Guest Column Retrofit: The murky case of Kochi IPL bid – Modi, the Minister and the Memsahib...

This one has all the juice. Expect more. And with allegations of Lalit Modi cooking up this broth to trump Rendezvous’ Kochi IPL team bid for Ahmedabad gaining currency, be prepared for more dirt. Rendezvous has already reacted by calling Modi a drug peddler… so, watch out, many blind curves ahead, says Sandeep Bamzai as he goes deep into the Modi-Tharoor-Kochi IPL controversy.

e4m by Sandeep Bamzai
Published: Apr 14, 2010 8:54 AM  | 8 min read
Guest Column <br>Retrofit: The murky case of Kochi IPL bid – Modi, the Minister and the Memsahib...

This one is about propriety, ethicality, legality, legitimacy and, of course, the truth. It also has hefty doses of verbal action, emotion, romance and, of course, that vital ingredient – factional rivalry. All in all, the makings of a climactic potboiler. All ready for wear. And one that media is lapping up excitedly. When the winning bid from Rendezvous for Kochi IPL team was confirmed, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor had magnanimously stated that he had given his blessings to the consortium and, “beyond that, I had no role to play. I understand it’s a business decision”. But over the weekend, a mini-explosion took place with the same weapon of mass destruction that almost brought the downfall of Tharoor - tweeting - being used with surgical precision.

Social messaging is obviously a new tool, or should I call it weapon, which has enormous potential. Tharoor or Mr Twitter managed to survive each and every controversy using this tool, but Lalit Modi’s tweets may well inflict heavy punishment on him now. The Congress party has already begun to distance itself from Tharoor, while the BJP is readying to launch an assault against the same man, asking for his resignation. Don’t forget that Parliament also reopens after the recess, so expect some more hungama. The last has certainly not been heard of this matter. What this latest controversy can do is envelope the entire IPL team ownership structures and perhaps result in greater transparency. Or maybe that is asking for too much for the levels of opacity associated with IPL are nothing short of staggering.

But even as Modi versus Tharoor slugfest escalates, there is another subset that needs our attention. There are powerful cabals within the BCCI, which have been wanting to take Modi down a notch or two. La affaire Rendezvous has given them a handle once again. Smooth talking Modi was given an email lashing by Board President Shashank Manohar, where he said, “Your making such statements is detrimental to the interests of the Board.” According to Manohar, the proper forum for underlining ownership structures is the IPL Governing Council platform, which Modi very tacitly chose to ignore. He opted for a viral messaging platform instead, throwing into stark relief the importance of social media like Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, Buzz, et al. Manohar now wants to discuss this entire episode at the Governing Council meeting in all probability on April 23.

While Tharoor’s bluff has been called in this entire matter due to the complicity of his ‘wife to be’ Sunanda Pushkar, who reportedly owns 18-20 per cent of the free shares in Rendezvous Sports World, it throws up a larger question of propriety. Sunanda Pushkar’s role in this entire episode is crucial. The fact that she works as sales manager with Tecom Investments, a member of Dubai Holdings, opens up a Pandora’s Box. The Indian Express reported that of the 1,000 shares allotted to the “free” equity owners, 190 have been awarded to Pushkar; 24 to Gulati, 16 to Kotalwar, eight each to Aggarwal and Prasad; 377 to Kishan, 376 to Pushpa and 1 to Shailendra Gaikwad. The other shareholders of the team include: Anchor Earth (27 per cent), Film Waves (12 per cent), Parinee Developers (26 per cent), Anand Shah Developers (8 per cent) and Vivek Venugopal (1 per cent). Modi, in his Twitter message on April 11, said: “Who are the shareholders of Rendezvous. And why have they been given this 100s of million dollar bonanza.” When contacted, Keshav T of Rosy Blue Diamond, which backs Film Waves, said: “There is a component of sweat equity given to Rendezvous as they were the ones who put together the consortium and will be full-time working partners.” Yes, who are these people? From the time that Rendezvous surfaced with the humongous bid of $333.33 million, they have been the cynosure of all eyes. And questions?

