Mediaah! Is media really a ‘sunrise’ sector?

22 May,2012

By Pradyuman Maheshwari


I had just got down to writing this when the day’s newsletter from Moneylife entered the inbox. The top story was an analysis by editor Debashis Basu titled ‘Kumar Birla’s Living Media investment is a bet on a sunset sector’.


Basu is scathing in his criticism about Birla’s investments. “Kumar Mangalam Birla’s investments in “sunrise” sectors over the last decade have been garments, retailing, telecom, financial services and software. All these have fetched very poor returns. Now comes his investment in the messy, unprofitable and sunset media sector,” the article says (see link: The last sentence kind-of captures the drift of the piece: “Kumar Mangalam Birla seems to have not only got carried away once again in his quest for sunrise sector but this investment is surely one of his worst.”


Not having tracked the Aditya Birla group companies in possibly the way Debashis would have, I am not going to comment on all of Birla’s ventures and his specific decision on investing in Living Media. Yes, the market is tough, spends are down and competition is up, but Living Media would count among the better run media companies in the country.


Although Purie’s daughter Kalli is actively involved, Living Media is managed by CEO Ashish Bagga. After G Krishnan’s exit, the TV business is also under Ashish (who is president of the Indian Newspaper Society), and I am certain that he will work towards the profitability of his business without compromising on core editorial values.


My point is different: is media really a sunrise sector for investments as KM Birla says it is. And as Aroon Purie puts it, at a tipping point?

While I am happy to see that a corporate biggie like Kumar Mangalam Birla believes in the media, this is not what everyone in this country believes is true. Entertainment television requires deep pockets and just having those and/or people who have struck gold before is not enough. The examples of 9X and Imagine are too fresh in one’s memory to attempt that. News channels are a weird game. Try producing one with quality content and your viewership will be very low and if you sensationalise, you devalue yourself.


Mass print is expensive and the digital media hasn’t really taken off in right earnest for advertising. Social networks and Twitter are a rage with a section of urban India and not beyond.


So sunrise? Perhaps, but a cloudy one. But if Mr Birla thinks it isn’t, why complain?


Tomorrow: The decaying state of media education


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Disclaimer: Although he is CEO and Editor-in-Chief of this site, Pradyuman Maheshwari’s views in Mediaah! are not necessarily those of the rest of the team and


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One response to “Mediaah! Is media really a ‘sunrise’ sector?”

  1. Himanshu says:

    A good piece…articulates and summarizes the media environment…