India on the edge of a giant revolution : Stringer

MUMBAI: The $ 67 billion Sony Corp's chairman and CEO Howard Stringer has hinted at expanding the company’s business in India, saying, “We are here to stay and build and share something special.”

India stands on the edge of a giant revolution and Sony is glad to be “here in this part of the Indian renaissance,” he said.

Sony Corp's diversified business activies in India include consumer elctronics, media and entertianment and telecommunications.

As a step up in the plans, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) announced yesterday its intent to make an entry into Hindi films and has signed a co-production deal with noted director Sanjay Leela Bhansali who has made criticially-acclaimed films like Khamoshi, Devdas and Black.

“That’s a milestone worth celebrating. The aim is not to put the stamp of Hollywood here. There is enough talent in Bollywood. Another important milestone for us is the growth of our television business in India,” said Stringer who is on a maiden visit to India.

Stringer, whose father had been posted to India during the pre-Independence days in the Airforce, was addressing today a distinguished gathering organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) for a luncheon get-together in Mumbai to mark the 10th anniversary celebrations of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India.

Stringer was in Delhi yesterday and met up with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During the meeting, the Indian PM dwelt, amongst other things, at length on Sony's manufacturing unit in India, which now has been closed down.

On the content front, Sony's presence in India is impressive. “We are proud of what we have accomplished. We chased down cricket and I got my enthusiasm quickly. We also have movies, which Indians love to watch,” Stringer said.

When Sony started SET India in 1995, the company saw an emerging opportunity. It has become a foundation for content in this country, he added.

The world of content and hardware is co-mingling. The challenge for Sony is to break down the barriers between the standalone companies and bring in cross-polination between content and devices, Stringer empahasised, hinting that in the future there would be increased synergies amongst the various businesses of Sony Corp here.

When asked whether Sony was going to play a serious role in fighting piracy --- an issue that is taking alarming proportions --- in India as it was entering into film production, Stringer said it was part of a global problem and was a "big challenge" for many countries.

But, what is Sony’s investment plans and growth strategy? “I am in the ghastly phase of restructuring. We have to quickly move from that to the growth process even as we make an organic attempt to reinvent the company,” Stringer explained, deflty side-stepping a direct answer on the issue.

Also present at the luncheon meeting were SET India senior executives, including CEO Kunal Dasgupta, COO NP Singh and EVP ad sales and revenue management Rohit Gupta.

After attending SET’s birthday party on Saturday (22 October), Stringer will leave next day.

On his India visit, Stringer is accompanied by senior executives from the company, including Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and Sony Pictures Television International president Michael Grindon

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