The ramifications of Modi’s tweets are going to resonate for sometime. Its impact will be felt not just by Tharoor in politics, but on Rendezvous’ continuity as a team, Modi’s clout and influence in the Cricket Board, but generally speaking its fallout, may well hurt other franchise owners as they might be pressurised into coming clean on their shareholding. Remember that lead investor in Emerging Media, owner of Rajasthan Royals is Suresh Chellaram, Modi’s brother-in-law, or Kings XI Punjab co-owner Mohit Burman’s brother Gaurav is Modi’s step son-in-law. Tharoor, meanwhile, is caught in a maelstrom of his own making. He might be bellicose now, saying that Modi’s tweets are “an extraordinary breach of all propriety” and designed to discredit the franchise. Modi, too, has been in the line of Manohar and Srinivasan’s fire for his unilateralism. He has often been bailed out by Sharad Pawar. Manohar’s mail to Modi has a strident sounding line to it, “The issue, if any, could have been discussed at the governing council meeting and that action on your part of raising it on Twitter is unbecoming of you as a chairman of the a sub-committee of the board. Your action is in serious breach of the confidentiality clause in the agreement. Till date, you have made public statements about a lot of issues, which were not even discussed in the meetings of the governing council, when it is the governing council which has the authority to take decisions with regard to each and every issue related to IPL.”

But Modi is combative and resilient. He responded to Manohar’s letter by saying his revelations on Twitter were “in no way a breach of confidentiality”. He said that the Kochi franchise “had a lot to hide” and as such have lied about who are the actual owners of the shares. Modi seems to be right in pulling the plug on Rendezvous, more so because Tharoor reportedly called him to prevent him from outing Sunanda’s name. Oh yes, the waters are muddied. “I was told not to get into who owns Rendezvous, specially Sunanda Pushkar. Why?” asked Modi. Agencies reported that, “Tharoor had all along denied having a stake in the Kochi franchise, saying he played merely a facilitator’s role. In a lengthy rejoinder on Tuesday, Tharoor denied calling Modi and requesting him not to disclose details of the RSW stakeholders.

But there is another facet to this fur flying. For instance, media personnel got an earful on Tuesday when they assembled outside the home of retired army officer PN Dass, whose daughter Sunanda is at the centre of the Kochi Indian Premier League (IPL) controversy for her reported share of Rs 70 crore. Dass’ house in Sector 5 of Channi Himmat locality was the focus of media attention after news reports about Sunanda, who has business interests in Dubai, and her purported links with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor hit the headlines.

Journalists who gathered for a quote or a soundbite or two were greeted by abuse from Sunandas father, Lt Col (retd) Dass. He first told camerapersons and reporters to go away. When they continued to hurl questions, he used abusive language. The family had migrated to Jammu in 1990 when their house was burnt down by militants in Bommai in Sopore in the Kashmir Valley. More than 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits had fled the Valley. They had sought shelter in Jammu, as did Sunanda’s family.

Finally, who is this lady in Tharoor’s life?

Another media story went like this, “Sunanda Pushkar, who is seen with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor at social gatherings and is in the thick of the Kochi IPL row, is involved with a construction business in Dubai, and had been with her parents in Mathura recently. Following a divorce, Pushkar went to Dubai, where she married again. Her second husband died in an accident in Delhi. Pushkar, a graduate of Government College for Women, Srinagar, has two brothers, one of whom works for a bank; the other is in the Army. Her father retired from the Army in 1983.”

This one has all the juice. Expect more. And with allegations of Modi cooking up this broth to trump Rendezvous’ Kochi bid for Ahmedabad gaining currency, be prepared for more dirt. Rendezvous has already reacted by calling Modi a drug peddler… so, watch out, many blind curves ahead.

(Sandeep Bamzai is a well-known journalist, who started his career as a stringer with The Statesman in Kolkata in 1984. He has held senior editorial positions in some of the biggest media houses in three different cities - Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. In late 2008, he joined three old friends to launch a start-up – Sportzpower Network – which combines his two passions of business and sport. Familiar with all four media – print, television, Internet and radio, Bamzai is the author of three different books on cricket and Kashmir.

