WorldSpace subscribers from India are shocked that the music offered by the satellite radio service will go out of their lives. A number of music buffs want the services to be revived – they are not clamouring for refunds.
Most Indian subscribers are not agitated, but rather aggrieved that WorldSpace India will be off the air from the New Year. This speaks volumes about the quality of service that WorldSpace has been providing.
“WorldSpace was my companion when I used to be alone at home. We will really miss ‘Jhankaar’, ‘Farishta’, ‘System’, ‘Maestro’ and ‘Falak’,” said Parimal Raj, commenting on the previous Moneylife story stating that the satellite radio will terminate its services from 31 December 2009.
Interestingly, Mr Raj had renewed his subscription as recently as 16 December 2009. However, more than the refund, what he really wants is the service. “I only hope that it gets revived and this turns out to be good news for WorldSpace subscribers in India in 2010. I am hopeful and hence will keep the receiver safe,” he added.
“Please do not terminate the services. I will be shattered. I am really not worried about my subscription being refunded. I just want the service to continue,” commented another subscriber, Usha Sunderasan.
“It is a pity to lose this good service. Indian FM channels are nothing compared to the quality WorldSpace offered. We sold our TV as we found WorldSpace more enlightening. Don’t we have a single entrepreneur who can spot opportunity in this venture and ensure that the satellite radio makes a great comeback into our lives?” commented another WorldSpace fan, Ravi Krishnamurthy.
With subscribers themselves suggesting a way out, the question remains if any corporate entities in India will spot the potential. To get such a faithful clientele without any advertising, would be dream come true for any radio services provider, especially the Indian FM channel. Some of the channels—like Red FM, Radio Mirchi and Big FM—spend considerable amount on advertising.
WorldSpace, on the other hand, has managed to tap into the local market very efficiently—Indians make up more than 90% of its total subscriber base. This base is believed to have trebled recently, thanks to Airtel which offers WorldSpace radio services through its direct to home (DTH) platform.
WorldSpace initiated its advertisements—endorsed by music composer AR Rahman—a few years back, only to mark its Indian launch. It has managed to improve its subscriber base purely on the quality of its service, with a number of subscribers renewing their subscriptions automatically.
Surely, a takeover of WorldSpace operations in India would translate into a huge business opportunity for any entrepreneur. On offer is a huge, loyal customer base with a pan-India presence.
An investment banker, who is also an ardent WorldSpace listener, believes that an operational takeover is most likely to happen. However, any possible business deal will have to ensure that the quality for which WorldSpace was famous does not get diluted.
For example, the service was entirely free of any commercials and was driven purely on revenues from subscriptions. Any entity planning to take over WorldSpace will have to operate on a similar—if not the same—revenue model to retain subscribers.
A few subscribers are trying to keep the service alive. “Join hands to keep the service alive. Can some enterprising subscriber initiate action to keep the service afloat?” asked subscriber Ashok Dullu. “I have started to surf the Internet to see if somebody in India will buy the assets and continue the operation,” added another subscriber, S Devarshi.
So will WorldSpace—or at least, its Indian operations—make a comeback? Subscribers can only wish that their hopes strike the right chord with some corporate entity.
It is amazing to know and witness the kind of goodwill and customer base Worldspace enjoys amongst its Indian customer base. Around 90% of the total Worldspace subscribers are from India. The kind of goodwill and customer base that Worldspace India, a prodigy of a US based company could enjoy across various parts of India, could be any Indian FM channels envy.
However, now on offer is the time to change this envy into the best ever opportunity that FM radio channels in India could cash on for quite some time. With subscribers also willing to pay multiple times, of the tariff that they are currently paying for the service, is the icing of the cake.
Ideally, what would an FM channel in a competitive market like India, can ask for. Currently, most of the FM channels in India are predominant in particular geographic region, but failed to achieve a pan-India presence.
As of now, one can only speculate on the future of the Indian operations of WorldSpace.
Auto-Expo has seldom looked forward. It is time for a change
Auto-Expo week in Delhi is on us again. Invitations are already pouring in for a variety of functions, including a variety of car/bike of the year awards, where everybody will win, with multiple organisations claiming to provide ranks and grades for everything rolling on inflated wheels, all nicely coordinated so that timings and dates do not clash. Much fun, good food, excellent wine will flow.
The venues are packed with shiny cars and bikes as well as well-heeled and shiny people. This is the right time of the year in Delhi for all this. With any luck, the sun will be out during the day, making Pragati Maidan a very pleasant afternoon interlude for a week. The crowds will head for the cars, bikes, buses and trucks—the real business will be done by the vast number of component and other supplier stalls, and seminars as well as conferences will give golden opportunities to all to network and schmooze. The Chinese, as is increasingly the case at such fairs and exhibitions, will be there in even larger numbers than before.
Auto-Expo in Delhi has always been a great show. With the new low-floor buses and Metro trains serving the Pragati Maidan area, one does not have to worry about parking either, and walking about inside is better than any other entertainment in town. The list of displays is already available, though to be frank, as of now there is nothing really exciting, everything has already been shown and previewed. VW Polo, Chevrolet Beat and Maruti Eeco are ready for the market. Likewise in two-wheelers whatever had to be released has been done. There is no ultra excitement of the Tata Nano sort this time around, though that will not keep the crowds away, nor would it in any way reduce the "success" of this exhibition. Place a dummy model of any sports or luxury car, and see the crowd pour in.
