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Ten years of selling news

By Agnes E. Nantaba

Godfrey Ivudria is the managing director of East African Business Week (EABW) Publications. He spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about their operations and company’s milestone of marking ten years in existence.

What are the key elements in your management style as a manager?

My target always is to empower people. I believe in mentoring and coaching people through delegation. This also involves empowering people to make them deliver. I am a lead-by-example person who majors on their strengths rather than weaknesses. It has got two dimensions because as a leader, people watch you starting with your time management skills and accomplishing of tasks. I must walk the talk. I also believe in building teams because an effective team delivers the best. You also need to offer guidance through coaching.

What are your key achievements in the past ten years?

It is in itself a milestone for us to celebrate ten years; there are people who gave us one year to survive while others gave us three but we crossed the fifth year and here we are celebrating ten years.

Key among our achievements is the fact that we have built networks across the region with personalities and businesses with whom we work. It gives relevance for our existence and gives us an opportunity to do greater things in the years to come.

We have expanded beyond the borders of the region to capture Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. Our growth means employing more young people and making people realize their dreams.

What is your assessment of the performance of the media industry in Uganda?

The industry is going through a turn of events considering the fact that as print, we can no longer do things in the same strategy we used ten years ago. We need to position ourselves to meet the needs of the market, which implies coming up with products that target business development.

There are currently hundreds of radio and television stations in Uganda, which has caused fragmentation in the sector. However, the positive side of this is the fact that online presence of many publications makes one access a range of publications, which has forced many local media houses to up their game.

Part of your vision was to be a fully-fledged media house with a presence in the broad casting and print space. How far have you gone with this?

We are still working towards the same vision. In the next three years, we intend to have our own printing press because we are already sourcing for providers from across the world. In that sense we shall be able to diversify with the acquisition of the commercial printing wing.

We also hope to consolidate our online platform to go stronger in the line of social media to make commercial sense. We are forging partnerships with other leading publications not forgetting our plans to establish our own home in the nearby future as well as launching our own radio and television stations in the near future.

Employee remuneration in Uganda’s media industry is still a huge challenge. How have you successfully handled this as a media house?

We have continuously looked at developing young talent. One of our values is to inculcate creativity and innovation. Young people come in a little bit affordable than the mature journalists. In the medium term, we also intend to devote more resources to ensure that we get high value journalists on board who will spur the growth of the product to another level.

Financial, operational and human resource constraints also remain key challenges for private media houses in Uganda, how has it been for you in the past ten years?

EABW has an interesting story; first of all, most of the founder-members especially the directors were employees not business men. This drove us to so many mistakes in the beginning but the beauty about it is that with these mistakes, we fell down and rose up again. So along the way, we have learnt to empower and allow professionals in the area of finance to guide us in doing business in a better way.

They guide us in two ways; managing costs so that we don’t run before we can walk and spending to the right avenues. Over time, we have grown organically without donor money, which has kept us within our means. It is also true that media houses are facing challenges as their revenues have reduced.

What other challenges do you encounter in running a regional media house?

The level of literacy and education varies from one country to another. When you move from Uganda into Burundi, you can’t fail to spot the difference. Therefore it becomes difficult to get the caliber of the people especially writers that you need. Business reporting is also a specialized skill, which is lacking in some countries. We have thus been forced to deploy people from Uganda in some of the countries like Tanzania and Burundi given the human resource deficiencies there.

How have you strategically handled such challenges to remain relevant in a competitive market?

Our strategy has always been spreading the risk across the region and each of these economies are paying at different levels. For instance, an election may be happening in Uganda but not in Kenya or any other country.  Election years strain these growing economies and so spreading risk has worked for us for over the years.

What opportunities can young media houses explore to remain significant in the market?

The coming together of the five East African Community member states in itself is an opportunity in terms of growing the size of the market, which potentially makes business sense. The policies and programmes set by the EAC favour not only the local business environment but also publications that trade across the borders.

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