The World: Insider's view - India

A combination of Western aspirations and traditional Indian values is driving a booming media industry, Lynn de Souza says.

There is an optimistic buoyancy in the air. It weaves through the endless traffic jams, dug-up roads and construction chaos in our cities like an army of ants, moving relentlessly forward. Nothing can hold it back. Bomb blasts, earthquakes, tidal waves and thunderstorms are but minor blips, brushed aside. A bright future beckons, calling Indians all over the world, in her cities, her villages and her diaspora, to come and contribute to its making and participate in the takings.

The media and entertainment industry has transformed itself in the past ten years and it will do so again twice over in the next ten months. Already the value of advertising and promotional inventory used by this industry exceeds that of all the FMCG players combined, making it the most advertised category in the country. The best talent from marketing, communication and advertising companies is being drawn to this sector, fascinated by its growth prospects, its high energy and creativity levels and, of course, the attractive pay packets made possible by bullish foreign and Indian investors in this sector.

A sprinkling of private FM radio stations in nine cities gave a boost to this ailing medium six years ago, doubling its reach inside two years. Imagine what the 330 new FM radio licences spread all over the country, bagged by 29 large players, some with internationally proven capabilities, will do to its popularity.

India has gone cellular faster than the West: 70 million users of mobile phones, living in remote villages and metropolitan multi-storey towers, are a mind-boggling marketing and communication opportunity.

The $4.3 billion TV industry is set to reach $9.5 billion by 2010, making it the largest medium by then, overtaking even print. Direct-to-home TV is already here, but the big stakes are around the corner in mid-2006, when Tata Sky launches.

The regional local-language players have arguably been the most successful in recent years. India can boast the newspaper with the highest daily readership in the world - the 150-year-old Dainik Jagran, published from more than 30 centres in the Hindi belt, has a National Readership Survey readership of more than 20 million per day.

A youthful India, still grounded in traditional family values, has never had it so good. While the materialism of the West has enabled us to aspire to a better life, centuries of ingrained tolerance have taught us to keep our feet on the ground.

Even as George Bush promises to increase the number of H1B visas to the US, a reverse brain drain has begun with Indian business process outsourcing services as diversified as medical transcriptions to data analytics to ad copy.

The ants march on. Maybe they will swallow up the elephant sooner than we think.

- Lynn de Souza is the director of Lintas Media Group, India.

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