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Home > Business > Special

The rise of India's media barons

Amit Khanna | March 23, 2006

These men have a streak of obstinate determination to succeed and an indomitable courage to dream. What makes them winners?

Subhash Chandra -- arguably new India's first media baron -- comes from a trader family from Haryana who dabbled in various businesses from rice milling and trade to laminated tubes before setting up India's first amusement park Essel World.

It was only in the early nineties that he made an audacious move to launch India's first satellite channel ZEE .His meteoric rise and skirmish with Murdoch are a part of boardroom banter. The question is whether he will remain among the leading pack of new media runners?

Prannoy Roy (NDTV) and Raghav Behl (TV Eighteen) started as news anchors but have, within a decade, built two of the biggest and most influential news networks in this part of the world. Maintaining credibility often in the face of political and corporate pressure has meant making tough decisions.

Personal commitment and a missionary zeal has made these programme anchors turn into news barons in a matter of years. That is why both the stock markets as well as large number of viewers admire NDTV and TV Eighteen networks.

Ronnie Screwala (UTV) has been an amateur stage actor, impresario, cable operator as well as a manufacturer of toothbrushes! Ronnie is one of the first to understand the importance of an integrated media play. Slowly but surely he has built a mini empire straddling AD Films, animation, broadcasting and film production and distribution. UTV was also among the first to attract private equity from such investors as Warburg Pincus.

As is the wont, the company was written off many times in its short life of a decade but Screwala and his young energetic team have come back stronger. After Dil Chata Hai and Swades earlier and now Rang De Basanti being a hit, the company's filmi dreams are coming true!

Manmohan Shetty came from Mangalore and, instead of setting up an Udipi Hotel, set up a small film processing lab in a shed in Dadar which initially processed ad films - hence the name ADLABS. Over the years this hard working engineer kept on expanding, building a huge goodwill in Bollywood.

Soon he had the largest film processing laboratory and then India's first I-Max theatre. Not only was ADLABS amongst early film companies to list but also delivered consistent profits. Realising that the game was about scaling up last year, Shetty sold majority stakes in the company to Anil Ambani even as he continues to manage its expansion plans.

A one-time trainee at Lintas, Harish Thawani (Nimbus - on its way to the bourses) ventured into sports marketing when even the most advanced marketing and media professionals had not heard of the word.

Consistently raising the bar, he first cornered the ICC rights for global cricket and has recently outbid biggies like Newscorp, Sony and Zee to grab the BCCI cricket rights for an astounding $612 million. Razor sharp and nimble footed, bold and brazen, Thawani has pushed his way up the media ladder where even his peers have begun to grudgingly admire him.

The author is chairman of Reliance Entertainment and the views expressed are his own.

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Number of User Comments: 1

Sub: The rise of India's media barons

The Author should have titled it "The rise of Mumbai/Delhi's media barons",he seems to have totally ignored the regional players like sun,eenadu etc..

Posted by Srinivas



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