Screwvala's target for UTV: Rs 5 billion turnover by 2008

MUMBAI: Hardly has the ink dried on the landmark deal he stitched with Walt Disney, and UTV's founder-promoter Ronnie Screwvala is already looking to the future. The Indian media pioneer is bullish on turning his company into a Rs 5 billion company by 2008.

This will mean a jump in turnover of Rs 3 billion, but Screwvala believes high growth will come, particularly from movies and animation. Besides, he is eyeing acquisitions in gaming and expects air time sales to zoom. Incremental growth from TV content business is also expected.

On the movie front, Screwvala is close to announcing three international co-production movie deals. While global major Fox will be involved in one venture, Ronnie says the other two will also be with major studios. In an earlier project, UTV has partnered with Fox Searchlight Pictures and Entertainment Farm to produce the $9.6 million Mira Nair-directed film The Namesake.

"They are three mainline movies and will have a big star cast. Unlike The Namesake where we have three co-producers, these will be two-way partnerships," Screwvala says. When queried, he rules out the involvement of Disney in any of these projects.
Screwvala aims to have an annual pipeline of 12 movies, one or two international co-productions and possibly an animation film. Already lined up are three movies with Rakeysh Mehra. "We are making Ashutosh Gawarikar's next movie and three films with other directors. We have also tied up with Vishal Bhardwaj," he says.

The film business will be production-led. "We do not have an aggressive distribution agenda at the moment. We may acquire just one or two movies for distribution. But we will be distributing all the movies that we produce," Screwvala says.

Gaming is a new area UTV is planning to enter as an extension of its businesses in animation, post production and special effects. "We are eyeing acquisitions of domestic and overseas gaming companies. There is a model for international companies to look at India as an outsourcing model and an Indian story for going overseas. We are spending a lot of time evaluating the gaming business," he says.

UTV has made investments in setting up the animation infrastructure and is having a pipeline across the value chain. "We have a good order book in outsourcing and are involved in originating content as well," says Screwvala.

The big script with Disney will also begin with both companies in process of identifying areas where they can work together. "We are looking at animation, movies, TV and gaming. On the movie front, we are exploring possibilities of co-producing with them for Hindi films as well as going mainline with English. Home videos is another area we are looking at to expand our Indian movies overseas through their strong retail network," says Screwvala.

UTV will be cash rich by Rs 2.36 billion between the sale of Hungama, fresh equity to UTV and Screwvala's warrants. "We can leverage the company with a 1:1 debt-equity ratio and have a Rs 5 billion war chest. In media, that offers lots of opportunities," Screwvala says, clearly relishing the challenges ahead.

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