Sucheta Dalal :The WorldSpace show must go on say subscribers
Sucheta Dalal

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The WorldSpace show must go on, say subscribers  

December 28, 2009


Most Indian subscribers are not agitated, but rather aggrieved that WorldSpace India will be off the air from the New Year. This speaks volumes about the quality of service that WorldSpace has been providing.
“WorldSpace was my companion when I used to be alone at home. We will really miss ‘Jhankaar’, ‘Farishta’, ‘System’, ‘Maestro’ and ‘Falak’,” said Parimal Raj, commenting on the previous Moneylife story stating that the satellite radio will terminate its services from 31December 2009.
Interestingly, Mr Raj had renewed his subscription as recently as 16 December 2009. However, more than the refund, what he really wants is the service. “I only hope that it gets revived and this turns out to be good news for WorldSpace subscribers in India in 2010. I am hopeful and hence will keep the receiver safe,” he added.
“Please do not terminate the services. I will be shattered. I am really not worried about my subscription being refunded. I just want the service to continue,” commented another subscriber, Usha Sunderasan.
“It is a pity to lose this good service. Indian FM channels are nothing compared to the quality WorldSpace offered. We sold our TV as we found WorldSpace more enlightening. Don’t we have a single entrepreneur who can spot opportunity in this venture and ensure that the satellite radio makes a great comeback into our lives?” commented another WorldSpace fan, Ravi Krishnamurthy.
With subscribers themselves suggesting a way out, the question remains if any corporate entities in India will spot the potential. To get such a faithful clientele without any advertising, would be dream come true for any radio services provider, especially the Indian FM channel. Some of the channels—like Red FM, Radio Mirchi and Big FM—spend considerable amount on advertising. WorldSpace, on the other hand, has managed to tap into the local market very efficiently—Indians make up more than 90% of its total subscriber base. This base is believed to have trebled recently, thanks to Airtel which offers WorldSpace radio services through its direct to home (DTH) platform.  
WorldSpace initiated its advertisements—endorsed by music composer AR Rahman—a few years back, only to mark its Indian launch. It has managed to improve its subscriber base purely on the quality of its service, with a number of subscribers renewing their subscriptions automatically.
Surely, a takeover of WorldSpace operations in India would translate into a huge business opportunity for any entrepreneur. On offer is a huge, loyal customer base with a pan-India presence.
An investment banker, who is also an ardent WorldSpace listener, believes that an operational takeover is most likely to happen. However, any possible business deal will have to ensure that the quality for which WorldSpace was famous does not get diluted.
For example, the service was entirely free of any commercials and was driven purely on revenues from subscriptions. Any entity planning to take over WorldSpace will have to operate on a similar—if not the same—revenue model to retain subscribers.
A few subscribers are trying to keep the service alive. “Join hands to keep the service alive. Can some enterprising subscriber initiate action to keep the service afloat?” asked subscriber Ashok Dullu. “I have started to surf the Internet to see if somebody in India will buy the assets and continue the operation,” added another subscriber, S Devarshi. 
So will WorldSpace—or at least, its Indian operations—make a comeback? Subscribers can only wish that their hopes strike the right chord with some corporate entity.
It is amazing to know and witness the kind of goodwill and customer base Worldspace enjoys amongst its Indian customer base. Around 90% of the total Worldspace subscribers are from India. The kind of goodwill and customer base that Worldspace India, a prodigy of a US based company could enjoy across various parts of India, could be any Indian FM channels envy.
However, now on offer is the time to change this envy into the best ever opportunity that FM radio channels in India could cash on for quite some time. With subscribers also willing to pay multiple times, of the tariff that they are currently paying for the service, is the icing of the cake.
Ideally, what would an FM channel in a competitive market like India, can ask for. Currently, most of the FM channels in India are predominant in particular geographic region, but failed to achieve a pan-India presence.

As of now, one can only speculate on the future of the Indian operations of WorldSpace.

-- Sucheta Dalal