Jagi Panda, who runs Odisha’s No 1 TV business, talks about battling a small town mentality and people’s aversion to risk with Subroto Bagchi is co-founder & chairman, MindTree and a best-selling author.
Jagi Mangat Panda
Profile: Founder MD of Ortel Communications and director at OTV
• The moment something creates conflict, people simply give up and move on. An entrepreneur cannot do that
• Budget for frustration; once you do that, it does not overwhelm you
• Work the small guy. Sometimes a junior engineer has the magic where chief engineers can’t solve your problem
Until a decade ago, Odisha was the poorest state in the country. It made news mostly for the wrong reasons: Agitations against mining companies, extremist encounters, starvation deaths and super-cyclones. All in all, it was seen as a backward state. In backward regions anywhere in the world, there are predictable outcomes: Two among them are lack of the entrepreneurial drive and almost certainly, the absence of women in business. It is against this backdrop here is Jagi Mangat Panda, founder managing director of Ortel Communications and director at OTV, the state’s No 1 television business with three channels covering everything from news to entertainment. Between the two companies, Jagi oversees revenue of Rs 210 crore. Ortel, with venture capital from New Silk Route, is cash positive and OTV, wholly owned, is profitable. Together, they employ 1,900 people.
She speaks slowly, thoughtfully and tells me four things.
“Firstly, you must budget for frustration; once you do that, it does not overwhelm you. Two, for every eight guys who will give you a hard time, there are two who would go out of their way for no apparent reason. Moral of the story? Expand the supply side! Three: Work the small guy. Sometimes a junior engineer has the magic where chief engineers can’t solve your problem. Finally, work to build long-term relationships. Make it a point to go meet people even when you do not need to get something out of them.”
People who have any prior knowledge of Jagi would describe her in many different ways: Professional model-turned-air-hostess; high-profile socialite; spouse of industrialist-turned-politician Baijayant (Jay) Panda. Jagi is the poster child of women-entrepreneurship from Odisha. She flits through many personas as must any woman in this country, but in the midst of it all, there is Jagi. Just herself and an entrepreneur in her own right.
Born and brought up in Hyderabad to a Punjabi Sikh family, she studied science. The family wanted her to be a doctor. She qualified to study medicine and then realised it was not her calling. Instead, she wanted to be a model and shifted base to Mumbai where she found her feet in the highly demanding, ruthless world of glamour. She found work and more, she found fame. But modelling is a business with its own peaks and troughs. To keep herself busy, she decided to join Air India as an air-hostess. Along the way, she met her future husband, quit her job at Air India and left behind a modelling career to eventually come to the sleepy state capital of Odisha.
Though Jay’s family owned Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys, husband and wife decided that the best course would be to get Jagi started on an altogether new line of business. But before she turned entrepreneur, she decided to take a six-month course at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Upon her return, the options were real estate, aquaculture and communications. Jagi admits that she did not know much about the last one but somehow “it sounded easy”.