Business Briefing 02/01

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To Beam or Not to Beam; and Behind Wall Street

To Beam or Not to Beam

By the time you read this, your favourite station on WorldSpace Satellite Radio would have gone silent. The recession-stricken company had filed for bankruptcy in the US in 2008 and will wind up its India operations on the midnight of 31 December. In a short statement on its website, the company said: ‘This action is an outgrowth of the financial difficulties facing WorldSpace… As a consequence, WorldSpace Inc must discontinue its subscriber business in India. The company recognizes that you may have paid for services to be rendered beyond the termination date, but is not in a position to offer a refund for any unused portion of your subscription.’ Ironically, India was by far the biggest market for WorldSpace with nearly 450,000 subscribers. It was no mean achievement to charge Indian consumers about Rs 1,500 a year, when hundreds of FM channels were providing similar content for free. Started by an Ethiopian-American entrepreneur Noah Samara, WorldSpace positioned itself as an empowering information tool for large parts of non-networked Asia and Africa. It even signed up with institutions such as Bangalore University to provide free educational content. WorldSpace (and Vidya Balan of course) even made the rough-and-tough Munnabhai discover Gandhian philosophy. Sadly, there won’t be so much to listen to on the radio anymore.

Behind Wall Street

Through the life of Amit, an MBA who joins New York International Bank, Ravi Subramanian’s fictional account Devil in Pinstripes (Rupa, Rs 195)  tries to show you the lives of ambitious Wall Street pinstripes. Set in the the current financial crisis, the book follows three characters caught in the world of corporate politics and unbridled ambition. Some of the dialogues and descriptions can leave you disappointed, but a quasi-autobiographical account set in boardrooms isn’t common in India, and therefore always welcome.