The views expressed here are of the writer’s and not those of the editors and publisher of

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Cable operators write to TRAI to push for OTT regulation: Report

TRAI is currently conduction a study on licensing OTT content and will be releasing consultation papers for the same

By exchange4media Staff | May 18, 2023 11:26 AM   |   1 min read


In a push to create a level-playing field for TV and streaming content, multiple cable operators have reportedly approached the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to regulate OTT platforms.

A news report said that cable operators approached the regulatory authority as they felt threatened by the unbridled rise of OTT players. TRAI, on its part, has yet to come to a decision and is currently conducting a study on licensing OTT content; consultation papers for the same will be released in due time.

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Shemaroo Entertainment’s revenue from operations up 46% YoY

The company has reported 94% YoY rise in EBITDA

By exchange4media Staff | May 16, 2023 12:49 PM   |   2 min read


Shemaroo Entertainment’s revenue from operations for the fiscal ended 31st March 2023 has increased by 45.9 % to Rs 556.6 crore as compared to Rs 381.4 crore in the previous fiscal ended 31st March 2022.

For the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2023, the company’s revenue surged 75.8 % to Rs 164.5 crore compared to Rs 93.6 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal.

Announcing Shemaroo Entertainment’s financial results for the fourth quarter and financial year ending 31st March 2023, the company CEO Hiren Gada said, “Considering the external economic scenario, I am very pleased with our overall performance in this financial year.”

The company’s Profit After Tax (PAT) was up by 136.5 % to Rs 4.8 crores compared to Rs 2.1 crores in the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2022.

Commenting on the results, Gada said, “We started on this journey of changing our business strategy in 2019 and against all odds and headwinds that we have faced over the last few years, we have overcome all these challenges and have been successful in meeting our strategic goals.

“We are extremely confident that the agility, strength and innovative business model, along with a professionally run organization with freshly inducted talent from the media industry, will see our company delivering strong financial performance in the coming years.”

The company also saw an annual growth of 23.3 % in digital media and 66.5 % in traditional media in the financial year ended 31st March 2023 compared to the previous fiscal.

ShemarooMe, the OTT Platform released 14 new titles during the fourth quarter ended 31st March 2023 and the general entertainment channels (GECs) recorded a viewership share of 9 % in over all Hindi GEC genre.

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Amazon lays off at least 500 in India

The departments that saw pink slips were Amazon Web Services, HR and support functions

By exchange4media Staff | May 16, 2023 11:00 AM   |   1 min read


Amazon has handed out pink slips to at least 500 employees in India, media networks have reported.

The people who have been let go were with Amazon Web Services, HR and support functions.

CEO Andy Jassy had said in April that Amazon has begun laying off employees in its advertising unit.

As per the company, it was "prioritizing resources with an eye towards maximizing benefits to customers and the long-term health of our business".

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Media houses must comply with rules with regards to organised conclaves/summits: MIB

The MIB said it has come across as a violation at a recent media event   

By exchange4media Staff | May 10, 2023 1:47 PM   |   1 min read


Noting that e-cigarettes were promoted at a business summit of a prominent media house in New Delhi, the I&B ministry said in an advisory to media houses and satellite TV channels.

The ministry has directed newspapers, private satellite TV channels, publishers of news and current affairs content on digital media and publishers of online curated content (OTT platforms) to comply with existing legal provisions while organising conclaves or summits.

“It has been brought to the notice by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that in a recently organized Business Summit in New Delhi by a prominent media house, the forum was apparently used to promote electronic cigarettes.

“Such an action was in violation of Section 4 of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Act, 2019 which prohibits advertisements that directly or indirectly promote the use of electronic cigarettes.

“The Print, Electronic and Digital Media entities are accordingly advised to ensure that the aforementioned statute is not contravened either by way of advertisement or any promotion or other campaigns etc,” the MIB said in its advisory.

