MUMBAI: Media mogul Subhash
Chandra’s ambitions know no bounds.
After setting up a huge media empire
spanning broadcast networks, TV
distribution platforms, newspaper and
digital products, Chandra is now
gearing up to find space in the factual
entertainment space along with the
biggies like NGC, Discovery
Communications and History Channel.
Chandra’s Essel Group is all set to
enter into the factual entertainment
space through ‘Living’ brand. The
first in the series of launches is a
food and lifestyle channel called
Living Foodz. The channel is housed
under a subsidiary, Living
The company plans to launch another
three channels in the next 18 months.
These include Living Rootz, Living
Travelz and Living Homez. Zee Living,
a wellness and lifestyle channel that
is already available in many countries
including the US, will also be launched
So why has Chandra suddenly turned
his attention to factual
entertainment? The first reason is
the desire to showcase Indian history
and culture to the world through an
Indian lens. Secondly, the company
wants to tap into the Rs 1 lakh crore
factual entertainment business
Living Rootz, which Chandra described
as a work still in progress, will
showcase Indian history.
Citing the example of how Indian
history is dominated by the Western
narrative, Chandra said that his
grand-daughter was searching for
Lokmanya Tilak on Google for her
project. One of the search results
that Google threw up described Tilak
as a militant Hindu leader. This upset
“Lokmanya Tilak was a social
reformer but never a militant. But
that’s what they have written and
that’s what the world believes,” he
According to Chandra, Living Rootz
will provide an alternative view of
Indian history. “We felt that we
should launch a product like Living
Rootz, which will also have other
perspective than Western
perspective,” he noted.
He also pointed out that Mahabharata
and Ramayan are still considered
mythologies by Western historians.
“Even in our country we used to
believe that Mahabharata and
Ramayan were mythologies but today
science has proved that those were
historical events. It will still take
some time for the Western world to
consider Ramayan and Mahabharata as
myth,” he asserted.
Chandra said that these are the few
examples of how Essel’s upcoming
products will be different.
He also said that whatever Essel will
do will be on a global scale and global
quality of content creation.
Zee Living, he stated, showcased
5,000 years of Indian history of
healthy living like Ayurveda and Yoga.
Chandra also believes that factual
entertainment is a huge market
globally that needs to be tapped.
Viewership of lifestyle and factual
entertainment globally is 12–13 per
cent of the total television being
consumed, whereas its share of
revenue is 18–20 per cent. The total
market size is Rs 1 lakh crore.
He also said that the launch of
‘Living’ brand in India is 2.0 version
of Essel’s media business, which
largely comprises entertainment and
“In factual and lifestyle
entertainment, there are very few
companies in the world like Discovery,
NGC, History, and Scripps Network.
There is no single Asian company that
has ventured into this kind of
programming. We are the first Asian
Indian company which is going into
cognitive entertainment space,”
Chandra said while unveiling Living
The new brand will be under Essel and
not ZEEL. “You have seen various
products under the Zee brand
umbrella. Then you have witnessed
the &brand under the same company.
But what we are exposing today is not
from ZEEL; it is from the Essel
family,” he added.
He also revealed that ZEEL is 10
million away from realising its dream
of reaching 1 billion viewers across
Having achieved phenomenal growth,
Chandra was faced with the question
of how to make Zee a global brand in
While the obvious choice in
conventional thinking would have been
to compete with the large media
companies of the West, Chandra
decided to adopt a less risky path.
“Two things came to my mind. First
and foremost, the existing content
library of Zee we should segregate
and dub them into local languages and
give that as offering to mainstream
population in different parts of the
world,” he said.
That is how the local channels in
markets like Middle East, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Thailand, Africa and Russia
He also felt that rather than taking
on big players in the US, it was better
to launch a product that showcased
“That is when we launched Zee Living
as lifestyle and health channel in
America. We expanded that into some
other English-speaking territories
except Russia where we have launched
Zee Living in the Russian language,”