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JUNE 3, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Trillion-Dollar Club
India has joined the elite club of 12 countries with GDPs in excess of a trillion dollars. The country's GDP crossed the trillion-dollar mark for the first time when the rupee appreciated to below Rs 41 against the greenback. According to a report by Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse, India's stock market capitalisation has risen to $944 billion (Rs 39,64,800 crore), which is also closing in on the trillion-dollar mark. An analysis of the Indian economy.

Minding The Monsoon
The India Meteorological Department's prediction that the total rainfall in the coming monsoon season is likely to be 95 per cent of the long-period average, with an error margin of 5 per cent, is good news for agriculture. But experts say there's a need to revamp monsoon prediction so that the region-wise and timing of rainfall patterns can be forecast much earlier. A look at the credibility of monsoon models and their impact on agriculture.
More Net Specials

Business Today,  May 20, 2007

Attack Of The Old Media
Both print and television companies have latched on to the internet with a vengeance. That could accelerate the consumer's shift to the net.

In the US, they are already writing the requiem for print publications. The Sulzbergers, who control The New York Times, are fighting a battle with institutional investors, apparently for a change in its dual ownership structure, but in reality over the newspaper's poor financial performance. Elsewhere in the city, the Bancrofts, who own Dow Jones, including the jewel in the crown, The Wall Street Journal, have been offered a $5-billion deal by media mogul Rupert Murdoch. And in early April, real estate baron Sam Zell snapped up the Tribune Co. (which publishes the la Times and the Chicago Tribune) for $8.2 billion. The Grahams, who control The Washington Post, made the first layoffs in 25 years after profits fell in the third quarter of last year. The world, according to American advertisers, is online.

Cut to India, the situation couldn't be more different. Print is booming. All the big media houses-Bennett, Coleman & Co, ht Media, and Living Media India (read: the India Today Group)-have either launched or will launch new print properties, including newspapers and magazines. Then, there are smaller, regional players such as Gujarat Samachar and Malayala Manorama that are expanding their portfolios. Yet, the underlying turbulence is all too visible-in readership numbers. Although the methodology is a subject of debate, the India Readership Survey for the second half of calendar 2006 points to a drop in readership of all major print publications, including national dailies and magazines. Advertisers, on the other hand, are pressing for more bang for their advertising buck, not just in print, but also television.

"We want to be the leader in the consumer internet space in the
next couple of years"

Surya Mantha
CEO, Web18
"The market is shifting to the digital domain, and growth rates here are the fastest"
Dinesh Wadhawan
MD & CEO, Times Internet

Result: Old media, whose early dalliance with the internet was limited to putting its content online, is beginning to look at the opportunity as an independent business that goes beyond news. Consider Bennett, Coleman & Co, for example. This media giant, which publishes The Times of India and The Economic Times, has a separate digital venture, called Times Internet, which owns portals such as (jobs classifieds), (real estate), and It even has private equity investment of $7 million from Sequoia Capital India.

Another aggressive old media player is tv18, whose internet arm Web18 has been on a spree to acquire toeholds in various dotcoms such as (where it is a co-investor with Norwest Venture Partners and Reliance Capital), India,,, Urban Eye, and Big Tree Entertainment. NDTV, too, has spun off its internet division into a separate entity, NDTV Convergence, and brought in a new CEO from Indiatimes, Sanjay Trehan. Other media houses, including the India Today Group, which publishes Business Today, have ambitious internet plans. Says NDTV Convergence's Trehan: "Gone are the hype days of the net. This is a very serious business now."

Not Just a New Medium

Having seen Internet 1.0 flame out in India some years ago, all the media companies are much clearer about their web strategy. Web18, which closed 2006-07 with Rs 25 crore in revenues, wants to be "the leader in the consumer internet space in the next couple of years," says Surya Mantha, CEO of the division. Dinesh Wadhawan, MD & CEO, Times Internet, says he is going to get "very aggressive" in the coming few months on community-based services, improved functionality and navigation, and on content. "We are going to go beyond Orkut (a popular social networking site) and create relevant communities for different walks of life, be it working women, elderly or even kids." The company is also planning products in vernacular languages (it's talking to other publishers to aggregate news) as well as local search and even going hyper-local. "We will blend assets from Web 2.0 as well as the existing version. Online companies need to evolve unless we want to create a cyber Jurassic Park," he warns. Adds Alok Mittal, Executive Director, Canaan Partners: "It is very important for old media to look at internet as a standalone business, and not just as an extension of their print business."


Media House/ Growth Plans

To be the leader in the consumer internet space in the coming few years

Times Internet
It sees fresh activity in communities, apart from the verticals it is present in

IMCL (Bhaskar Group)
Optimistic about e-commerce and local search

ABP Group
Intends to gain from content customisation, local information and search specific portals for markets in the East

Express Online
Plans to increase net revenues to around 20 per cent of total in the next few years

Gujarat Samachar
Along with a business portal launch in 2008, it expects to increase focus on classifieds

Malayala Manorama
Plans to increase verticals around local communities

NDTV Convergence
Sees growth coming from the search engine market, monitored-community portals and innovative advertising techniques

Regional players have their own plans, but built largely around the communities they already cater to. Manorama Online's CEO, Mariam Mammen Mathew, says the group's 22 bilingual (Malayalam and English) web channels will be weaved into one Web 2.0 site, encouraging users to build communities around user-generated content. Kolkata-based ABP Group, which publishes The Telegraph and Ananda Bazar Patrika, already has community portals like, and that attract a lot of hits from overseas (presumably, from non-resident Bengalis), but intends to go deeper into the eastern market by offering content in more local languages (Assamese, Oriya, etc). "The next wave," says Asheesh K. Gupta, VP (Business Development & Strategy), ABP Group, "is going to be about customisation of content in terms of geography and language, and there is going to be a shift from universal search to local search."

"Gone are the hype days of the net. This is a very serious business now"
Sanjay Trehan
CEO/NDTV Convergence

The (Dainik) Bhaskar Group and Gujarat Samachar are some other regional media houses that intend to stick to the knitting. "We are market leaders in the Gujarati community, be it India or abroad, and venturing into other languages does not make sense unless we have some expertise in the market," says Shreyan Shah, CMD, Gujarat Samachar. He is launching a business portal in 2008, and is looking at ways to increase the local classified section online to attract more users and advertisers. Currently, most of its traffic is driven by the Gujarati diaspora. Bhaskar Group's R.D. Bhatnagar, on the other hand, says that e-commerce is what will drive their net strategy. "By 2010, we expect the online business to contribute Rs 500 crore in revenues," he says.

Evidently, the idea is to get more users online and then start monetising the growth. NDTV Convergence's Trehan says that his plan is to go as "granular" (read: local) as possible, since there is a lot of potential to do local search-engine based marketing and video advertising online. The company, which in tranches has raised $4.5 million, expects to clock revenues of Rs 100 crore by 2010. Web18's Mantha believes that there's room for subscription-based portals as well "as long as they have unique and compelling content and solutions".

Here's the real opportunity, though: All the media players see online advertisement rates going up in the future. "This is still an under-valued medium where advertisers are sceptical either because they were misled in the early days by gold-diggers or because the industry itself didn't do much to build confidence," says Times Internet's Wadhawan. But for that, the media owners will have to innovate and lean on more sophisticated advertising tools and techniques. "We know that the market is shifting to the digital domain, and growth rates here are the fastest," says Wadhawan. In the US, that turned into an adversity for the print monoliths. But in India, that may well be an opportunity.