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Is India’s dream of a media surge about to fizzle out?

Is India’s dream of a media surge about to fizzle out?
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First Published: Tue, Sep 09 2008. 11 30 PM IST

Updated: Tue, Sep 09 2008. 11 30 PM IST
From 2005 to 2010, India’s media and entertainment sector will double from $8.9 billion (Rs39,961 crore) to $18 billion in just five years. Global investors will be hungry for a piece of the action and will queue up for attractive projects. India’s appetite for the media—film or television, press or Internet, legacy or new media—will grow exponentially and, to cut a long story short, this fairy tale will go on happily ever after, said a 2008 report by industry lobby Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Oops! Did we all speak too soon, and is our party about to get rained out? This scribe, a New York Times fan, believes in the worm’s eye view and decided to explore this daunting question by interviewing his domestic help. Nisha lives with her in-laws in a Dharavi slum, and Viju in an old mill workers’ chawl (a set of small multi-storeyed residential units, mainly for industrial workers) in Sewri, Mumbai. These are their stories.
Nisha moved to Mumbai from Mangalore, Karnataka, about 15 years ago to find work for her very survival. With no education and no skills, jhadu, pochha, kapda and bartan (domestic cleaning and washing) became her livelihood. Romance with Siva, a local Tamil lad, blossomed in the crumbling bylanes of her basti (slum). Marriage followed. Two incomes but one kholi (shelter) meant some saving in rent and other costs.
Earlier, the neighbour’s TV provided communal Doordarshan viewing. Enter, own TV set. The neighbourhood basti had a wonderful thing called cable with latest films and saas-bahu weepies.
Well then, Muthu from Saravana cable soon wired up her set. Next, the black-and-white became a pain. Came up to this scribe’s wife and with a loan secured, traded up to a colour TV.
All that was six years ago. Now she sees Tata Sky in employers’ homes and hears about great schemes on offer. It won’t be long before her DTH connection. Why? Hey, it’s about choice, quality and upgrading. If her employer can have it, so must she.
Viju’s father, a mill worker, saw his livelihood disappear in typhoon Samant (Dutta Samant, a trade union leader who led strikes of mill workers in the 1980s). At least the Cotton Green chawl had secure tenancy. Dropped out of school. Helped mother around at home and prepared lunch dabbas (boxes) for extra income. Only relief from the grind was the community Ganpati and Navratri celebrations.
Marriage with Ramesh was arranged at 16 and in-laws place was a chawl in Sewri, one station up the Harbour line of Mumbai’s suburban railway. Three kids now study in class VI, V and III in the municipal school.
With little education in the family but big ambitions for success, every educational aid is welcome. So, TV is a friend, taking her children to places she hasn’t imagined and experiences that can never be hers.
And once in a month, both Nisha and Viju treat their families to a film at the theatre.
Will inflation mean giving up cable TV? Remember, it is almost 1/20th of their salary. No way!
The author is president, Star India Pvt. Ltd
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First Published: Tue, Sep 09 2008. 11 30 PM IST