Essel Group

Essel Group (alternatively referred to as the Zee Group[2]) is an Indian conglomerate holding company and corporate promoter headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.[3] The company has had business interests in mass media, broadcasting infrastructure and packaging. It operates the subsidiaries of Zee Media Corporation, Zee Entertainment Enterprises, Dish TV and Siti Networks.[4][5]

Essel Group
Founded1926; 95 years ago (1926)
FounderJagannath Goenka
HeadquartersMumbai, Maharashtra, India
Key people
Subhash Chandra
Number of employees
10,000 (2011)

The group has been reported to be encumbered with severe debt; a Businessworld article described the company as debt-ridden.[6] As a result, it has conducted several assets sale including the sale of Essel Propack and stake sales of Zee Entertainment Enterprises.[6][7] Founded in 1926 as the Messrs Ramgopal Indraprasad by Jagannath Goenka, the company was expanded and converted into the Essel Group of Industries by his grandson, Subhash Chandra.[8] Chandra is part of the Goenka (Goel) family which owns and operates the group; he is also the chairman of the company and a Bharatiya Janata Party-backed member of the Rajya Sabha.[9]



In 1926, Jagannath Goenka founded the Messrs Ramgopal Indraprasad as a commercial firm to deal in food grains at the mandi (Product market) in Adampur, Hisar. In 1946, the firm ceased operations in Adampur and was moved to the town of Hisar as a result of poor business in Adampur. In 1948, Jagannath Goenka attempted to expand his business by setting up a pulses polishing factory in Delhi which subsequently suffered heavy losses. This forced him to abandon the establishment in Delhi and move the machinery to Hisar in 1951. Following which, the new units began operating in Hisar and were able to turn consistent profits by selling polished whole grains to Gujarat and South India. By 1966, the firm was operating one dal mill and two cotton ginning factories.[8][non-primary source needed]


In 1967, the business suffered a series of losses leaving the Goenka family at a net deficit of 600,000 (equivalent to 26 million or US$360,000 in 2019). Between 1967–68, the firm with the help of connections in the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was able to secure a deal to supply it with polished pulses and cleaned barley, and later a contract for storage of food grains.[8] By 1973, the control of the company was handed over to Subhash Chandra, the grandson of Jagannath Goenka.[10]

In 1976, the company was renamed as the Essel Group. Following the acquirement of the storage contract with the FCI in the same year, the firm under Subhash Chandra set up the Lamina Packers as a manufacturer of packaging materials.[8] In 1981, the firm also acquired a lucrative export contracts for rice and soyabeans as a result of Indo–USSR bilateral trade agreements. By 1982, with the help of the contracts with the FCI and the Russian export contract, the net worth of the company had gone over 100 crore (equivalent to 129 crore or US$18 million in 2019) – per estimation made in 2014.[10][8]

In December 1982, the Essel Packaging (later renamed to Essel Propack) was incorporated.[8] Essel Packaging was the venture of the Essel Group into the packaging industry with the primary product being laminated tube units. The following year, the group also began investments for an amusement park in Mumbai.[10] The Essel World was opened in 1989 which became the first amusement park in India.[11] Though the amusement park did not provide sufficient returns, it marked the beginning of the group's venture into the entertainment industry.[12][11][13]


In 1992, the Essel Group incorporated the Zee Telefilms Ltd.[14] In the same year, Zee Telefilms entered into a joint venture called Asia Today Ltd with Star TV in order to lease a transponder from the AsiaSat satellite network. The agreement for the transponder was signed in April 1992 and the Zee TV began broadcasting from 1 October onward.[15][13] Zee TV was the first Hindi Language satellite channel in India. By 1994, the channel had captured 65% of the satellite market share. Over the following years, the company launched a series of entertainment channels in competition with the Star India. It launched the Zee News channel in 1998, which became the first 24x7 Hindi Language news channel in India.[16] In 1994,[17] the Essel Group incorporated Siti Cable. The company was set-up as a distribution subsidiary of Zee Telefilms to provide cable service in order expand the reach of the satellite channels. Zee TV remained the market leader in the entertainment segment till 2000.[15] The group also launched the first direct-to-home television in India through its subsidiary Dish TV on 2 October 2003.[18]

