Television

Journalist to start news portal

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Another print medium journalist bites the dot com bullet. Managing editor of Outlook newsmagazine, Tarun Tejpal, has quit to start tehelka.com, claimed to be India's first independent news portal.

Tehelka Communications Ltd, the company that will manage the affairs of tehelka.com, will have majority shareholding by the Tejpals (52.5 per cent), while 25 per cent will be held by adman Suhel Seth.

"It's an ambitious project and we are looking at a really comprehensive horizontal portal which will not only provide news, but also information on issues like literature, etc.," Tehelka Communications' chief executive Tarun Tejpal said, claiming it will be India's first independent news portal.

The board of this new dotcom company will include illustrious personalities like Khushwant Singh, R.K. Laxman, V.S. Naipaul and Russi Mody.

In the initial phase the investment to be made in tehelka.com project is to the tune of approximately $ 2 million. The project, likely to be up by mid-May, is looking at attracting investments up to $ 10 million by second quarter of this year. According to Suhel Seth, involved in this venture in his personal capacity, tehelka.com will cater to both the high and low brow as it will have the zing necessary to attract hits. Though Seth was unwilling to divulge more financial details, IT industry sources said that venture capital funding will be tapped too. "In the initial phase about 10 per cent is likely to be offloaded to the venture capital fund which invests in the company," a source close to Tehelka Communications said, adding, "Talks are already on with a Mumbai-based VCF."

A certain quantum of the equity stake in the company has been reserved for the employees stock option plan (ESOP), Tejpal said. This has been necessitated as some of the finest brains in journalism will be joining the project, including some from Outlook magazine.

Tehelka.com is looking at having more than one model for generating revenue. One is the traditional one of making the site and detailed information susbcription-based. Another stream of revenue being looked at is facilitating downloading of magazines and excerpts from yet-to-be-published books for a price.

But tehelka.com will have to face competition from existing news sites and portals like india-today.com and indiatimes.com and some like GO4i (go for India) which are in the offing and backed by big media houses.

For example, in a two-pronged Internet strategy, The Hindustan Times Ltd, through an offshore company, based in the United States, has formed a joint venture with Chase Capital Partners with equal equity participation from both for development of a horizontal portal, tentatively called GO4i (go for India).

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