Essel Group acquires OOH media company VIA

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | January 09, 2009
Less than a year since it was set up, VIA OOH has been bought over by the owner of the Zee Network in order to add OOH to its media portfolio

Out-of-home & #BANNER1 & # media company VIA (Vehicular, Infrastructure and Airports) OOH, which was launched in April 2008, has been bought over by the Essel Group, which owns the Zee Network. VIA OOH will now be relaunched as its subsidiary.

With this move, the Essel Group enters the group of media conglomerates that have stepped into the OOH domain, which includes News Corp's News Outdoor India, Entertainment Network (India) Ltd's (ENIL's) Times OOH, Jagran Group's Jagran Engage and Reliance-Adlabs Films' Big Street.

VIA's founder, Farid Kureshi, will continue as chief executive officer of the new venture. Its cofounder, Shamik Talukder, will stay on as vice-president, sales and revenue.

Kureshi, who quit Times OOH as chief operating officer in February 2008 to launch VIA, says, "I have joined the Essel Group as CEO of its OOH company. I have been in talks with the Essel management for quite some time. Since I had started my own venture in OOH, the modalities took time because I wanted to ensure that the new beginning was viable and beneficial to both Essel and VIA."

Confirming the news, Rajendra Sinh, corporate director, human resources, Essel Group, says, "Yes, the Essel Group has acquired Farid Kureshi's VIA OOH." He explains that the Zee Group is an integrated business as far as media and entertainment are concerned and the group is looking at entering the out-of-home segment as a logical extension of its existing business.

Explaining why he has agreed to have his company taken over, Kureshi says, "VIA is less than a year old and, while it was doing well, funds were needed to expand. Taking the business to the next level was proving tough in the light of the liquidity crunch and the virtual drying up of private equity."

Kureshi reveals that the amalgamation process has already started. He says, "All of Zee's companies are listed on the stock exchange, so the company will have to inform SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) about the acquisition. It is still deciding if it should be a subsidiary of an existing company or a new company by itself. These decisions are still being worked out."

Sinh says that as of now, the group is not sure when and how it wants to launch the OOH company, but talks are under way.

Kureshi says that the Essel Group has decided to continue with the team at VIA, though it is looking at expanding it by hiring key people in the various markets. "It made perfect sense for us also as we will now work for the largest media company in India and have access to funds, management talent, resources and domain expertise across various functions," he says.

Kureshi will be based in Delhi. His mandate now will be to develop, build and sustain quality OOH assets in India and abroad, ensuring viability, growth and profitability. He says his aim will be to make the company a well-known and respected player in the OOH space in order to complement and enhance the value of the Essel Group in the media domain.

In addition, he will also be responsible for ad sales through the Internet for the Essel Group companies. This is expected to help the group synergise its efforts across the media entertainment value chain.

Kureshi has more than 20 years of experience in the print and entertainment industry. He has worked with The Indian Express, Pioneer, Chitralekha Group of Publications, STAR Movies and Radio Mirchi, handling a variety of responsibilities. His last assignment was as controller of operations at Times OOH.

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