Leadership is about managing change: Viacom's Jose Tolosa  


Jose Tolosa, the chief operating officer of Viacom International Media Networks, caught up with YourStory and spoke about how digital was transforming organisations and why it has become part of the leadership narrative. He was also speaking at a panel discussion organised by Knowledge@Wharton and Mphasis at the Time Inc headquarters in New York. Here are some excerpts from his interview with us:

Jose Tolosa, COO of the $14 billion Viacom International Media Networks, talks about managing change in a digital era.

YS: Are organisations going completely digital?

JT: The change happens when the leadership teams begin to see how digital can change their business models. Take, for instance, the media industry; content is changing dynamically with new media. I have prepared for this change thanks to my previous stints as an entrepreneur and an investment banker. In my first company, I had to go through the dotcom bubble, and the second time, the 2008 slowdown happened. With what happened since 2008, most organisations realised that going digital was a priority. Leadership changed its stance on digital and looked at new business models. Change is not easy, it has to be rapid. For a leader, this is not easy. But you have to be calm and focused while implementing this change in the organisation.

YS: So, how does a $14 billion organisation like Viacom change?

JT: It's like a navigating a large ship, and you have to plan in advance for it to turn. We are constantly experimenting with ideas that can disrupt our business. We have to constantly innovate and learn. The media industry is seeing an incredible transformation, and it is the industry that is pushing the digital narrative faster than any other business.

YS: Are the consumers pushing that change?

JT: It's not just any consumer. Look at the way kids watch television. It is completely different. The content is consumed across several screens and devices. Even consumers who are older are looking for new ways to consume content. The age of 22-minute episodes with eight minutes of commercials is over, and things are really changing. Digital changes all this. All I can tell you is that we are unlearning the past. The world is completely based on individual consumption of media, and we have to offer this new audience content that is specific to their needs.

YS: As a person who has worked in startups, what have been your lessons?

JT: When you are building a company, you are responsible for so many things. I remember that in my first startup, almost 17 years ago in Argentina, we had to manage with so little. We were a twenty-member team. But when we raised money and created a valuable company, in a couple of years, things changed very quickly. Our team had grown, and we were surely thinking big. But then the dotcom bubble just brought the entire business down. Then, I went off to business school. My next startup, which was creating credit rating systems to assess communities that deserved loans, did extremely well. However, we were hit by the 2008 recession, which everyone knows came about because of bad loans. It was a learning for me. However, I did not give up, and that's why I keep saying we must be ready for change. Leadership is about change and unlearning what you have learnt. That said, the experience makes you stronger and you are able to see things with a perspective that can make the next business succeed.


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