Venkataraman s, a Carnatic music fan who enjoyed his pilgrimages to the sabhas in Chennai, found himself in a ‘rasika’s heaven’ when, in 2005, his son installed a Worldspace Satellite Radio at home. He spent hundreds of hours listening to curated, ad-free, DVD-quality songs till December 2010, when Worldspace shut shop.
Despite rumours of a revival, nothing happened till Saregama, part of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group, tied up with Timbre Media, founded by former Worldspace employees, to relaunch the brand.
But this time Worldspace will not be on satellite radio. Although it had 4.5 lakh customers, and Indian operations were profitable, the parent company founded by Ethiopian-born lawyer Noah Samarah had closed operations due to financial difficulties. Its relaunch is planned for other platforms: Internet, direct-to-home sets and mobile phones.
Saregama tied up with Vodafone so that its customers could listen to 10 stations on monthly subscriptions, and later with Airtel for DTH. It launched apps for iPhone, Android, Windows and BlackBerry smartphones. Although these are now limited due to the number of channels, the potential is huge.
But competition is fierce outside the satellite radio space (which locks a customer to the device).
As for Venkataraman, he has shifted to another service called Carnatic Radio, launched by music enthusiasts from Singapore, which streams ad-free music 24x7. “Worldspace radio had over 40 stations but I mostly listened to just Shruti [the Carnatic music station]. I have moved on,” he says.
(This story appears in the 18 October, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)