Dr. Subhash Chandra
India
Dr. Subhash Chandra
  • Chairman, Essel Group (Media, Entertainment)
Born in Hisar, Haryana, India. Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration, University of East London.
“Don’t be overjoyed when you meet success, great success; don’t be depressed or feel sad if you meet failure…[this has] helped me...in my life and particularly [in business], I learned that the downturn teaches you much more than the success.”

Summary

Dr. Subhash Chandra is the Chairman of Zee and Essel Group, as well as a member of the Parliament of India. In this interview, Dr. Chandra discusses the trajectory of his career, which began at age 17, when he was called home from school to help save his family’s business. With little prior experience, Dr. Chandra worked to cultivate a reputation of trust and respect as a business leader in the local community. He credits these qualities to the teachings of his grandfather, who founded the family business in 1926.

Dr. Chandra describes some of the initial obstacles he faced in the early years of his career in the packaging industry: lack of capital, competition from multinationals, and saturated markets. However he also emphasizes his determination to withstand periods of loss and the strength of his long-term vision, both of which helped him eventually secure a joint-venture with Propack, giving his company a global presence.

Dr. Chandra goes on to relate how and why he began to diversify the company later in his career, from packaging to leisure, entertainment, infrastructure, and more. Of the many risks involved, Dr. Chandra explains that his main motivation was to fill niche and market demands that he saw throughout India, even if that meant exploring uncharted territory. Sustaining losses and weathering failures, he asserts, is part of the process, and he stresses these risks should not be avoided but embraced.

A good example of this philosophy in action is EsselWorld, an amusement park first launched in 1990. When the park had lower than expected turnout, Dr. Chandra gathered a team of researchers to understand why. Road quality was poor, making it difficult for families to make the trek to a destination for just one day. On top of this, the Indian government levied a high entertainment tax, making the park’s entrance fee prohibitive for most Indian consumers. Dr. Chandra used this data to then launch two subsequent business ventures, in infrastructure, to improve roads and transportation, and television, to bring entertainment directly into the average Indian home. The resultant network, Zee TV, is now one of the most-watched channels in India, despite the competitiveness of the market when Dr. Chandra entered.

The interview also delves into the question of corporate social responsibility, and how Dr. Chandra has continued his grandfather’s legacy of giving back to the community, both through Essel Group and on an individual level. Initiatives include education and research, but Dr. Chandra also emphasizes that the entertainment industry has unique responsibilities to create objective, meaningful content for viewers. This belief has inspired his own show, Dr. Subhash Chandra, in which he engages with young people across India.

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Dr. Subhash Chandra is the Chairman of Zee and Essel Group, as well as a member of the Parliament of India. In this interview, Dr. Chandra discusses the trajectory of his career, which began at age 17, when he was called home from school to help save his family’s business. With little prior experience, Dr. Chandra worked to cultivate a reputation of trust and respect as a business leader in the local community. He credits these qualities to the teachings of his grandfather, who founded the family business in 1926.

Dr. Chandra describes some of the initial obstacles he faced in the early years of his career in the packaging industry: lack of capital, competition from multinationals, and saturated markets. However he also emphasizes his determination to withstand periods of loss and the strength of his long-term vision, both of which helped him eventually secure a joint-venture with Propack, giving his company a global presence.

Dr. Chandra goes on to relate how and why he began to diversify the company later in his career, from packaging to leisure, entertainment, infrastructure, and more. Of the many risks involved, Dr. Chandra explains that his main motivation was to fill niche and market demands that he saw throughout India, even if that meant exploring uncharted territory. Sustaining losses and weathering failures, he asserts, is part of the process, and he stresses these risks should not be avoided but embraced.

A good example of this philosophy in action is EsselWorld, an amusement park first launched in 1990. When the park had lower than expected turnout, Dr. Chandra gathered a team of researchers to understand why. Road quality was poor, making it difficult for families to make the trek to a destination for just one day. On top of this, the Indian government levied a high entertainment tax, making the park’s entrance fee prohibitive for most Indian consumers. Dr. Chandra used this data to then launch two subsequent business ventures, in infrastructure, to improve roads and transportation, and television, to bring entertainment directly into the average Indian home. The resultant network, Zee TV, is now one of the most-watched channels in India, despite the competitiveness of the market when Dr. Chandra entered.

The interview also delves into the question of corporate social responsibility, and how Dr. Chandra has continued his grandfather’s legacy of giving back to the community, both through Essel Group and on an individual level. Initiatives include education and research, but Dr. Chandra also emphasizes that the entertainment industry has unique responsibilities to create objective, meaningful content for viewers. This belief has inspired his own show, Dr. Subhash Chandra, in which he engages with young people across India.

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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

  • Parthsarathi Swami and Devendra Mohan, "A Healthy Family," Business India, September 20, 2009.
  • Gurbir Singh, "In Conversation: 'Such a Long Journey,' Business World, February 9-22, 2016.
  • "Essel Propack: Following a Global Customer Across the World," Harvard Business Publishing, 2009.
  • Bharat Anand and Tarun Khanna, "Must Zee TV," Harvard Business Publishing, 2003.

Interview Citation Format

"Interview with Subhash Chandra, interviewed by Das Narayandes, Mumbai India, October 20, 2016, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, http://www.hbs.edu/creating-emerging-markets/."