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What’s News Corp’s game plan in India?

With two back-to-back investments in India within two months, US media and entertainment behemoth News Corp seems to have intensified its focus on the country’s digital landscape. News Corp acquired a 25 per cent stake in digital real estate firm PropTiger.com for $ 30 million in the last week of November 2014. The news was followed by the acquisition of financial services company BigDecisions.com in mid-December for an undisclosed sum.

In an interview, Raju Narisetti, News Corp’s vice-president of strategy, said India is an important digital ecosystem for News Corp and that the firm will continue to look for digital adjacencies that complement its existing portfolio. The New York-headquartered firm, which started as a traditional news company, has now diversified into new media, education, digital real estate, and information services.

“We are patient, long-term strategic investors who want Indian entrepreneurs (to) build successful digital brands for India and beyond,” Narisetti told Business Standard in an email interview. He, however, said the group was not interested in “financial bets that seek to ride the euphoric frothiness built on ever-soaring valuations than on core business propositions”. Concerns are surfacing about a possible bubble in some sectors of the digital landscape such as e-commerce.

Despite its legacy in the news and publishing business, News Corp finds the Indian news space relatively less exciting from an investment point of view. “India’s continued and significant restrictions on FDI (foreign direct investment) in print and television news, combined with operational restrictions in such minority investments, make the news space a lot less attractive to foreign investors,” said Narisetti.

News Corp already has a news team in India for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones apart from the Harper Collins publishing business, he added.

With the stake acquisition in PropTiger.com, News Corp is looking to create a network effect to complement its past investments in real estate. News Corp owns Move, Inc., the operator of realtor.com, which hosts for-sale listings of any digital real estate company in the US. In addition, News Corp has a 61.6 per cent stake in REA Group Ltd, the operator of Australian residential property website realestate.com.au. REA also has a substantial stake in iProperty, which runs a digital real estate advertising business across South East Asia. “We see PropTiger as uniquely poised to help Indian home-buyers in making the right, well-informed decisions. Meanwhile, BigDecisions.com, which is an early-stage start-up investment, builds on our abiding belief that a digital India needs more trusted, reliable and independent data,” said Narisetti.

On the possibility of further diversification, he said as a network of companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, digital real estate, and information services, News Corp is already a diversified company. “Given our name and pedigree, it is natural for those who are not familiar with our portfolio to associate us most closely with publishing,” he added.

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