The Company stands amongst the global leaders in distributing and aggregating Indian movies on the international platform. In a conversation with the CFO – Mr. Prem Parameswaran, he talks about his professional journey and his overall experience along with the learnings and advice for budding entrepreneurs.
Kindly brief us about your background and the evolution of your career.
I am working as the Group Chief Financial Officer and President of Eros International’s North America Operations. I joined Eros International after a long and successful career as an investment banker in the Global Media and Telecom sector. In my 23 years career in Investment Banking, I became one of the top Media and Telecom bankers on Wall Street. I advised clients and many Fortune 10 companies on mergers and acquisitions, as well as both public and private equity and debt financings. I executed over 300 transactions in my career.
Prior to joining Eros in 2015, I had recently served as the Global Head of Media and Telecommunications Investment Banking at Jefferies LLC. Prior to Jefferies I was the Americas Head of Media and Telecom Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. I had been with Goldman Sachs for 7 years prior to joining Deutsche Bank, where I was a Vice President and Head of the Integrated Communications Providers within Investment Banking. Prior to Goldman Sachs, I started my career at Salomon Brothers where I worked my way up from an Analyst to a Vice President.
I graduated from Columbia University with a BA and received an MBA with Honors from Columbia Business School. I was awarded Indian American Businessman of the Year in 2012 by the Asian American Republican Committee. I also serve on the Boards of Columbia University Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee and The Program for Financial Studies at Columbia Business School. I am a member of very exclusive Winged Foot Golf Club and The Golf Club of Purchase, and was invited to the White House Oval Office Reception for Diwali in 2017 with President Trump.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
Analytical. If two words – analytical and motivational.
What motivates you? Or, who is your role model and who inspires you?
I am first motivated by my Father who is 88 years old and immigrated to the United States in 1954 with $100 in his pocket on an academic scholarship. He spent 30 days on a boat to come to the USA. He worked as a diplomat for the Permanent Mission of India to the UN and attended Columbia Business School, later becoming the first Indian family to move to the affluent suburb of Scarsdale, NY in 1970. His hard work and sacrifice for his family is what motivates me to be extremely hard working and diligent to help build our company.
Additionally, my Chairman and CEO Kishore Lulla is a pioneer in Indian entertainment and one of the most positive people you will meet in the world. His strategic thinking and leadership have helped me focus on the company’s long- term goals of global success.
I also see our stock price is a motivational tool, as it drives everyone in our company to focus on producing high quality work. Our stock price will be a by-product of both our operating and business success.
Tell us about the most memorable and remarkable moment of your life?
The birth of all three of my children, Trinity (13), Kayla (10) and Hudson (8) are by far most memorable and remarkable life experiences. Children are the meaning of life and I now live for them. From an education standpoint, graduating from both an Ivy League undergraduate institution as well as one of the top business schools in the world is certainly a nice accomplishment. Having played ice hockey and soccer in college was also a great achievement. Becoming a Group Head and one of the top investment bankers on Wall Street was also something that I was fortunate to achieve. However, I would like to be remembered as someone who is a great father to my kids as my children are my world.
What was the most daring challenge you took and the risk associated with it?
Joining Eros International as CFO after working 23 years in Investment Banking was certainly a different challenge. You need a different skillset that evolves – you need both operating and financial acumen to help grow a company. I have embraced this challenge and really enjoy making Eros International one of the pre-eminent digital content companies in the world. It is very important to have honesty and integrity, and with that you can overcome challenges. Nothing substitutes good hard work. One must be a strong motivational leader with the strongest integrity. This, coupled with hard work, will enable both operating and financial success.
Tell us about the state of the media industry from your perspective
We are a creator, distributer and aggregator of premium Indian content globally. We have over 11,000 films in our digital OTT platform Eros Now, which is unmatched. Our studio business has had over 30 of the top 100 Indian grossing films over the past five years. Many have called us the Netflix of India, but quite frankly, we are actually Netflix and Disney combined as we have both the studio business as well as the digital OTT platform. Disney recently validated our strategy by setting up an OTT platform scheduled to launch next year. I don’t believe Netflix has as many titles in their overall library as we have in our Indian content focused library. We believe with opportunity in digital growth – both in India and internationally – we are extremely well positioned to grow our business exponentially. Our target market is not just the 1.3 billion people in India, but also the 250 million outside of India who enjoy Indian content. The Indian diaspora outside of India is also approximately 30 million. If we add China to the mix, that number certainly goes up as well.
Please describe Eros International and its services/products.
Eros International is the pre-eminent creator of Indian movies (we will do approximately 50 movies this year), digital OTT Content (we have a library of 11,000 movies plus Originals) where we have over 100mm registered users and over 10 million paying subscribers. We are the only Indian media company publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: EROS). Please see the company website for a full description: http://erosplc.com/.
Tell us about your major achievements and your company’s achievements under your leadership? Please share your views about the Necessity of Change in the world of business
Over my 3-plus years with Eros International, we have changed the major growth focus of our company to our digital division, Eros Now. This is the future growth engine of the company and it was certainly a feather in our cap when Disney validated our strategy. Additionally, many in the investment community have called us the Netflix of India and we feel this is a nice compliment.
During my time at the company, we have adhered to very strict New York Stock Exchange and SEC reporting requirements which shows the integrity and honesty of our organization. Very few Indian companies list on the NYSE given the stringent reporting requirements. We believe this is one of our strengths.
Since joining, we have completed both a public capital markets financing of $100mn with Citigroup, as well as selling a 5% strategic stake to Reliance Industries Limited at $15 per share. In addition, being invited to the White House by President Trump is also one of the highest honors you can achieve as a CFO of a publicly listed company. It is truly an honor and privilege to be the Group CFO of Eros International, one of the truly pre-eminent digital content companies in the world.
Please describe your passions, aims and goals?
My goal is help drive our company’s operational and financial growth. We believe we have a unique opportunity with such a large addressable market to grow the company’s business to great heights. We have terrific momentum and believe our stock price will eventually be a by-product our strong operational and financial success. I also enjoy motivating and encouraging our work force, as we want to train future business leaders. We are a team-oriented company and with hard work and diligence, we will be one of the best companies in the world.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Work hard and never give up on your goals. Have passion and, above all, integrity. Hire smart people who will be loyal and train them. Most of all, have fun with what you are doing – if you are enjoying your work, you will be a success.
How do you motivate your employees and maintain a healthy and dynamic working environment in the office? Please share the work culture at your office.
Always motivate employees by being a good example and leader. Work hard and diligently with the utmost integrity and honesty. This will show them the passion and the work detail in the organization.
It is also important to stress a team-oriented culture to foster ideas and have the best and brightest succeed. I do like to reward workers with dinners, lunches, bonuses, etc., which is a useful tool, but the best tool is our stock price, as everyone in the company is a shareholder. We are building value creation together as team. Our hard work together will hopefully build our stock price to new heights.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
Be creative and inspiring – Genius = Creativity + Hardwork. Always work hard and lead by example. Be honest – it’s okay to say “I don’t know the answer to a question” and go research it, rather than be dishonest. Be a team-player and help your peers and juniors.
The ultimate goal is business success for the company, and we only win if everyone works together and gives 100 percent. Hire smart people – even smarter than yourself. An A-player will always hire an A-player, but a B-player will hire a C-player to avoid being outperformed or outshined. My view is we should always hire A-players. Don’t be afraid of criticism, always listen and learn – especially as a public company. And finally – enjoy what you do, as this may be the ultimate secret in being successful.