The partnership with the Star Network ended in 2000, following a buyout of Star India's shares in Asia Today Ltd by Zee Telefilms. This allowed Star India to produce programmes in Hindi in an attempt to target local audiences. Over the following years, the market share of the Zee Network was overshadowed with increasing competition in broadcast industry from both international and regional broadcasters.[15][19] The momentary market dominance of Zee News was also broken with the emergence of competition from channels such as Aaj Tak, STAR News and later NDTV after its own separation from Star News.[16] In 2002, Zee Telefilms entered into a joint venture with Turner Broadcasting System for the distribution of channels under unified subscription packs which offered Turner channels such as Cartoon Network, Pogo, HBO, etc alongside Zee Network channels.[20] In 2006, the Zee Telefilms Ltd was de-merged and segregated into three companies; Zee News Ltd (later renamed to Zee Media Corporation), the news broadcasting undertaking of the group, Wire & Wireless India Ltd (later renamed to Siti Networks), the cable distribution subsidiary of the group and Zee Telefilms Ltd which remained the direct consumer broadcasting undertaking of the group.[21] Zee Telefilms Ltd and Zee News Ltd would be renamed to Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd in 2007 and Zee Media Corporation Ltd in 2013, respectively.[14][22]

The Zee Network also attempted to enter the market for sports broadcasting in India around this period, however it was impeded in its attempts to acquire cricket broadcasting rights. In 2004, it was able to briefly secured the rights for cricket broadcasting from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) but the contract was terminated following a legal complaint over the conduct of the rights auction. In 2005, the network launched the Zee Sports channel and in the following year it procured Taj Television which operated the Ten Sports channels. By 2007, after failing to acquire cricket broadcasting rights from the BCCI, the Zee Group launched its own Indian Cricket League (ICL) but the league remained unsuccessful in gaining traction and was phased out after two seasons.[23] In 2016, the group pulled out of the sports broadcasting industry selling off all its assets to Sony.[24] The Essel Group also launched the Mumbai Football Club in 2007[25] which became by defunct by 2019.[26]

The joint distribution venture with Turner India was ended in 2018.[20] By 2019, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) was the only profit generating company of the Essel Group while the group had accumulated an overall debt of around 20,000 crore (US$2.8 billion).[27] Over the year, the Essel Group sold off part its pledged shares in ZEEL for the repayment of some of its debt. Invesco Oppenheimer acquired 11% stake in the company while the stake of the Essel Group firms was reduced to 22.37%.[7][28]


Zee Entertainment EnterprisesEdit

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited
IndustryMass media & See10 Entertainment
Founded15 December 1991; 29 years ago (1991-12-15)
FounderSubhash Chandra
HeadquartersMumbai, Maharashtra,
Key people
Punit Goenka (CEO)[29]
  •   8,413 crore (US$1.2 billion) (2020)[30]
  1,103 crore (US$150 million) (2020)[30]
  •   527 crore (US$74 million) (2020)[30]
OwnerEssel Group (22.37%)
Invesco Oppenheimer (11%)
Number of employees
3,429 (2020)[30]
Footnotes / references

The Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (abbreviated as ZEEL; formerly Zee Telefilms Limited) is the media and entertainment broadcasting company of the Essel Group.[32] It is the primary profit generating company of the Essel Group.[27] It owns a constellation of entertainment channels under the brand name of Zee and the channels under the brands of Living Entertainment, Big and "&".[33] The Zee Entertainment Enterprise also owns and operates the record label of Zee Music Company and the film studio of Zee Studios.[34]

The company was incorporated in 1992 as the Zee Telefilms Limited, the Essel Group's venture into mass media. It launched its flagship television channel, Zee TV on 1 October 1992.[13] In 2006, two subsidiaries of the company were de-merged from the Zee Telefilms Ltd and segregated as distinct ententes under the Essel Group. Zee News Ltd (later renamed to Zee Media Corporation) became the news broadcasting subsidiary of the group while Wire & Wireless India Limited (later renamed to Siti Networks) became the cable distribution company of the group. Following the segregation, Zee Telefilms was rebranded as to Zee Entertainment Enterprises.[21]

