Saba Zaidi Abdi, founding director and CEO of Vision Asia, the first independent DTH platform, talks about leading South Asian media into future technologies. And about her new venture, a partnership with Fetch TV, which hopes to give South Asians in Australia, a slice of home
A career in television was always on Saba Zaidi Abdi’s antenna. Whether it is production, direction, or heading the first independent DTH platform offering Indian TV channels, television has been a medium Saba has always stayed true too. And now, as head of Nuvera Media, she has partnered with Fetch TV, to give the South Asian community home-grown telly. Saba says she is literally living her dream.
After graduating from AMU Aligarh and National School of Drama, Delhi, and working with Indian National Broadcaster Doordarshan as a TV producer for several years, producing and directing more than 50 teleplays and telefilms, as well as producing and directing over a dozen documentaries on subjects including literature, fine arts, performing arts films, and personalities, to even designing for renowned film directors from India like Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegaland M S Sathyu, Saba migrated to Australia in 1989 with her husband. And that was when her career took a hit.
“There was hardly any opportunity here in Australia. I was supposed to start afresh. There was a preference for people who were groomed here, so my confidence level dropped. It was a tough phase for me and nothing was going in my favour. Wherever I applied, the first questions they would ask me was what level of expertise a person has while working in India? What do I know about Australian culture, etc. For a person who is new to a country it takes times to get familiar with the conditions,” says Saba.
Saba then decided to embark on short industry courses in ‘The Producer, the Market, and The Audience’ and ‘The Market, the Law and the Business Essentials’ from Australian Film, Television & Radio School, Sydney, and also did a masters in Journalism from University of Technology, Sydney, with a special focus on her first love — TV journalism.
“I am happy that now the perspective of the western world towards India has changed. The level of comfort of the South-Asian community in Australia has also increased,” adds Saba.
Saba says that as the community grew she realised that people were curious to see the stories from the other side. “Then I realised there is need to do something to connect the community. There was only one community newspaper and one radio programme, which used to run once a week for an hour. The job opportunities in media were limited. That was when we conceptualised the idea of South Asian media in Australia,” says Saba.
From then on, Saba set about work to establish South Asian media in Australia and in 2000 became the founding director and CEO of Vision Asia, the first independent DTH platform offering Indian TV channels in Australia and New Zealand; thus linking the South Asian communities in Australia and New Zealand with the Indian subcontinent.
“As satellite TV was getting popular we thought of bringing Indian television channels here and approached Foxtel for that. That was how Vision Asia came into existence. Later, we met a few people in New Delhi and told them that we want to introduce some private channels in Australia. They also showed interest and we launched Zee Life in 2002. There were eight channels in Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Bengali languages. Though it took us some time to build our clientele, the feedback was really good,” says Saba.
Eight channels and eight years, Vision Asia became the market leader and the only successful South Asian Subscription Television platform in Australia and New Zealand.
Having successfully built that business, she sold it four years ago and in association with Fetch TV launched the first state of art South Asian IPTV service on a dynamic mainstream platform, which is much larger in scale, leading South Asian media into future technologies.
“In November 2010, as the founder, promoter/director of Nuvera Media, I entered into a strategic partnership with Fetch TV and launched three South Asian subscription TV packages in Australia on Fetch TV’s IPTV platform and TVOD service for South Asian movies. The two current packages, viz. Hindi and Pakistani, offer 13 major Hindi and 4 major Pakistani channels of various genres of GEC, news, movies, lifestyle and music. Recently, we launched the Tamil and Telugu Sun Pack with 8 channels. We are also working on a Sri Lankan package,” she says.
“We have selected only the premium channels and best quality content available from South AsiaFetchTV),” she adds.
“You don’t need a satellite dish or a specialist cable to install Fetch TV, as a broadband connection and set top box delivers the content straight to the TV. It does this without impacting the normal internet connection or download quotas, and because it doesn’t touch the open internet, the quality is the same as that of a normal TV service. The set top box also allows pausing, record and rewind live TV and can store over 500 hours of recordings,” she says, and adds that the basic package is available from iiNet at $29.95 a month with no installation charge, with the South Asian packages being available for an additional $19.95 a month each.
“The media industry is now established but there is still a need for people of the community to come forward and work sincerely for the welfare of the community,” says Saba.