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Farid Kureshi exits Essel Group with VIA OOH in tow

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | April 01, 2009
After a short stint at the Essel Group, Kureshi has decided to move on with VIA OOH

Farid Kureshi has decided to move on after a short stint with the Essel Group. Kureshi sold his out of home venture, VIA OOH, to the Essel Group in October 2008 (announced in January 2009), and stayed on as chief executive officer, taking on additional responsibilities as head of ad sales of the groups's Internet ventures. Kureshi's exit also signals the end of the arrangement between VIA and the Essel Group.

Out of home media company VIA (Vehicular, Infrastructure and Airports) OOH, which was launched in April 2008, was bought over a few months ago by the Essel Group, which owns the Zee Network, with plans to relaunch it as a subsidiary of an existing Essel Group company or a new company by itself.

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Kureshi had admitted that the decision to sell VIA to the conglomerate was prompted by the fact that 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. It thus made sense for VIA to work with the large media company and have access to funds, management talent, resources and domain expertise across various functions.

Kureshi confirms the news of his exit to afaqs!, saying, "OOH requires a substantial amount of investment and is a business that sucks in a huge amount of money upfront; it's not a business that can be done in Rs 10-20 crore. So, looking at the current economic situation, the group felt that it could not focus on OOH for sometime, which is why I decided to move on with VIA."

Kureshi has been with the Essel Group for about five months and he claims that this period was a status quo one for VIA. His plan now is to keep a low profile with the OOH company. "Logic says to lie low till the economic situation gets better but we will go on with VIA's existing portfolio."

afaqs! tried to get in touch with the Essel Group spokesperson to get its side of the story, but was unable to receive a comment.

For the record, 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. He spent six years at Entertainment Network (India) Limited (ENIL), that owns Radio Mirchi and also Times Innovative Media Ltd. (TIML). Prior to setting up VIA OOH in 2008, he was COO at Times OOH (a division of TIML) since 2005.

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