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Second coming: The Kapoors of Balaji Group

Anand Adhikari     April 13, 2011
It all started in the early 1990s, when Jeetendra was asked to produce a programme for the channel TV Asia. The acting veteran, with over 200 films under his belt, was initially reluctant. But after some market research and coaxing from his family, he decided to take the plunge. As luck would have it, by the time Jeetendra was ready with the show, the channel had been sold. "We were left with a lot of software but no slot to put it on air," says Jeetendra. That was when Balaji Telefilms was born.

Unlike Jeetendra, wife Shobha Kapoor and daughter Ekta realised the potential of the TV medium. Those were days when private channels were still in their infancy and Doordarshan ruled unchallenged. "It was difficult in the beginning as we got no slots," says Ekta, 34, who took over as Creative Director of Balaji at 19. Balaji finally got its first break on Zee TV with a serial on paranormal activity, Mano Ya Na Mano. But it hit the bull's eye with the subsequent Hum Paanch. Then began the 'K' soaps that topped the charts for years, making Balaji a household name - especially Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki.

Balaji Group
Founder: Jeetendra Kapoor, 68
Wife: Shobha, Managing Director, Balaji Telefilms
Daughter: Ekta, Joint MD, Balaji Telefilms
Son: Tusshar, Executive Director, Balaji Motion Pictures
Why I did it: "TV as a medium was a huge opportunity to explore when satellite TV was gaining momentum."
Total turnover: Rs 170 crore
Main companies: Balaji Telefi lms and Balaji Motion Pictures
The tie-up with Star TV turned into an unprecedented money spinner for both. But by 2008 cracks had appeared in the relationship between the two partners. As the trends changed and the ratings dipped, Star took the 'K' soaps off the air. Balaji floundered, its revenues crashing from Rs 95 crore in 2007/08 to Rs 4 lakh in 2008/09.

At this stage Jeetendra and his family realised the need for greater professionalism. For the first time, they appointed a nonfamily CEO, Puneet Kinara. With the new team, Balaji moved into the movie space, and promptly rose to prominence again, pulling off the two biggest sleeper hits of 2010 - Love, Sex and Dhoka and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai."We want to emerge as a leading content player in television and movies in the next five to 10 years," says Kinara. "The falling out with Star was a learning experience as it enabled us to emerge as an entertainment powerhouse," says MD Shobha.


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