WorldSpace in aggressive expansion mode

 NEW DELHI: WorldSpace Satellite Radio, which has the world's largest global satellite radio broadcast footprint, today announced the launch of its services in the nation's capital with a focused distribution and after sales service as part of an aggressive national rollout plan.

Though satellite feeds technically can be accessed anywhere in India with the help of proper equipment, the company said that it's concentrating on some cities to highlight the services on offer and create an awareness.

In this regard, every city will have some unique content on offer for local listeners. Delhi and surrounding areas, for example, would have a dose of Punjabi music. Within a year's time, the company expects to ramp up its activities in cities like Mumbai, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Cochin, apart from on going sales activities in cities like Bangalore.WorldSpace Lounge, which is an exclusive company showroom, is also expected to be opened in Delhi soon.

Briefing newspersons here today, WorldSpace India Pvt Ltd MD Deepak Varma said, "We want to bring radio (listening) back in a big way."

That WorldSpace means business is apparent from the fact that 150 retail outlets and sampling centres have been identified in and around Delhi where people can come and not only sample the WorldSpace sets, but also music and

other services on offer.

At present WorldSpace is offering 39 radio stations as part of its bouquet. Some news channels like NDTV, BBC World and CNN too have put their audio feed on the WorldSpace service.

Having committed to invest $ 25 million (as per submission to the Foreign Investment Promotion Board) in the Indian market at the time of setting up the Indian operations about four years back, WorldSpace now is investing heavily into retail stores, communications and marketing initiatives and manpower.



According to Varma, the company expects to invest close to $ 10 million this financial year ending December 2005. Globally, the company has invested approximately $ 1.2 billion in building up a network of digital satellite radio feeds.

Elaborating on what Varma said, company executive vice-president and COO Raman Multani said that the marketing team itself is expected to grow four times by September-October from the present 250-odd people.

"By year end, we also plan to have about 1,000 retail stores all over the country." As part of the game plan, a national level communication campaign too will be rolled out. O&M is handling the creative duties for the company.

Since the parent company in the US has filed an application with the SEC for going public, WorldSpace India refused to dwell at length on forward looking statements.

The company, which is relying on retail marketing heavily in India, plans to go in for institutional and corporate sales too.

At present, WorldSpace service could be subscribed for Rs. 1,800 on an annual basis. It has some `Gold' subscribers too in the form of expatriates who pay a sum of $ 10 per month.

Multani pointed out that the company would like to add another 100,000 subscribers to its current client base of 60,000 by end 2005. Asked whether broadcast regulator's recommendation on allowing 100 per cent foreign direct investment in satellite radio segment would make any difference in the Indian operation if accepted by the government, the company replied in the negative.

WorldSpace Satellite delivers digital music and news to radio sets through satellites and operates on a subscription-based-only model.

The company's two geostationary satellites, AfriStar and AsiaStar, enables it to deliver more than 100 digital quality audio channels per satellite as well as multimedia content directly to WorldSpace satellite radios in a broad service area that includes Asia, Western Europe, Africa and the Middle

East amounting to approximately five billion listeners.The company is headquartered in Washington D.C. and its Indian operations are run out of Bangalore.In India, WorldSpace boasts of 39 radio stations across genres like jazz to

classical to old Hindi film Music to Rock to news and current affairs. It also offers two Indian classical stations--- Shruti (Carnatic) and Gandharv (Hindustani) --- as well as regional Indian stations that include Tara (Bengali), KL Radio (Tamil), Sparsha (Kannada), RM Radio (Malayalam) and Spandana (Telugu) on its network.

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