In 2018, when The Walt Disney Company announced that it was buying 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion, there was anxiety in Disney and Star (then part of Fox) teams in India. By the time the merger was completed, Disney Star had parted ways with hundreds of employees. Amita Maheshwari, head, HR (DMED, APAC & India), The Walt Disney Company, says her team did everything to ensure they were fair and generous towards those employees. Till completion of the merger, the erstwhile Star India did not fill vacant positions. “Even if a person was 60-70% ready for a role, we gave him/her an opportunity,” says Maheshwari.
Three years later, Maheshwari is satisfied that she has been able to carry forward the culture of employee centricity and empowerment built by the Star India team. With over 35 channels, the ₹10,000-odd crore Disney-Star is by far the largest broadcast network in India (Sony-ZEE will topple it once the merger is complete).
Be it launching high-definition television or India’s first OTT service, Hotstar, Star India was known for its bold bets. Rishi Gaind, head, HR, Disney Star, says this was possible because of the strategy of hiring professionals from outside the media industry. “We hire people who can question status quo and push us to the next level.”
“We were telling stories to people in the heartland. So, we launched a Creative Interns Programme as part of which we started hiring from places such as Varanasi, Indore, Patna, Nagpur and Pune. We got people who understood cultural nuances of these places,” says Gaind.
Disney Star’s greatest strength, according to Gaind, is its people-friendly policies. Apart from giving women employees a year-long fully paid maternity leave, the company also offers unlimited leave. Almost 80% workforce moved to hybrid model during Covid-19, which increased productivity. She is especially proud of the bio-bubble for IPL last year. “The 700 employees who didn’t go home for three months worked relentlessly as they knew we would take care of their families.”
Disney-Star believes happy employees will ensure quality content.