quick to read the writing on the wall. With mobile phones coming in, a career in pagers was a dead end.

So off he went to Newscorp to launch Mumbai’s first call centre. In two years, the 36-seater expanded to 750. This is when Peter Mukherjea pulled Bose to Star to head its broadcast operations. Here was a man from a sales background spearheading a technical division. Bose concedes the implausibility but points out that to be a manager, all you need is common sense and focus. Everything else falls into place.

In five years, he was instrumental in launching Radio City FM channel. It was then that he was called in to launch Star News. Next, came a call (from UTV) to launch India’s first kids channel ' Hungama. “Somewhere down the line, I felt I understood television,” says Bose. As Hungama soared up the TRP charts, outgunning international giants like Nickelodeon India, Pogo and Disney, Bose set his eyes on general entertainment, the arena for the big boys.

This April he completes one year at Sahara. How has his common sense helped' “The others, I found, were showing unreal situations,” he says. “But are Indian woman into kitchen politics anymore' So I concentrated on real women.” The result has been a 78 per cent increase in viewership in prime time over the first half of the year.

That hasn’t made him paint the town red. He would be the first to admit that there is a long way to go. But red is a colour he is fond of. “My cars are red,” he says. “I wear shades of red, pink or orange. I have shades of red on the walls at home. I have even redesigned the channel logo in red.”

On a more serious note, he ascribes his success to HR. “How else could I have survived without Hindi in Raipur'” He also knows how to bring out the best in his team. “There are incentives beyond money. Just now, I met this sales co-ordinator and set him a target. He promised to achieve it if I attended his son’s annaprasan. I readily agreed. Someone else back in Mumbai had wanted to meet Amitabh Bachchan. And I go out of my way to arrange these things. That can work miracles.” Bose has worked with the same team for years. “People follow me wherever I go.”

At 40, he looks back to a career without a break. His goal' Retirement in five years. By then, I should have done enough to afford it. I want to be there for my eight-year-old son when he steps into adolescence, he signs off.

As told to Sudeshna Banerjee in Calcutta

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