Ronnie Screwvala, one of the most successful media barons who sold his company to Walt Disney for Rs 2,000 crore, feels the entertainment business was "serendipity" for him. "Media was serendipity to me. I don't think I had a clear vision that I wanted to be in the media and entertainment segment. I was clear that I wanted to be an entrepreneur," he said speaking at the annual Tiecon.
Screwvala sold his stake in UTV to the American entertainment major Walt Disney in a Rs 2,000-crore deal in 2011, and donned multiple hats, including being a venture capital investor, owning a Kabaddi team. Addressing the summit, Screwvala reminisced his journey which started with dabbling in theatre. But, fearing a possible persuasion by parents to study accountancy, he started what turned out to be the country's first home cable in the tony Cuffe Parade area in south Bombay in 1981.
After running it for six years, he chanced upon the availability of toothbrush making machines in Britain and imported them to India. He then entered the media world with a production house under the brand name UTV, which saw many setbacks. Screwvala recollected how the usage of a phrase in a show made for public broadcaster Doordarshan offended the parliamentarians.
Though he exited media, he is still bullish about it, saying the industry has potential to grow by four-times in its revenues if cable TV is brought under some regulatory ambit. "There is a Telegraph Act, there's a Copyright Act, there is now Trai. In all these, cable TV is the only arm that is not defined, and it is not a legal entity and we still call it an industry here," he wondered.
He said consumers should ideally be paying Rs 400 per month for the content for which they are paying only Rs 100, which compresses the industry's revenues. Screwvala, who recently started dabbling in the non-profit sector, also spoke against the foreigners for sermonising Indians about philanthropy. "We don't really need foreigners to come here and tell us how to be philanthropic. I think we are an extremely giving country," he said.