The year 2012 promises to be a remarkable year for Indian media in more ways than one. To begin with, it will have a new and healthy landscape. With digitization in the offing and broadcasters becoming healthier financially, the business of TV news will have a profitable model. With large Indian business-owners trying to enter the media scene and competing with one another to provide capital to media moguls, media companies’ valuation will finally be respectable. Distribution businesses in broadcasting will see investment deals and valuations which will probably dwarf media brands and content-driven media assets. These are developments that one can easily forecast, without being a palmist, astrologer, economist or statistician. The writing is on the wall - Indian media is finally becoming valuable.
I have always believed that Indian media is undervalued as an investment asset as well as an advertising vehicle. I almost embarked on an empirical study to prove this with a media planning CEO and pundit, who had worked in overseas markets including China. However, I am not resuming this column to tell you what you already know. I only fantasize about what Indian media and media owners can achieve – I dream about them even in my sleep – and I’m not exaggerating!
It’s the eighth anniversary of IMPACT in 30 days, and while I could have saved this piece for the anniversary edition, I dream so much and work so little that in 30 days’ time, I am sure I will have new dreams to share. You could call it wishful thinking or imagination or media fantasies or even hallucinations, but here are my eight wishful thoughts, totally a figment of my imagination. Here are my dreams. My only request to media owners is that if they find some sense in these dreams, they should implement them and give me a consultation fee!
1. A TIMES OF INDIA IPO: This is a conversation I had with the CEO of India’s leading broadcaster (someone who has a nose for news) while I was on my way from Cannes to Nice in June last year. I have discussed this with many stalwarts in the media business too. Everyone tells me Bennett Coleman & Co Limited, the parent company of the Times of India, will never go for an initial public offering (IPO) though it has been actively discussed for the last eight years. It’s like a landlord who owns prize property shopping around to know the property’s market value, with no need or inclination to sell it. However, in my dream I see the Jains looking at this more seriously than ever. My wise CEO friend and I for a moment imagined the IPO happening. We had two pertinent questions: what would be its valuation and size, and what would the Jains do with the cash? If one assumes that the TOI Group’s profit is close to Rs 1,000 crore and turnover near about Rs 5,500 crore, TOI could get a valuation of Rs 30,000 crore. If it floated 20%, it would raise an estimated Rs 6,000 crore. With its cash reserves and ability to raise similar additional amounts with a war chest of say Rs 1,20,000 crore, what would TOI acquire? Also, would the Jains have the temperament and culture to share wealth? Imagine if the group got valuations of more than Rs 30,000 crore. As everyone will tell you, a TOI IPO is at best wishful thinking.
2. AN AGGRESSIVE AMAR UJALA, AND AN IPO: Amar Ujala is a strong and healthy newspaper brand. After sorting out issues with DE Shaw and other minority shareholders, I dream of Amar Ujala coming up with an IPO to benefit its investors, who will help the Maheshwari family buy DE Shaw and Agartala family stakes. Amar Ujala, in my dream, goes from strength to strength just as Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran have in the last eight years.
3. MORE TOI LANGUAGE EDITIONS, INCLUDING BENGALI: TOI understands the growth in Indian language media, especially newspapers. It has tasted growth with Vijay Karnataka. I dream of the newspaper giant launching two more big editions, possibly a Bengali language one too, in the next 12 months.
4. INDIA TODAY TO BET BIG ON DIGITAL AND E-COMMERCE: Aroon Purie of India Today has shown a futurist trait by raising capital and partnering with a much respected big Indian corporate. With India Today leveraging synergies of all its media platforms and brands with Kalli Purie as Chief Synergy Officer and Ashish Bagga as group CEO, and with the success of bagittoday.com and carwale.com, I dream of this revered media organization investing in internet assets, e-commerce and e-verticals. Editorial will drive it, but become glue for e-commerce.
5. ZEE GROUP BECOMING LARGER, IN EVERY MEDIA SEGMENT: With Subhash Chandra taking full control of DNA, the newspaper will launch in Delhi. I dream of Chandra and Zee launching other Indian language newspapers. With the success of india.com, Chandra will become a media baron with stakes in all forms of media beyond broadcasting.
6. A LARGE FUND DEDICATED TO INVESTMENTS IN MEDIA: One of my dreams is to see a large fund dedicated to investments in the media, now being acknowledged as a ‘sunrise sector’. With financial worries taken care of, media owners will have the scope to scale up the business and bring in more technology and talent.
7. ANAND MAHINDRA, SANJIV GOENKA, RUIAS BECOMING MEDIA MOGULS: I dream of Anand Mahindra investing big time in Indian media. His wife Anuradha Mahindra is the force behind Verve and MW. The RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group has brands like SaReGaMa, Spencer’s and Music World under its umbrella and estimated assets up to Rs 14,000 crore. On the media front, it owns the Open Media Network that publishes Open magazine, launched in 2009. The Essar Group’s Paprika Media, managed by Smiti Ruia, has partnered with UK-based TimeOut magazines. With them too investing in the media, it won’t be far-fetched to dream of them as future media moguls with much bigger and substantial presence of news and GEC assets.
8. A STAR INDIA IPO: Back in 2002, we did hear of Rupert Murdoch’s News Television India, owner of the Star bouquet of channels, planning to go for an IPO. It didn’t happen back then. Now, one of my dreams is Star India floating an IPO. Star India is on a strong wicket and its star is shining bright.
I will go on dreaming. As Oscar Wilde said, “A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”