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MTV bakra to Kuttanad

Alex Kuruvilla, the man behind MTV India, loves to relax in his home State.

I would love to help create brand Kerala Alex Kuruvilla

HOME ALONE Away from the Mumbai razzmatazz, Alex Kuruvilla enjoys a brief visit to Kerala

With nearly two billion pairs of eyeballs watching MTV, Alex Kuruvilla, Managing Director, MTV India, and senior vice-president, MTV Networks Asia, needs desperately to get away from the glare and `to switch off'. And where does he go to do that and `recharge his batteries'? Kerala, of course. To his ancestral home in Kuttanad.

"I have a love-hate relationship with the State. I go away and want to come back. It has so much to offer but the frustration comes from the fact that attitudes haven't changed. Cynicism has hardened. The success of God's Own Country has put it on the world map, but tourism is not enough for the State. Imagine this success in three-four aspects of the State. We are known for ayurveda and tourism, period. We have not created the greenery. It is God given. We should promote our cuisine, take Thakazhi to the world, export that. We have a powerhouse sitting in the NRI population. We have to harness that. Eighty per cent of it goes in ostentatious buildings, jewellery and cars. The Kochi airport is the best in the country. It is a private enterprise. We must replicate this in all fields."

And as a Malayali, how will he contribute to the State? " I would love to be a consultant to the State and help create brand Kerala as the most powerful brand this country has to offer. It is do-able."


And back home in Kuttanad? "Well I had a large family there. My 106- year-old grandfather, 96-year-old grandmother, my parents, but in a span of five years I lost them all. Now the `tharavdau' is there and many times during an important meeting I get a call from home whether the jackfruits should be cut. I of course pretend it is some international call," he says humorously. But it is evident that Mr. Kuruvilla who has spent a large part of his life outside the Sate, being the son of an air force officer, married to Namita from Lucknow and residing in Mumbai, is strongly attached to his roots. "I speak fluent Malayalam. What I don't understand is that half the world wants to beat the path to this door and here the entire population wants to head out."

And his experiences of heading the music channel? Mr. Kuruvilla is upbeat about MTV's new Vh1channel. "It will soon be here too," he tells you, explaining the need to introduce it. " We have made MTV completely a local brand. But we figured it out that we have to come back to English music because we have a high value audience. Last ten years things have changed and we thought it was the right time to launch an international music and lifestyle channel. We have plans to launch a South Indian music channel." So with triple channels, Nickelodeon for 4 to 14-year- olds, MTV for 15-34 and Vh1 for 25- 44 age group, the viewer ship responsibility on them is huge. " We are not the moral police but we practise self-regulation. Our target audience group is high risk HIV. In fact in the early eighties we were out creating a self-awareness programme. We work on stigma, we work on environment. `Rock the wood', a programme by us is essentially telling the young people to go out and vote. People try to bash us but everybody needs a scapegoat. That is the price we pay for leadership." And quite a leader the channel has been with innovative programmes like MTV bakra.

. "Bakra was a turning point for us. There was great teamwork behind it. We built up big names likes Cyrus and Malaika. We introduced the concept of VJ as a career. We used our reach very responsibly."

And as Alex Kuruvilla reaches out through his music channel he firmly believes he can create brand Kerala as strong a brand as MTV.


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