Rabindra Narayan is considered the ‘Father of Punjabi Television’. He is the founder of world’s first ever Punjabi television channel, PUNJABI WORLD and is the proud head of number one Punjabi Television Network team – PTC NETWORK. He is a man who leads with a vision and believes in bringing change in society for the betterment of people.
You are considered as the father of Punjabi Television? How did it all start?
I got Punjabiyat in my dowry. On a serious note, I used to do Punjabi theatre since college days. My father-in-law, Dr. Charanjit Dass Sidhu, was considered as the Shakespeare of Punjabis. It was in 1998 that I thought of starting a Punjabi Channel after having successfully dabbled in theatre, journalism and television production. That dream of starting a Punjabi television took a concrete shape in November 1998 when we launched Punjabi World. There was so much excitement about this launch in Punjab that people had put up langars for celebration.
You started Gurbani on the world television map, which was quite an achievement. How did the idea occur to you and what was the response?
Gurbani was supposed to be put on television by Government of India under the Rajiv-Longowal accord. It never happened. We had announced to launch Punjabi World in 1998 and that’s when Sardar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, then SGPC President, came to meet me. We knew that the SGPC had given away Gurbani rights to some third party. But it came as a surprise that SGPC got cheated as that person never came back after signing the agreement. Tohra Sahab requested us to save the honor of the Panth by starting Gurbani telecast as the Khalsa Tricentenary celebrations were nearing. I was like a blind man who suddenly was gifted eyesight. The next day we were at the Golden Temple and within a week we laid cables in the sarovar and fixed cameras to start recording. The control was set up on the roof Sri Harmandir Sahib in the open with just a trampoline cover to save us from the dew. Since that day, Gurbani has been taking us from strength to strength. The response of the people has been tremendous. We get blessings and love from people all over the world for bridging them with their Guru’s wisdom every day. My dream was to ensure that anyone anywhere in the world be able to turn on their TV screen and watch Gurbani. I am proud that the dream has turned into a reality. Gurbani is available to everyone everywhere in the world.
What are the goals and vision of PTC network?
PTC Network has always been a pioneer and leader. We produce more than 80% of the original Punjabi content (minus films and songs) of the world. We are the only Indian company to have studios and operations in New York and Toronto. Much before the IPTV and APPs came in; PTC was the first network to beam all its foreign channels directly from India. We are the first media company to have launched Virtual Reality channel – PTC VR. PTC specializes in live shows and does musical shows all over the world with its own in-house event management team. PTC Network launched world’s first ever 24-hour streaming television channel on Facebook – PTC DHOL TV. We are launching three more channels in India, USA and Canada soon. We had envisioned being a part of every Punjabi’s life. Now we are aiming to enrich and make their lives better.
What do you attribute your success to?
The success is owed to Gurbani blessings, people’s love and an awesome team that has been together for two decades. We constantly innovate and stay ahead of the curve. When you have channels competing with your own channels, then you need to be really re-inventing yourself every day. For all of us at PTC, it is not a job. This is our life! This is what we do.
Being the head of World’s No. 1 Punjabi television network is certainly not easy. How has been the journey so far? Please share about the challenges, the hiccups and the good memories.
Each day we add memories. Each day we cross new challenges. Each day we re-invent. Each day we break barriers. PTC Punjabi is the only Indian channel allowed inside the Canadian parliament. PTC is the only group which broadcasts live from USA and Canada all their important events and happenings. The industry hails PTC Film Awards and Music Awards as the biggest in business. The hiccups are slow pace of government permissions in starting television channels. We had applied for permission one and half years ago to launch three new channels. The wait is still on. Besides this, there are not any hiccups that we could not overcome!
The most influential person in your life and why.
I can proudly say its my father-in-law. I am what he made me. Had it not been for him, there would have been no Punjabi channels; at least I would not have launched them. The theatre inculcates some great human virtues in you – the most important one is empathy. When you empathize with the characters you play then you start empathizing with people in general and start understanding live, dreams, and aspirations better. The revolutions are bred in theatre halls and the call for change also emerges from there. You learn to make lives of others better. That’s what we try to do now through our channels.
One business advice that changed your life
There are only two types of companies- The quick and the dead. If you are not quick then you are dead. Be brave and take the leap!
Please share about your journey as a journalist
After completing my diploma in Journalism and Marketing, I joined as reporter in a youth magazine called Vibes. Seeing my spirit and drive, I was made the Chief of Bureau within six months. Soon I branched out to the leading youth magazine, The Weekly Sun and rose to be the Acting Editor in times to come while I was also the Culture Editor with Sunday Mail weekly newspaper. Perhaps the only journalist doing two jobs simultaneously. Music became my specialization while social issues always remained my calling. Between the years 1988 to 1998 I perpetually covered all aspects of journalism from news stories to features, from food columns to movie reviews, from covering celebrities to interviewing ministers. It was in 1998 that I took to television full-time but my journalistic streak still continues on my Facebook page.
What are your personal strengths and challenges?
Self-belief and the faith in my time-tested team – that is the biggest strength. The biggest challenge remains how to become better than what you already are every day. When you have been constantly been the No. 1 channel in your genre then the challenge is always how to remain there on top.
What are the top 3 qualities that make PTC successful today and ahead of its competitors?
PTC understands the pulse of people. The single topmost quality that PTC Network has is the ability to provide more than just television. We are part of every Punjabi’s daily life. There have been movies about dinosaurs for decades but it takes a Spielberg to make Jurassic Park. Successful ventures need vision, daring and faith.
You have contributed to Punjabi theatre also as an actor, director and designer. How was the experience and how do you relate to it today?
The theatre made me what I am today. It takes you out of your cozy homes directly into the village chaupal. It makes you understand the plight of the landless, the torture by powerful and the inequalities existing in life. Performing in front of live audiences lets you feel the nerve of people. The experience has been great and most defining one.
What is your biggest accomplishment as the Managing Director of this company?
The biggest accomplishment has been to have a core team that has worked together through ups and down for two decades. In an era where people change jobs within months, this has been the greatest achievement.
One advice that changed your life?
If you do more than what you are paid for, then you will go really far in life!
What does success mean to you?
Success gives the ability to bring change in society. People believe in what you believe in and that is when you can bring about a change for the better.
What do you think of the current social media upsurge and campaigns in different fields?
Social media is connecting people like anything. Old friends are together again. Every minute you are updated with everything in the world. Every information is on your fingertips. Humanity’s single most leap in time has been the invention of social media platforms. Governments are elected and sacked based on social media campaigns and important issues get highlighted which otherwise would be scuttled by the powerful. It has its flip side too. But we are still in an evolving era of social media. With time, the freedom of social media will get responsibility and accountability added on. Till then, enjoy the real freedom!