BCCL ‘split’ may unlock new opportunities for the country’s soft power

Samir Jain keeps print, Vineet TV, digital and broadcasting, say reports

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BCCL
There is unverified talk of a possible split in the Times of India Group. Photo Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL), popularly known as the Times Group, one of India’s biggest and oldest media conglomerates with a robust presence in print, digital and broadcast, is splitting, various media reports suggest – marking an end to months of speculation and suspense. 

According to the reports that could not be independently verified, the elder brother Samir Jain, 69, will get the print division with formidable titles such as The Times of India, The Telegraph, The Economic Times, Navbharat Times, Ei Samay and Vijay Karnataka, along with their online editions. Vineet Jain, 59, will keep TV and internet, including Times TV Network, the radio business, the Filmfare Awards and Femina Miss India, ET Money and the OTT platform MX player.

On 19 May, industrialist Harsh Goenka tweeted, “I am delighted that the Times of India group issue is finally settled. Samir Jain lords over the print business and Vineet gets the digital, TV and entertainment business. All’s well that ends well!.”

Other reports quoting sources suggest that Vineet Jain could receive a cash payout of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 crore as the print section outweighs the other segments, especially in profitability. There are many other business such as Bennet University, which are yet to be valued. In the financial year 2021-22, BCCL had posted a consolidated revenue Rs 7,394.09 crore and a profit of Rs 456. 42 crore, as IppStar had reported. 

Meanwhile, in an internal email, The Times Group in an internal mail, told its employees that the media reports of the split were speculative and incorrect.

In another related development, Business Standard has reported that Bennett Coleman was merging five of its subsidiaries – Mind Games Shows, Ananta Properties, Amrita Estates, Times Digital, Times Journal and Vinabella Media and Entertainment – with itself as part of its plan to clean up the company’s structure, in accordance with a National Company Law Tribunal order.  

BCCL’s digital news arms, Times Internet and Global Broadcasting, which operates the news channels, are not part of the currently reported exercise that would lead to consolidation of the group’s electronic and web business. The current news, if confirmed in the coming days, can only be seen as phase one of a long and complex exercise.

Though there is a fair amount of speculation within the group itself over the news, the separation of the business, if it is happening, could indeed unlock new opportunities for investments, especially in BCCL’s print division, as the economy opens up after being battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Times of India, for the record, is one of the largest selling English-language dailies in the world, with its first edition published in 1838.

The division also means both brothers can, without any interference, focus on growing their respective divisions and trigger healthy competition among all players in print, TV and digital. 

Of late, there have been a fair amount of upheavals in the Indian media space, with the most recent one being the takeover of news broadcaster NDTV by the Adani group. It must be kept in mind that the hundreds of TV news channels continue to be loss-making.

As far as BCCL’s reported split is concerned, one can only wait and watch and hope for the best – for the numerous news and entertainment platforms that the group owns, for its abundant human resource talent, and for the Indian media sector which approaches a crossroad as an important institution of liberal democracy. To some extent, the Indian news media is under the global scanner, and presents a great opportunity for the country to demonstrate its soft power.

In 2024, we are looking at full recovery and growth-led investment in Indian printing

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. It created the category of privately owned B2B print magazines in the country. And by its diversification in packaging, (Packaging South Asia), food processing and packaging (IndiFoodBev) and health and medical supply chain and packaging (HealthTekPak), and its community activities in training, research, and conferences (Ipp Services, Training and Research) the organization continues to create platforms that demonstrate the need for quality information, data, technology insights and events.

India is a large and tough terrain and while its book publishing and commercial printing industry have recovered and are increasingly embracing digital print, the Indian newspaper industry continues to recover its credibility and circulation. The signage industry is also recovering and new technologies and audiences such as digital 3D additive printing, digital textiles, and industrial printing are coming onto our pages. Diversification is a fact of life for our readers and like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in nominal and real terms – in a region poised for the highest change in year to year expenditure in printing equipment and consumables. Our 2024 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock – to emphasize your visibility and relevance to your customers and turn potential markets into conversations.

– Naresh Khanna

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