We’re exploring video content offering option for our subscribers

With more than 400 journalists and 470 stringers, Press Trust of India (PTI), the news agency, covers the length and breadth of the country. The agency puts out around 2,000 stories and 200 photographs a day. Its vast operations are not possible without effective IT & communication systems and solutions in place. With his team of 300 people, Tridib Bordoloi, Head – IT, has been handling PTI’s IT requirements since 2009. In this interview, he talks at length about the challenges faced in setting up and maintaining the agile IT systems of PTI. Excerpts:

You took over IT operations at PTI in 2009. What systems were being used at that time and how have these changed?

When I took over in 2009, the systems were so archaic that I had only studied about them in theory during my college days. Now, there is uniformity in the systems that we use throughout. Everything is on Microsoft platform now.

I also faced a number of Union issues initially. They were reluctant to change and were suspicious of me. They threatened me a number of times. In this situation, the technology leader either has to remain with the status quo or challenge it, take the bull by the horns.

I am extremely proud of the fact that almost everything that we are using today is homegrown and developed in-house. This is mainly because vendors don’t understand the typical requirements of the media industry.

Now wherever the subscribers are I can say on record that delivery happens instantaneously. Communications partners like Tata Communications and Reliance have been very supportive in providing bandwidth in a cost effective manner.

What challenges do you face in keeping the systems up 24×7?

The main thing is that we cannot have any downtime in a news agency. Even a bank shuts down operation for maintenance or upgradation but in media you cannot have a scenario where the network is down.

Secondly, a big challenge is that there are no targeted solutions for the media industry. There are vendors who claim that they have a solution for the media industry but when you go through you realize that it is not the case…that they have just adopted a solution from some other industry for the media industry. The vendors come with a lot of jargon but they have to be clear where and how it will help us.

What are the new avenues that you are exploring?

We are exploring the option of offering video content to our subscribers. Besides this we are thinking of how to start offering content directly to our subscribers. Right now we follow the B2B model.
Besides that, since in media industry we cannot be down I am building up a Disaster Recovery site in Mumbai.

Voice&Data: Most of the CIOs outsource a certain part of business? Is there any part of IT that you outsource?

We have our own datacenter… all managed by in-house team. What happens is that partners are unlikely to understand the complexities of media functions… We don’t have any plan to outsource. Our messaging or collaboration tool is on Google…that is already outsourced. Editorial workflow is totally home grown. Nothing really is outsourced.

Voice&Data: Being a media house, you would have handled a number of crisis situations?

Yes, we face a number of crisis… Just months after I joined, there was a big crisis relating to our subscribers on WorldSpace. We had a few subscribers on WorldSpace. They were disseminating our content to the subscribers through their network. We used to upload onto their hub and from there it used to go to
subscribers.

One fine day we discovered that they have filed for bankruptcy. After some time they shifted their uplinking hub from Singapore to Australia. That was an alarm for us. Then we came up with an end-to-end solution. Now we have around 1,000 subscribers for that product and it is a revenue-earner for us. In three weeks, we migrated all our subscribers from WorldSpace on to our own in-house product. It was a crisis situation, which was converted into an opportunity. Return on Investment (RoI) was achieved in about five months for this product.

This article was first published in Voice&Data