IMCL sets foot in Kolkata, acquires two cable networks

MUMBAI: IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd, the media subsidiary company of Hinduja Ventures Ltd, is setting foot in Kolkata through the acquisition route, ahead of the government‘s digitisation mandate.

IMCL has picked up 51 per cent stake in two cable networks - Hooghly-based Advanced Multisystem Broadband Communications (AMBC) and Skyvision. With this, the Hinduja-owned multi-system operator (MSO) will have operations in three out of the four metros that fall under the first phase of digitisation.

"We have acquired 51 per cent stake in AMBC and Skyvision as we want to service Kolkata in the digitisation phase. We will be expanding in the other main cities of West Bengal," IMCL chief executive officer Nagesh Chabria told

IMCL is also planning to acquire around 30,000 primary points that will give it access directly to the customer homes. "We plan to invest around Rs 1 billion over one year in that market. We intend to invest Rs 200 million in primary point acquisition and an almost similar amount in network and upgradation. We are looking at ordering 350,000 set-top boxes. This will include demand for second TV and our expansion into the city. We are also confident to recover whatever base AMBC has lost in the past year," said Chabria.

IMCL is setting up a digital head-end in the central part of Kolkata as it plans to expand in the metro, adding to its strong base in Mumbai and Delhi. AMBC already has a head-end that services Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) which falls under the digitisation belt.

Kolkata is a low ARPU (average revenue per user) market. IMCL‘s strategy will be to test the Kolkata market before it decides to pump in big investments. The MSO already has a licence to operate in Kolkata.

Sources say smaller cable networks are willing to forego stake, allowing the bigger MSOs to fund the digitisation. This also offers a growth opportunity for these networks who are starved of capital to expand.

A media analyst expressed doubts over IMCL‘s ambitious target of deploying 350,000 STBs in that market over a period of one year. "The investment of Rs 1 billion and 350,000 STBs sounds too high at this stage. All will depend on how that market responds," he said.

The big-tier MSOs have taken the acquisition route to have a presence in Kolkata ahead of digitisation. In Kolkata, Hathway has a presence through its joint venture company, Gujarat Telelinks Pvt Ltd (GTPL), which acquired a 51 per cent stake in Kolkata Cable and Broadband Pariseva. Den Networks chief operating officer Mohammad Ghulam Azhar had earlier told that it has acquired a small cable network in Kolkata.

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