From cable TV to aviation biz, Marans march continues

Jul 13 2010, 23:21 IST
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SummaryKalanithi Maran, chairman and managing director of Sun TV, does not believe in also-rans. He has to be the market leader...

year, 28-year-old Maran launched Sun TV. He put in his savings and got a bank loan guaranteed by his father, Union minister the late Murosoli Maran. Granduncle M Karunanidhis family, took a minority stake (which Maran later bought out). The original team of 25 people included a number of Maran's college friends. Many of them are still with him. He has now brought in professionals from rival channels like Zee and Star, putting an end to the criticism that Sun TV is a one-man show. However, he remains a workaholic who tracks every aspect of his various activities all the time.

When Maran approached Zee to give him an afternoon slot on its transponder he could not meet Subhash Chandra. A junior executive rejected his proposal, saying it wouldn't work as there wasn't big enough audience for Tamil programmes. But Maran knew what he was doing. The four South Indian states account for almost one-fourth of India's population and with a third of all homes possessing TVs. He got transponder space from ATN and launched his channel. There were many early glitches which had to be sorted out. He had to introduce cable operations to the state. He literally persuaded video shop owners to turn cable operators. Today his SCV is the largest cable operator in Tamil Nadu.

From one channel in Tamil, he expanded his operations to the other southern states, launched separate channels for news, movies, music and so on. Couple of years ago, he set up a film production division Sun Pictures, which within two years has acquired and distributed 14 films, most of them have been hits. He acquired a languishing Tamil newspaper Dinakaran, and turned it around to run neck-to-neck with the market leader Dinathanthi. Now he has a clutch of Tamil magazines and couple of newspapers in his fold. He has always said he would like to launch an English newspaper. But he obviously has not made up his mind yet. Marans direct-to-home (DTH) service, is a joint venture with Malaysian billionaire Ananda Krishnan's Astro All Asia Networks. Sun Direct was the third entrant in this segment after Chandra's Dish TV and Tata Sky, a joint venture between Tata and Star, but it is quickly catching up. It has on its rolls 5.5 million subscribers. When the number reaches 6 million, the business will start breaking even. The radio stations are now beginning

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