Parminder Singh currently holds the dual portfolio of chief commercial officer and chief digital officer at Singapore’s public broadcaster, Mediacorp. He is responsible for driving Mediacorp’s businesses across TV, radio, digital and outdoor, besides leading its digital transformation initiatives.
Prior to Mediacorp, Parminder has also held top management positions in global blue chip technology companies like Google, Apple, Twitter, and IBM. As Twitter’s MD for Asia, Parminder set up the social networking company’s operations in its high-growth markets. As MD for Google, he grew the display advertising business into a multibillion-dollar operation in APAC.
Parminder was one of the driving forces behind the IPL-YouTube partnership. He has been actively involved in exploring the use of technology for good and is the founding member of @incrisisrelief, a citizen-led disaster relief technology initiative.
At Mediacorp, we have implemented a single-sign-on system that allows our clients to access the gamut of Mediacorp properties via one single entry point. Besides making it far more convenient, it also helps us to have a unified view of who our audiences are so that we can serve them the right content
Can you share your story of how Mediacorp has evolved into Singapore's largest multi-media platform, spanning TV channels, radio stations, and digital platforms? What are the learnings for business leaders?
We recognize that the media landscape has changed dramatically, and with it, consumers’ tastes and preferences. With this in mind, it is imperative that we be bold and have the gumption to do things very differently:
Co-creation of content: Firstly, we don’t try to create all the content ourselves. Instead, we actively seek partners to co-create content – a concept based on the theory of ‘cognitive surplus’ (by author Clay Shirky), which advocates tapping on the spare intellectual capacity of people around you to develop new forms of collaboration. In this also lies the need to have “content fluidity”, i.e. not only pushing out our content but also at bringing in content from external creators, such as in the case of our partnership with ESPN where we import their content to serve our audiences.
Distribution of content across multiple platforms: The evolving mediascape is also such that content can no longer be constrained to distribution on one medium; instead, we constantly look at putting them across multiple platforms to accommodate the media consumption habits of the modern audience. This includes exploring platforms beyond Mediacorp ones, such as YouTube, with whom we have an existing partnership for the live-streaming of our content.
Transmedia advertising: In the advertising space, we no longer sell ad space for individual platforms such as TV, radio and digital. Instead, we have moved to selling on a transmedia scale, which recognizes the multi-platform way in which people consume content in this day and age. In this regard, it is worth highlighting Mediacorp’s innovative blended cost-per-viewer (CPV) model, which offers advertisers a screen-agnostic media buying solution that maximizes target audience reach at the most cost-effective rate.
In sum, the takeaways for business leaders are:
- Be open to all partnerships, even those that are non-intuitive (such as with competitors); and
- Know your consumer well. Try to anticipate their concerns; and if that’s not possible, respond to them quickly and effectively.
Do you think disruptions to the world of work that digital technologies are likely to bring about could pose significant challenges to policymakers and business leaders?
Yes. Across different fields and industries, we see Artificial Intelligence and machines gradually taking over manual, repetitive and standardized work currently performed by human beings.
For both policymakers and business leaders, I think what is important is that they:
- Have a good understanding of what these digital technologies are in the first place, the consequences they bring, and how to leverage them to their advantage;
- Consider whether they have equipped their workforce with the skills and knowhow to benefit from these digital technologies. If not, invest in training them;
- Possess the courage to make tough decisions surrounding adopting these technologies, while considering the potential impact on workers and their livelihoods; and,
- Keep in mind the adage: “Technology brings short term pain, but long term gains”. In other words, know what the gains are and harness them, but do as much as you can to minimize the pain.
What are your thoughts on the current pace of digital transformation in the industry especially in Southeast Asia?
Southeast Asia is a very diverse region, and across the many countries and their different industries within, the pace of digital transformation is generally varied. In the case of Singapore, we are without a doubt one of the most well-connected countries not just in the region, but in the world. For example, we are one of the world’s leaders in the domain of digital audio, with one in four people listening to audio content via digital means, such as podcasts. Our network infrastructure is also excellent, with fast internet speeds and superior connectivity, which also helps accelerate the country’s overall digital transformation.
What has been the most significant technology integration/implementation so far, at your organization? And did it impact your employee efficiency, customer satisfaction, and profit margins?
Mediacorp has several digital properties and assets providing us multiple touchpoints with our audiences. This also means we have to have the right tools and technologies in place to connect the dots and ensure we have a unified and comprehensive view of our audiences’ likes and preferences. Why is this important? Because this allows us to bring more relevant content and our advertisers to serve more relevant ads to the audience. This has been an important priority for us and we have invested significant resources towards this.
We have implemented a single-sign-on system that allows our clients to access the gamut of Mediacorp properties via one single entry point. Besides making it far more convenient, it also helps us have a unified view of who our audiences are so that we can serve them the right content that is aligned with their tastes and preferences. We have invested in tools that help us collect data points from both internal and third party sources to better understand the preferences of our audiences. We have invested in the right recommendation engine technologies to surface the right content to the right person. And finally, tools that allow better ad targeting.
In all this means a great experience for our audience and greater returns on their investment for our advertisers.
How do you envisage the future of work with technology impacting almost all facets of work?
I foresee real-time collaboration across organizations to be the norm in the future, where employees can utilize tools that will allow them to work on projects together, in real-time, across physical/geographical space, across organizations. This will potentially be a huge boon to organizations in terms of raising productivity and reducing costs.
That said, I think it is important to recognize that the greater talent is always outside your organization, which again brings me back to the concept of tapping on the wealth of cognitive surplus out there in the world [refer to the response to Q1]. So in essence, non-ownership (of talent) is the key to owning the future.
What are some of the common digital challenges businesses face today? And do they get over them?
An almost universal problem affecting businesses in this digital age is being able to stand out from the noise in the online sphere to capture the attention of consumers with limited attention spans. This is extremely challenging given the deluge of information that is out there today, all competing fiercely for audiences’ eyeballs.
Organizations like Mediacorp have a huge responsibility to help the audience sieve out the wheat from the chaff and provide content that is meaningful and interesting to them, given the limited amount of time they have each day. We are actively engaged in exploring technologies that help us weed out fake news and ensure the authenticity of source and genuineness of content.
Can you share some instances of challenges that you might have faced in terms of team building, creating the right culture or anything else? How did you get over them?
In the media industry, the job of media planning has evolved in large part due to the onset of automation. Where once media planners mainly performed operational duties like drawing up a media schedule and pricing plan for clients, they now need to put on the hat of a storyteller and create a narrative for clients to address their actual business challenges.
For employees who have been doing traditional media planning for many years, making this shift may prove to be a steep learning curve for most of them. The challenge then, for a leader, is how to harness the best of what these people have to offer from their wealth of experience accumulated over the years while getting them excited and motivated to embrace the new way of doing things.
I also personally advocate fostering a culture of experimentation, where people should have both the courage and license to try new things and not be afraid of failing. This is vital when dealing with prospective clients in the competitive advertising industry. It is not always feasible to develop a complete and foolproof solution before presenting it to a client lest the opportunity slips away. In such contexts, speed is a greater imperative than attaining perfection. Work with your client towards a joint solution, even if your present proposal is imperfect and half-baked. Ultimately, what clients expect from us are consultation, co-creation, and collaboration.
I advocate fostering a culture of experimentation, where people should have both the courage and license to try new things and not be afraid of failing
What is your philosophy/approach to people management?
I believe that you need to: 1) trust; 2) enable; and 3) empower your people. In other words, to place confidence in your people and give them the leeway to experiment (and possibly, fail), because you trust that they genuinely want to do well and succeed.