Subhash Chandra, the chairman of Essel Group has always been known to take big leaps and write success stories like no other. He seems yet again on the verge of taking a new leap. Essel Group is eyeing a promoter to divest up to 50% of their stock holdings in Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. (ZEEL).
Chandra’s partial or full exit indicates he might have set his eye on bigger things. “There is informed recognition that the world is convergent today and the lines across media, telecom, manufacturing, and technology are thinner than ever. The review showed that the family needs to accelerate efforts to stay ahead of fast-changing trends,” Zee said.
But this isn’t Chandra’s first time, he has always been on the roll and taken impulsive decisions as per others which over a period time always proved fruitful.
The Early Days
Born in Hissar, Haryana, Subhash is a school drop out who started working early in order to make money and also repay family debts. His first big break came as a deal with Food Corporation of India to store grains, not in godowns but out in the open covered in specifically designed plastic sheets. He bought machines from Switzerland and manufactured these sheets. Due to the lack of trained labor and engineers, his first lot of production was 98% scrap. But this did not make him lose his ground, he sent his engineers to Switzerland for special training and eventually met success in his venture.
Building The Essel Group
A few years later, his visit to Disneyland gave him the idea to build India’s first amusement park way back in 1989, Essel World. Though Essel World wasn’t exactly a very successful venture, Chandra did not stop at it. His interest in the entertainment field rose even higher and his sheer zeal led to the creation of India’s first private channel Zee TV.
Subhash was turned down by Doordarshan for getting a slot and hiring a transponder from them. He then approached Hong Kong-based AsiaSat, but because his credentials didn’t crack AsiaSat much, he ended up paying 5 times the cost for the transponder. The onlookers thought of this as a big blunder, but Chandra proved everyone wrong when he set up Zee and met with phenomenal success.
Now Chandra seems to be looking at yet another new direction. Zee said that “Subhash Chandra and family along with its advisors met in Mumbai over the Diwali weekend” and decided to offload up to half of its promoter holding of about 42% in flagship Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, as part of a “strategic review of its businesses in the changing global media landscape”.
The entertainment sector is currently witnessing a big shift from main line TV to over the top services. In fact, Subhash saw this coming early and ZEEL became the first Indian entertainment company to take its OTT service, ZEE5 to over 190 countries which is the only OTT in lines with international players like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
ZEEL stake sale seems like the first step in Chandra’s new move wherein he wants to focus on the current trends and move away from the traditional broadcasting business.