Sumita Vaid

Nalini Singh eyes new C&S market with Nepal 1

Nepal 1 plans to target the Nepalese population in north-eastern India and Kathmandu

The first thing that greets you when you step into the office of TV Live India (on the sixth floor of the Kanchanjunga building in New Delhi's Cannaught Place) is a steady stream of people flowing in and out of the office. The place is brimming with life.

We found managing director Nalini Singh - who still evokes images of her firebrand style of journalism - seated next to her table, strewn with paper. "There is so much excitement in the office," she observes.

The excitement is palpable. The launch of her Nepalese-Hindi entertainment channel Nepal 1 is just round the corner. Singh, however, doesn't want to commit to a date until the final product is ready. "We are still checking the audio, the colour, the picture quality," she reveals. The test transmission has been on since February 14 in Kathmandu.

Nepal 1 is targeting the Nepalese population in north-eastern India and in Kathmandu initially; but the possibility of beaming to the Nepalese population outside of India and Kathmandu is not ruled out. The channel is beamed via Thaicom 3 satellite and is uplinked from Delhi.

As Singh goes full steam with her project, one question that comes to mind is, why a channel in Nepalese, especially in a scenario where regional channels are finding it difficult to grow in India? And more importantly, with the TV advertising market in Nepal pegged at a measly Rs 25 crore, what are the prospects of growth for Nepal 1?

While there are no absolute answers, Singh rationalises her venture on two levels. The first being emotional. "Because my family home is in Sursand, the town closest to Janakpur in Nepal, the place has had a deep influence on me," Singh explains. "Moreover," she adds, "Nepalese is an Indian language, according to the 8th Schedule of our Constitution; but sadly, it has not got its due in media. Also, regional channels operate on a rationale quite different from mass channels. They supply first and then create demand. If you are concerned about advertisers, there are quite a few big spenders in the market, including HLL and Dabur."

So far as advertisers from India are concerned, Singh informs her marketing team is already in talks with some, but refuses to give out names. On the content front, Singh is currently in talks with a bunch of producers, the idea being to supplement content generated in-house with that sourced from independent production houses in Nepal, north-eastern states of India and Mumbai.

Positioned as an infotainment channel, the content of Nepal 1 would essentially be a mix of music, movies and soaps. Singh is quick to add, "Of course, we will decide our course as we feel our way through." What is certain however is that music will be one of the key drivers of Nepal 1. "Nepalese people are great singers and extremely fond of music. So music is going to be an important part of the channel's programming," she explains.

The going will not be too easy for Nepal 1 though. Apart from the state-owned Nepal TV (NTV), and Channel Nepal, run by one of Nepal's bigger cable operators Spacetime, reports indicate some 40 foreign networks are eyeing the market of Nepal with keen interest. Also in the contention are five new entrants, three of which are metro channels that plan to broadcast their programmes free-to-air terrestrially. These include NTV's metro channel, Kantipur Television and Image Metro. Then there is Shangri-la channel and Avenues television, which plan to take the satellite route. Last but not the least, the Chinese government has undertaken a turnkey metro channel project for NTV.

So what is Nepal 1's strategy to fight competition? "The mantra of success," says Singh, "is innovation - sourcing compelling, low cost content." Besides that, Singh adds, "There will be an element of new generation TV in Nepal 1 that will give us an edge over other channels."

However, media experts do have concerns on the distribution front as well as about the actual C&S reach among Nepalese households, both in India and Nepal. But no one is disputing Nepal 1's potential as an advertising opportunity though. Opines Anita Nayyar, executive director, India-North, Starcom, "The youth population in the north-east is quite high and their psychographics is, let me put it this way, very MTV. Which is why MTV and CHannel [V] do really well there. Again categories like apparel and cosmetics are big money spinners in this region. What Nepal 1 can offer is a very focused platform to the media people, who have been dependent on newspapers and the two music channels to reach that audience so far."

It is clear Singh is all set to tap this audience. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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