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'No medium is dead. There's opportunity for everyone'

A panel of the industry's sharpest minds convened to talk about the future of advertising at the recently held FICCI Frames 2023

By exchange4media Staff | May 5, 2023 1:40 PM   |   4 min read


An August panel at FICCI Frames 2023 deliberated on ‘What is the future of advertising?’ in a discussion featuring some of the prominent names from the Indian adland. Rana Barua, Group CEO, Havas Group India; Saurabh Saksena, CEO, VMLY&R India; Gangs T Gangadhar, Co-Founder & Group, CEO, Quotient Ventures; Rohit Gopakumar, COO, Optimal Media Solutions (Times Group); Dheeraj Sinha, CEO, Leo Burnett, South Asia & Chairman BBH India; Abe Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network ( BIGFM). The session was moderated by Vinit Karnik, Business Head- Entertainment, Group M came together to discuss the relevancy of advertising in today’s digital era and in the future.

The talk kickstarted with a discussion of the changes that the industry saw in the last few years with the disruption of many mediums and marketing tactics along with user-generated content and influencer marketing being at its peak.

Barua of Havas said, “There are two ways to look at it. First, from our country and second, from what's happening outside India. From an Indian POV, there are dramatic changes that are happening. Cultural changes are happening in the form of mediums. Consumers are getting more powerful in terms of the entertainment or content they want to see, and norms have changed. The control is in the consumer’s hands today. Data and analytics have become very important.”

Karnik concluded Rana’s point by saying that the consumer has become the centre of all the mediums, consuming through multiple mediums like TV and digital and other traditional media. 

Saksena of VMLY&R said, “One thing that is constant is the need to be creative, platforms, mediums, and advertisers need to be creative, and this has stayed universal. Consumers have the power. Where we are today after Covid, I think Covid was the accelerator of trends - the adoption of OTT, e-commerce, etc. A lot has changed and remained constant and there is pressure on advertisers to value a consumer’s time.”

Speaking about how he sees the industry, Gangs said, “Well as long as there is a need to build brands, there will be a need for advertising. How will it look, will obviously change but the need is going to be there. Advertising should be interesting and inspiring. Earlier it used to be entertainment but it should be inspiring."

Gopakumar of Times Group spoke about print and its slow-paced growth saying, “If you see print in smaller towns is growing. Vernacular papers are coming out with their new editions. The opportunity is humongous. The audience is changing, earlier it was a need economy, and now it is a want economy. When I started it was a Rs 25,000 Crore advertising revenue. Today it is Rs 1000 crore. No medium has died. There is opportunity for everyone.”

When asked about what advice Leo Burnett gives to their clients, Sinha of Leo Burnett said, “I feel this is the best time to be in advertising and marketing. When I started, one could only play with words and images and now you can play with technology. And that’s what makes today’s world exciting. The value chain is now moving from just advertising to talking down to people and to actually solving human problems and business problems.”

The opportunity is to move up the value chain to solve problems. Because What’s lost is the entitlement that advertising had 20 years back which was playing a jingle and people watching it. Now people will choose to interact with content if it is interesting or not and, hence, the onus is on us to make the content more interesting and to solve for something that really matters in the people’s lives,” he added.

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National policy on AVGC is being finalised: Apurva Chandra

Speaking at the FICCI Frames 2023, the MIB Secretary also noted that the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has been undergoing a transformation

By exchange4media Staff | May 4, 2023 8:33 AM   |   4 min read

apurva chandra

Apurva Chandra, Secretary, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), on Wednesday, said that the government was in the process of finalising the national policy on the Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic (AVGC) sector. 

Addressing the 23rd edition of FICCI FRAMES in Mumbai, Chandra said, “After the taskforce report was formulated, it was thrown open for the stakeholders’ feedback. We have received a number of comments which are getting incorporated. Now we are in the process of finalising the core for the national policy, which will go for inter-ministerial consultation and thereafter the final policy can be announced.”

Chandra disclosed that a consultation was held with the state governments on April 20th where almost 25 state governments were represented, and wherein a draft AVGC policy was put out for the state governments in public domain. He further added that in the conclave the state governments were told what was expected of them, and their queries were addressed. 

“Now I am sure that the industry will also take it forward, while we have put it out to the state governments to frame their own policy,” the Secretary added. He also mentioned that some of the state governments like Karnataka, Telangana, and Maharashtra were ahead, as they were already doing something in terms of the AVGC policy, and it is for the others to take it ahead.

