December 28, 2016 11:55 pm JST

Times Group chases $1bn revenue with China digital partners

Indian conglomerate banks on internet burgeoning to 730 million users by 2020

ROSEMARY MARANDI, Nikkei staff writer

Gautam Sinha, chief executive Times Internet, sees India's exploding internet population as a major attraction for potential digital partners from China.

MUMBAI -- Times Internet, the digital arm of Times Group, India's largest media conglomerate, aims to be a billion-dollar company by 2021 with new global partnerships and investments in fast-growing digital products.

The company's revenues are projected at 10 billion rupees ($147.06 million) for the year ending in March 2017, and over the next five years it will be competing in size alongside startups like Flipkart and Amazon India. Its growth strategy has focused on investments in digital products, global partnerships, and incubating startups.

In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review, Times Internet Chief Executive Gautam Sinha said the company will decrease dependence on advertising revenues, which currently account for 47% of total turnover. To hit the billion-dollar target by 2021, significant increased revenue will be generated by transactions on the personal finance app ETMoney, restaurant bookings on the DineOut platform, and subscriptions from paid music app Gaana.com.

"Collectively, we have about 178 million users which is larger than Facebook in India as of today, and we expect to continue to grow at that pace," Sinha said. "Our focus in the next four to five years is to drive monetization and central platform components."

Launched in 1999 as a digital media company, Times Internet began migrating to other digital products in 2012, expanding into television, education, e-commerce, and advertising.

It has diversified into 37 business areas, some of which are domestic household names. These include digital editions of the Times of India and Economic Times, online real estate portal Magic Bricks, discount deal site Coupondunia, and Gaana.com, a music-streaming site.

Times Global Partners (TGP), a division of Times Internet, already has on board U.S. taxi-hailing service Uber, accommodation sharing platform Airbnb, and an online education company Coursera. It also has tie-ups with Vice and the Huffington Post for media content.

To expand global partnerships, Times Internet is keen on assisting companies from China tap into India by way of its marketing channels. This is a key growth strategy, and Sinha can see plenty of companies in China worth over $100 million.

"To be able to partner with them and bring them to India is within the scope of Times Global," he said.

Rishi Jaitely, a former Twitter executive, has been recently hired as chief executive of TGP to spearhead foreign initiatives in China and the U.S. Over the next five years, Sinha said the company will use both seed investments and acquisitions to fuel growth.

Overall, Times Internet has become a major contributor to the growth of the Times Group. Its flagship The Times of India sells around 3.3 million copies daily and is the world's largest circulating English-language newspaper. India has been much less affected by falling newspaper circulations than other countries. The growth of its digital business has confirmed Times Group as the national market leader with annual revenue of $1.3-billion, and also as a genuine media conglomerate.

India's growing internet population provides Times Internet with an excellent operating environment. A joint study by Nasscom, an association of Indian information technology and business outsourcing companies, and Akamai Technologies, a U.S. cloud company, predicted in August that India's web users will double to 730 million by 2020.

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