This time around the theme at Auto Expo 2010 is "Green Wheels". Just about 14 years ago, during the 1996 Auto Expo, yours truly was almost thrown out of the show for asking fairly aggressive questions on environmentally friendly developments. Remember, manufacturers were of the view that India was too backward for fuel injection and cleaner engines. In reality, the truth was that between the liquid fuel industry and the automobile manufacturers, somebody had to absorb the old clunker technology and the lousy fuel coming out of ancient refineries.
What would one like to see at Auto-Expo? Not newer, but the newest engine technologies need to be heading for India. For example, the multi-fuel new generation engines and the compressed air engines. One would also like to see better road and traffic management techniques, options and opportunities, ongoing maintenance (both optional and statutory) and related systems and suppliers. And most of all, one would like to see more about how the automobile industry plans to go about taking India even further along the road of becoming a real automobile superpower.
Anybody can now make a good car in India. The basic infrastructure is in place. It is time now to make state-of-the-art solutions. Auto-Expo in India has seldom looked towards the future, choosing instead to dwell on past glories and present problems. This needs to change.
Tailpiece: Pity SIAM, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, which is supposed to be the voice of the industry. With competing views and expectations, they increasingly sound like a swimmer trying to reach out into a dozen directions at the same time, and it will be interesting to see them take positions on "Green Wheels", while at the same time pushing for more and more benefits to obsolete personal transport solutions.
It has been a fortnight since Osian Art Fund has promised the first part-payment, but around 85 investors are still waiting for the same
About 15 days back, Osian Art Fund sent a mail to its investors saying that it had started the process of redeeming their capital and all unit-holders would receive around 85% of their investment over the next 8-10 days. However, there are still around 85 investors who haven’t received a rupee from the Fund.
Sharat Jain, who invested Rs10 lakh in the Fund, is one among them. Mr Jain invested the amount in the name of Rachna Jain, but till date hasn’t received any amount from the Fund. He said,” We had sent an SMS also to the number provided in the email (which is the same number as provided by someone from the Fund’s Mumbai office). But no reply or message was sent back. We also sent an email to their office ID and also to Mr Neville Tuli, but there was no reply.”
When we checked with Mr Tuli, chairman, Osian’s-Connoisseurs of Art Pvt Ltd, he confirmed that there are still some investors (around 85) who have to be paid. “The process is ongoing in a systematic manner, and will be completed in the coming three to four days (outside of the holidays). Thereafter, all the investors will be paid the balance amount by 4 January 2010 as per my letter to unit-holders on 11 December 2009,” he said in an email sent to Moneylife.
As of July 2006, the total corpus held by the Fund was Rs102.40 crore and it had 656
unit-holders spread across 39 cities in India. On 9 November 2009, Moneylife was the first to report about the fact that Osian Art Fund reported poor returns, (Read it here). On 15 November 2009, we reported on how the Fund was having trouble repaying investors’ money (Read it here) and then we wrote on how SEBI has failed to regulate the Fund (Read it here).
Responding to charges of not answering unit-holders’ calls or replying to their messages, Mr Tuli said, “There is absolutely no truth in our team not answering the client's concerns. I myself have spoken to virtually every unit-holder, and if a call remains unanswered—as it is my personal mobile number—I always return the call in the evening or the next morning.”
In a note sent to all investors on 11 December 2009, the Fund said that it has started the process of redeeming unit-holder capital and within the next 8 to 10 days, all unit-holders would receive 85% of their investment, in addition to their earlier 5% dividend.
However, there is some confusion between investors who have received some payment and the Fund. While the Fund claims that it started paying 85% of the unit-holder’s investment, in addition to their earlier 5% dividend, investors are clueless about the percentage they have received out of their total investment. Some investors are saying that they received around 75% amount that comprises their investment and net asset value (NAV) of the fund, assuming an NAV of Rs112. As of 9 June 2009, the Fund’s NAV was Rs120.27 (cum income distribution) and Rs115.27 (ex-income distribution).
In its earlier mail to Moneylife, the Fund said that it would pay around 90% of the invested amount in its first instalment. However, in its mail to investors, the Fund had said the payment would be 85% of the invested amount in addition to the earlier 5% dividend. So the discrepancies in the percentage of amount repaid continue.
For investors like Deepak Daftari who have been lucky to receive their first instalments early this month, the date for final payment is fast approaching. According to Mr Tuli’s mail, the Fund is supposed to pay balance amount to investors by 4 January 2010.
Lauding Moneylife’s efforts to protect the investor, Mr Tuli said, “The manner in which Moneylife and yourself have tried to protect the investor's concerns is commendable, even though the Osian Art Fund is at the receiving end; this is the way a better system evolves.”
“It is important to make clear the difference between a 'delay' and a 'default' during the most difficult of times, let alone using other totally unjustified negative terms,” Mr Tuli added.