Chandra, who has also chaired the AVGC task force, said, “AVGC sector requires a cross-section of work from various ministries and various state governments, and they all have to come together, especially to meet the challenges of education and skilling.” 

With regard to skilling and education, Chandra asserted that it is the core of making skilled manpower available. “We are in touch with the education department of the government of India, as well as NCERT and all the other stakeholders such as All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to incorporate Animation courses and Visual effect courses into school curriculums, starting from 6th grade onwards, and in the Computer Science and activities curriculum, as well as skilling later on and standardisation of the courses at Graduate level, postgraduate level and subsequently,” he added.

Chandra also touched upon the matter of having a National Centre of Excellence, which has been talked about for a long time and said that a centre might be operational in Mumbai by next year. “The National Centre of Excellence has been on the drawing board for almost 7-8 years now, but we hope now that this is the final year. There again we want to involve the private sector, and we are partnering with CII and FICCI so that it remains a private sector entity and not a government entity. So that it gives more flexibility in terms of operations, in terms of hiring of faculty and manpower, and designing the courses.” 

He further shared that the government also wants to create regional centres so that more people can be trained to meet the needs of the industry. The Secretary added that the government is in the works to set up a National Centre for Excellence operational in Mumbai by next year.

The AVGC sector in India is rapidly growing and has the potential to make India a global content leader. However, the country’s share of the AVGC global revenue today is less than 1%. With the announcement of the AVGC task force by the government, the industry has hopes that the number will improve in the coming years.

In a fireside chat with Praveen Someshwar, Co-Chair & FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee & MD & CEO, HT Media, the secy also that Prasar Bharati - the public broadcaster is undergoing a transformation, adding that over the past few years not a lot of new content has been created on Prasar Bharati.

He said, "Within this month many new serials are going to come on Prasar Bharati. It's undergoing a transformation. Infact, new films have started coming back on Prasar Bharati which were not there earlier. Regional films will also start and fresh content is also being created."
He also invited stakeholders to participate in the process of transforming Prasar Bharati. While in fact at the event, Prasar Bharati CEO Gaurav Dwivedi, said in four months time different content will be airing on Doordarshan.

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Equal representation of women behind the camera is important: Guneet Monga

In a discussion with P&G's Kainaz Gazder at #WeSeeEqual Summit, the Oscar-winning producer shared some facts about female representation in Indian media and advertising

By exchange4media Staff | May 3, 2023 5:05 PM   |   2 min read

guneet monga

There is a need to push more women behind commercials as directors, India’s First Oscar Winning Producer Guneet Monga said on Wednesday, noting that not even 5 per cent of directors in India are women.  

In a discussion with Kainaz Gazder, Senior VP, P&G Asia Middle East Africa, on the topic “Seeing is Believing: Power of Advertising and Media” at P&G’s #WeSeeEqual Summit, Monga stressed the need for women representation in media and advertising.

“I love storytelling and love the impact it can make. Equal representation of women behind the camera is important."

“Pushing more women behind the commercials is much needed. Our statistics are quite low, unfortunately. Less than 5 per cent of women are behind the cameras as directors. That just needs to change and as a producer myself, at Sikhya Entertainment, most of our stories are either led by women or are about women. It is very important to see how women are represented. It is a large part of our conversation,” she said.

During the discussion, Kainaz Gazder, Senior VP, of P&G Asia Middle East Africa, spoke about the role P&G plays in breaking gender stereotypes.

“We are P&G look at our responsibility of leveraging the voice of our brands towards equality and inclusion very seriously. We look at it like a three-fold approach. One, we make sure we have a diverse and accurate representation as we do our communication. Two, we want to leverage our voice to be a force for good. Third, we want equal representation of women behind the camera,” she said.

She said that in 2019, only 16 per cent of P&G’s production was driven by female directors and now it has grown to 35 per cent.

“We are aiming to get that to 50 per cent goal with a comprehensive set of actions to develop a pipeline of female talent in advertising media and content,” Gazder said.

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