James Murdoch is embarking on an ambitious new media adventure in India after reuniting with Uday Shankar, the executive who helped build the Murdoch family. Empire television star before leading the Asia branch of Disney.
The project brings together one of India’s most successful media partnerships with the aim of building a ‘large-scale’ digital media, education and healthcare delivery business developed in part through acquisitions.
Although the name of the company and its precise strategy have not yet been disclosed, Mr. Murdoch told the Financial Times that it would be a “top priority” and a “center of gravity” for its Land systems investment company.
Mr. Murdoch created Lupa using its $ 2 billion in revenue from the $ 71 billion sale of most of the Murdoch Family’s 21st Century Fox Empire to Disney. So far, investments have included Tribeca Film Festival, Vice Media, Art Basel and an online education start-up in India called Harappa Education.
“We really feel that we can speed up what we’re doing at Lupa,” he said, adding that the project with Mr. Shankar would be “entrepreneurial, but with large-scale ambitions”.
“We have had the privilege of working together to build a great media company,” he said. “And now we’re doing something that’s far reaching. . . in the context of simply extraordinary mobile connectivity. It’s a good time to start something with a blank sheet of paper.
Mr. Shankar left Disney last month after spending two years as president for Asia-Pacific and president of its India operations. He is credited with transforming a struggling Indian TV channel in 2007 into one of the country’s largest media groups and a dominant sports broadcaster, with a streaming service Disney Plus Hotstar that has amassed tens of millions of people. ‘subscribers. The various points of sale of the group have a weekly audience of over 700 million viewers.
He started working with Mr. Murdoch while overseeing News Corp’s Asia operations in the late 2000s. “We have created something in this part of the world that has traditionally been seen as a tough market for business. Western countries in general, ”Shankar said. “Almost every American media company has tried it, but no one has succeeded.”
Mr Murdoch said their new project would not be venture capital but would have a more operational focus, aiming to combine the ‘explosive growth’ of mobile data access in India with services such as e-learning and healthcare. The project will cover the entire Asia region, but with India as the main objective. “We think mergers and acquisitions will definitely be a part of it,” he said.
India has the largest school-age population in the world with around 270 million people, but it faces a chronic shortage of high-quality education options in public schools and very low-cost private schools. where about half of all students study. Many children have still not returned to their classrooms since the country was locked down in March, prompting an increase in demand for online education services, both from children and from schools. their families.
This change has sparked investor interest. Start-ups like Byju’s, valued at over $ 10 billion, have raised billions from international funds such as Sequoia and Naspers. Counterpoint Research, a consultancy firm, estimates that the number of internet users in India will grow from over 600 million today to over 850 million by 2022.
“There is no dearth of initiatives in this part of the world going from zero to one. There are a lot of them, but going from one to 10, or from one to 50 or 100 is the real challenge, ”said Shankar.
Mr Murdoch added that the couple would not ‘attempt to duplicate’ what they had done in the past with Star, saying that entertainment streaming industry already looked “very crowded”.