Big brand, big ideas

Bibek Bhattacharya        Print Edition: December 16, 2007

Name: Venugopal Dhoot
Age: 56
Designation: CMD
Company: The Videocon Group

It’s all about thinking big. That’s what drives Venugopal Dhoot, Chairman and Managing Director of the Videocon Group, who is in the race to acquire the London-based Burren Energy, valued at nearly $4 billion. Videocon made a name for itself in the consumer durables segment, making TVs, refrigerators, air-conditioners, VCRs and audio systems. For Dhoot, 1985 was Ground Zero.

Venugopal Dhoot
Venugopal Dhoot
That was the year he started buying picture tubes from the international giant Thomson. He tried, unsuccessfully, to buy out Thomson’s Videocolour division the same year. He would have to wait 20 more years before he acquired Thomson’s colour picture tube business in 2005.

Even though things weren’t easy initially, Dhoot has done exceptionally well over the last 15 years. Despite CRT CTVs being on their way out, Dhoot believes there’s life in them yet. Possessing proprietory CRT technology, and brands such as Kenstar and the Indian rights to brands like Akai and Sansui definitely helps.

When dealing with LCDs and Plasma, Dhoot seems to be sticking to a sound strategy—possess the technology. Videocon currently owns more than a 100 Plasma patents. The group’s turnover from Consumer Electronics has also been steadily increasing—from Rs 6,140.92 crore in 2005 to Rs 11, 523.96 crore last year. This has allowed Videocon to venture into other areas, most notably in the oil and gas sector.

Of all Videocon’s new ventures, this is where future growth is expected to come from. The group extracts oil from the Ravva oilfields off the coast of Andhra Pradesh, producing 50,000 barrels a day. With crude oil prices hovering at around $100 (Rs 4,000) a barrel, the group has reason to feel bullish. It is currently vying for the London-based Burren Energy, which produces oil in Congo and Turkmenistan.

Videocon already has exploration and production assets in Oman, Australia, Canada and East Timor, and recently acquired the Brazilian facilities of Canadian gas producer EnCana Corporation. As of now, Videocon’s core consumer electronics business contributes almost 89 per cent to revenues, but Dhoot expects that to shrink to 40 per cent with another 40 per cent of revenues coming from oil and gas in a few years. So, where does Dhoot see his globe-straddling group in five years? As a group worth $10 billion, that’s where.

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