'Enter the Dragon' at Scat India 2002

MUMBAI: The Chinese have invaded the cable industry in India. And how.

At the Scat India trade show 2002 that began at the World Trade Centre in Mumbai today, it is hardware from China that dominates. While companies from the US and UK were a regular feature of the annual three day expo each year, US brands like Scientific Atlanta and NDS are conspicuous by their absence this year. All the 85 stalls have been sold this year too, but cost effective Chinese ware, so far restricted to a few stalls, have swamped the stalls, most in partnership with Indian dealers and distributed under Indian names or brands that bear uncanny resemblance to known European brands.

US brands, held in high regards by cable ops so far, have this year been edged out by Chinese products which while not comparable in quality, offer 'value for money'. Satellite receivers, both analog and digital, coaxial cables, Internet over cable and video software is all available for at least half the cost of Western brands. Indian brands, considered the cheapest and not the best in quality so far, are also having to contend with the Chinese offerings, which at the show, are being proffered at further discounted rates. Continued falling prices globally have added to the scenario, resulting in rich pickings for cable ops frequenting the show.

Also conspicuous by their absence are major free to air channels which marked the Scat show in earlier years. While big names like BBC and Zee adorned stalls in earlier years, the only prominent channel proclaiming its virtues at the show is Sahara. The channel, that has announced its plans to go digital by 10 November, is now trying to woo cable ops with a fresh programming line up that includes a Sridevi show and a series featuring film actor Karisma in a double role. The three news channels that will mark the first phase of the spate of regional news channels that Sahara threatens to unleash on the nation are also being touted as the next big attraction at the Sahara stall. The date of the much delayed launch, now tentatively pegged around Diwali, continues to remain a mystery, though.

Also present was Modi Entertainment Network, which distributes DD Sports, Ten Sports, Hallmark and FTV. According to industry sources, MEN's prominent presence at this year's fair could well be an effort to reach out to the cable trade and explain their stance on issues linked to the channels on their network. MEN has been in the news recently because of a spat it had with the Star India backed Hathway Cable and Datacom on subscription numbers as well as a legal dispute with ESPN Star Sports over the airing of highlights packages for the ongoing India-West Indies cricket series.

Among the Chinese products currently on display at the Scat show are Chengdu Guangda's optical transmitter series and digital converters from Dayang, while the UK's DALVI systems and Dutch Echostar with their desi partners rub shoulders with homegrown products like Bhansali's co axial cables and E Comm's broadband ISP solutions. "While many overseas firms backed off last year from the Scat show in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the WTC, this year's show has drawn a better response from both exhibitors and participants," says organiser and Scat India editor Dinyar Contractor.

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