Uday Sinhwala, CEO, television and sports, Nimbus Communications, has resigned. Sinhwala, who served the Mumbai-based media-marketing and production house for five years and contributed to its 10-fold plus growth, put in his papers last week. Since the company's senior management, chiefly CMD Harish Thawani, is yet to revert on his decision, Sinhwala refused to comment. Reliable sources both inside the company and in the market have confirmed his decision to leave. Thawani could not be contacted for this story due to his absence from office for the last few days.
It is learnt that Sinhwala had expressed his intention to leave on one or two occasions earlier. No reasons are available as yet for his decision. Close associates suggest that he had been feeling the need to "move out and learn what more existed in programming and broadcasting" and "to test if he could build an organisation from scratch". Old-timers remember him as the key figure in Nimbus, right next to Thawani in all strategic decisions. "Simply brilliant. He was the second guy after Thawani," recalls a former employee now working with a general-entertainment channel. "He was seen as the guy in TV and sports."
Sinhwala had joined Nimbus in 1996 as vice-president in-charge of programming. In the last five years, his work involved not just programming and marketing initiatives, but also building the organisation. Nimbus was a Rs 9-10 crore company mainly into media-marketing. "At that time we had two programmes running, one on DD and one on Zee," recalls a company executive. The workforce, at 60, was being reduced to half the number in a restructuring exercise. Today, media marketing, programming, broadcast and sports together account for some 55-65 people in Nimbus. Company revenues are well over Rs 120 crore. It reportedly produces 18 hours of television content every week and has a library of over 3,700 hours.
Programming has grown from two languages - Hindi and some English - to six. Nimbus has also successfully moved toward south, on to regional channels. It clocks over 100 programming hours monthly in six languages across seven different networks. Regional channels like Sun, Udaya, Gemini and Surya account for a significant share of the turnover.
Nimbus properties span several networks and genres, including soaps, drama, comedy, sports, film-based, news and current affairs. Its presence in the last band - news - started late last month with the launch of Business Day, a six-and-a-half daily coverage of stock market and related news, on DD Metro. It caught momentum in the last three-odd months after Nimbus recruited Bindu Sharma (a former vice-president with the Pioneer, Delhi) as director (news and current affairs).
Sports has become one of the key strengths of Nimbus. It is perhaps the only Indian company to have handled two cricket World Cups - 1992 and 1999. Additionally, Nimbus also bagged the ad-sales rights for the live telecast of the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games on Doordarshan. To further boost its strength in sports, Nimbus had forged an equal-equity alliance with the UK-based World Sports Group for live sports production and distribution on television in India and cricket production, distribution and sponsorship of worldwide cricket events and all sports in South Asia. Last year, the JV bagged commercial rights from ICC (international cricket council) for seven years to major cricket events including the two World Cups for a minimum guarantee of $550 million, beating Zee TV.
At one point during Sinhwala's stint, Nimbus even did some consultancy in the form of a revamp plan for a TV channel - Home TV. The revamp never happened though. This is one of the more important phases in Nimbus' growth. Lately, Nimbus has had to postpone its plans for an IPO and subsequent plans of launching a TV channel in the face of a hostile market. It has also opened interest areas in music, movies and the Internet.
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