News Corp, the world’s fourth-largest media group, has been making some serious investments in India over the past year. The company has picked up stakes in Indian digital media players like VCCircle, PropTiger and BigDecisions. Nandagopal Rajan speaks to Raju Narisetti, senior vice-president, strategy, News Corp, who has been instrumental in these investments. Edited excerpts:
You have recently spoken about New Corp’s Manion Global project. Is PropTiger going to be a similar kind of play?
We are the largest shareholder in PropTiger. We initially got 25% and now have just over 30%. But it is not a News Corp company. We have invested in an existing company and business model. Most of the property sites across the world are in the realtor/broker space, but in India, we have decided to go in the primary home space with PropTiger.
It is the right business for us to get into as it was a long-term play. As a strategic investor, I am not looking at paper valuation or an exit, we are looking at a business model that played into the Indian macro-housing requirements. But PropTiger has an end-to-end play now as they have since invested in Makaan for listings.
But why would a news company be in the real estate business?
Most of us in the news business used to have a lot of revenue streams. But they slowly started going away and became digital-only and transactional. We have a strong real estate content, very strong B2B relationships and a huge funnel of audiences. We also know how to monetise as we have had the subscription model in WSJ for long.
The only thing missing was the transaction capabilities. So the thinking is to reacquire the transaction capabilities. PropTiger, for instance, produces a lot of content now.
Is there an issue with trust in the real estate business in India?
None of the existing players were solving the trust issue. But PropTiger, while listing properties from a developer, will also tell you the average time taken by him to deliver. And hence, there is a lot more transparency. News Corp’s view in markets like India is that we we can help level the information-playing field. Which is why we acquired a two-person company called BigDecisions.
Does News Corp have a time frame for success in India?
Because we are not here to build up paper valuation for a bunch of people to exit, we are comfortable building the business. But from a pure transaction point of view, PropTiger is already in the top 3. I think there is going to be a lot of consolidation in this space and we could be one of the big players.
Is there a plan to bring a Mansion Global model to India?
Yes, Mansion Global will soon have high-end Indian homes powered by PropTiger.
What about VCCircle?
It is one of those rare content businesses in India where 10 years ago they believed and then followed through on something that has five revenue streams — advertising, subscriptions, database, events and training. For us, it was a natural fit, hopefully, we will scale that up.
What is your take on the news start-up scene in India?
It is interesting and attractive in many ways — from the sheer number of news consumers and the fact that most of it is in English. But I am seeing zero innovation around business models. Everything is advertising-based and even there I am not seeing any innovation. I am very sceptical this business model will work. As a business, I have not looked at anything and thought that was compelling.