To overcome challenges has always been my forte: Eshita Surana Poddar, Director, Aakash Aath

“With my words, I hope I can motivate and move people because I feel words are really powerful and when used correctly can bring about tremendous positivity.”

Eshita Surana Poddar-Aakash Aath

She loves travelling across the globe and enjoys her weekends while cooking for family and friends. Trying out different cuisines is what excites her. When at leisure she writes poems and loves reading books.

But when it comes to work, Eshita Surana Poddar is a renowned name in the Bengali TV industry that is synonymous with striving to bring reforms in society through content. She is Director at Aakash Aath, a well-known domestic brand name in West Bengal.

She tells us that her father Ashok Surana has always been her idol and her biggest source of inspiration. That’s why she always dreamt of running a business, just like him. Hence, after completing her master’s in marketing and IT from Pune in 2007 she joined the family business of Television Software Production. Although she is not a television buff, creating television software has always been her passion.

Today, Eshita along with her siblings is managing the family business and plans to create infotainment content replete with reformative values, especially about social issues. Till today, she has produced over 15,000 hours of successful Bengali television shows like Charulata on Star Jalsa; Satya Ghatna Abolambone on Sony Aath; Janani, Sahityer Shera Samay, Police Filez on Aakash Bangla, just to name a few. After joining hands with Aakash Aath in September 2013 the GRP has moved up from a mere 9 to 55 (week 36, 2014) in less than a year.

Taking faith in hard work, dedication and team spirit as her philosophy, she says, “With my words, I hope I can motivate and move people because I feel words are really powerful and when used correctly can bring about tremendous positivity”. SME Futures in a one-on-one with Eshita discovers how she has managed to single-handedly achieve the best for her channel and earned accolades for the same.

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Eshita Surana Poddar, Director at Aakash Aath

Edited Excerpts:

Tell us about yourself, what was your dream as a little girl?

I belong to a business family. Since the beginning I always cherished seeing my father go to office and work. As it was so fascinating for me, whenever an opportunity arose, I never missed a chance to go inside his workspace. As far as my dream as a little girl goes, I always wanted to fit in his shoes and take the legacy ahead. So, here I am today!

What is it that most people do not know about you? 

I believe I am an open book and I have not kept any secrets from any one till date.

If you are not working, what do you love to do with your time?

When I am not working, I love to spend time with my family, that includes my husband and my twin children. I cannot afford to miss playing with them. At times I also indulge in cooking my favourite comfort food.

How did you start your journey in the television business, did you always want to be in this field? 

Yes absolutely! I would say it was my destiny. The journey had already begun when I was a kid as I used to see my dad and my uncle talk and discuss about work at home.

After accomplishing my post-graduation, I was determined to walk on the same path. Hence, I decided to join the family business. It was not an easy ride though. I took one step at a time, learning the nuances of the television industry from both my dad and uncle. And today, me and my siblings (Rahul, Priyanka and Rishab) are working closely together, trying to take our legacy business to the next level.

What have been your biggest challenges/failures and the lessons that you have learned from them?

In the business world, each day comes with a new challenge. To overcome them has always been my forte. However, till date, overcoming the sudden demise of my father was something that I still consider as my biggest challenge. And talking about ‘failures’, they are nothing, but lessons learnt. I try to never repeat my mistakes and learn from them instead. With limited hard disk capacities, ‘unlearn and learn’ is my mantra and this is what I believe in.

How have your roles changed throughout your career? 

All these years have been a time for learning for me. But throughout my career if we talk about my role, I feel nothing much has changed. Since the very beginning here at work, I have been actively involved in the content and creative work that goes around. And till today the majority of my day and time goes in doing the same work.

However, I don’t deny that being the eldest in this second-generation business comes with huge responsibilities and expectations. And along with that come managerial duties that cannot be ignored. Therefore, I also try and give a reasonable amount of my time to oversee and manage the overall business.

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What does the International Women’s Day slogan, #ChooseToChallenge mean to you in your work life? 

In my opinion, this year’s IWD theme, denotes nothing but the truth for everyone who has chosen to work for himself/herself. In my understanding, for me as an individual the words #ChooseToChallange refer to sentiments…#PureMotivation.

It’s expected that children from legacy businesses will do well. What are the challenges and perks of handling a family business? 

This is a tough one! So, first let’s talk about the perks. Being in a family business teaches you life lessons. If you already have decided to join your family business, I think, getting to know each and every aspect of running the business starts quite early in life. Therefore, you already know what is in store for you. Moving onto the challenges, for me living up to the expectations of your predecessor is in itself a great challenge and the cherry on top is to evolve it further and take it to the next level for future generations.

You have been in the Bengali TV industry for a long time. How much has this industry transformed so far? Also, what are the challenges that the TV industry is facing with the advent of various content platforms such as OTT, YouTube etc? 

Regional content and the regional TV industry have their challenges, but they also have their own loyal audience. This fact remains the same for almost the entire regional television industry. I also feel that a lot has been happening, and changes are being brought about.

What I have observed is that in recent times (about half a decade) dubbed movies are getting quite popular. The love for south based movies dubbed in different languages has been a path breaker. On the same note, I see light for the Bengali TV industry too. Additionally, with the OTT platforms in place, regional language serials or movies are now being enjoyed in almost every part of the world. Not to mention, we have a huge Bengali NRI community which still cherishes regional content. So, I feel that the future is bright.

What are your priorities this year? What exciting things can we expect from Aakash Aath in the future? 

Looking at what is going on in the world right now, I would say that the number one priority this year is to stay alive both in person and business wise. This is where the focus is going to be. Talking about the new things that we are planning to add to Aakash Aath’s bouquet is going to be very exciting. The audience is going to get a lot of new masala and some great content from our upcoming launches. We are also planning to launch an OTT platform really soon.

How has the career scenario changed over the years for women looking for professional growth in West Bengal? 

A lot has been done and leading the way is our Hon’ble chief minister Ms. Mamta Banerjee. There are ample opportunities for women out there. Today, West Bengal has opened many new avenues for women professionals.

Generally speaking, the women of today don’t shy away from any hardships. Professional driving (Uber, Ola and even Buses) even in the night hours is one such example. They are not only earning for themselves, but they are also playing instrumental roles in supporting and looking after their families, sometimes becoming their sole bread earners.

If I talk about my company, there is absolutely no difference between a male or a female working in my organisation. Both genders are rewarded equally based on their skill sets. In my understanding, this is no different from anywhere else as society has become quite progressive now. When we (women) want to be considered at par with men, we cannot shy away from working as hard as them outside our homes too.

Are there any issues and challenges that women are still facing in the state, especially in the rural areas? What needs to be done to mitigate the situation? 

Yes, there are still challenges at the ground level, especially in the rural areas. Obstacles such as a lack of education, poverty, domestic violence, child marriage and gender differentiation often snatch away chances from the female population to grow and choose their own career paths. But I believe, all these problems can be solved to a great extent if our education system is set right, and a myriad of employment opportunities are made available to them.