Between 2002–2018, the Zee Entertainment Enterprises was involved a joint venture with american distribution brand Turner India for the distribution of channels in India, Nepal and Bhutan.[35] The company was involved in sports broadcasting between 2004–2016. It launched its own private cricket league, the Indian Cricket League which held two seasons between 2007–2009 but the league failed to gain traction.[23] In 2016, it sold off all its sports broadcasting assets in the venture to Sony.[24]

As of 2020, the company has suffered successive reduction in revenue and has been subjected to investigative probes by the Enforcement Directorate.[36][37] The Essel Group has divested a part of its shares in the company for the repayment of pending dues, reducing its stake in the company to 22.37% with much of the remaining stake still pledged as collateral to the remaining dues.[7]

Zee Media CorporationEdit

Zee Media Corporation Limited
IndustryNews Media
HeadquartersMumbai, Maharashtra, India
Key people
Jawahar Goel (Editor-in-chief)
BrandsZee News, Daily News and Analysis
Revenue640 crore (US$90 million)[38] (2020)
−273 crore (US$−38 million)[38] (2020)
Number of employees
1,719[38] (2020)
ParentEssel Group
Footnotes / references

The Zee Media Corporation Limited (abbreviated as ZMCL; formerly Zee News Limited) is the news broadcasting company of the Essel Group.[21] The company operates a constellation of news channels under the brand name of Zee including the English language news channel WION.[40] The Zee News channel is the flagship channel of the company.[41] The Zee Media Corporation also owns and operates the ZEE5 distribution platform.[42]

It was involved in a joint venture with the Dainik Bhaskar Group for the publication of the Daily News & Analysis newspaper but the paper was discontinued in 2019 after suffering loses.[43] The corporation also runs the Zee Institute of Media Arts (ZIMA)[40] which is owned by Zee Learn, the schooling subsidiary of the Essel Group.[44]

The Zee Media Corporation was formerly a subsidiary of the Zee Telefilms Ltd (later renamed to Zee Entertainment Enterprises) and existed under the name of Zee News Limited. It was demerged as a separate company of the Essel Group in 2006.[21] The Zee News Limited was renamed to Zee Media Corporation in 2013.[22]

Dish TVEdit

DishTV India Limited (abbreviated as DTIL, stylised as dishtv) is a Direct to Home (DTH) television provider company which provides DTH service through multiple brands such as Dish TV, d2h and Zing Digital.[45] Dish TV was launched on 2 October 2003 as the DTH provider of the Essel Group and was merged with Videocon D2H on 22 March 2018.[18][46] The Essel Group maintains a 55% stake in the company while the Videocon Group maintains a 45% stake.[47] It became the largest DTH provider in India after the merger.[46] The company is also partnered with The Times Group owned MX Player for streaming services.[45]

Siti NetworksEdit

Siti Networks Limited (abbreviated as SNL; formerly Wire & Wireless India Limited; alternatively Siti Cable) is the multi-system operator of the Essel Group.[48] It provides cable distribution services for household consumption. Established in 1994 as a subsidiary of the Zee Telefilms Ltd (later renamed to Zee Entertainment Enterprises),[15] it was founded as a separate company of the Essel Group following the de-merger of the Zee Telefilms in 2006.[21]

Essel PropackEdit

The Essel Propack Limited (abbreviated as EPL) was the tube packaging company of the Essel Group headquartered in Mumbai, India.[49] Founded in 1982, the Essel Packaging Limited began commercial production between April–June 1983.[8] The company was merged with the Swiss tube packaging company Propack in 2000. The Essel Group retained a 34% equity stake in the company while Propack held a 22% equity stake.[50][51] As of 2009, the company had a global market share of 33% in the toothpaste tube packaging industry.[52] In 2019, The Blackstone Group group acquired a majority stake in the company for US$310 million during the Essel Group's assets sale for the repayment of debts.[6]

Zee LearnEdit

The Zee Learn Limited (abbreviated as ZLL; informally referred to as Zee Schools) is the for-profit education company of the Essel Group.[53] Incorporated in 1958, the company did not begin operating until 2010.[54] Zee Learn founded the private school chains of Kidzee preschools and Mount Litera Zee K–12 schools. As of 2019, it had more than 1,900 Kidzee preschools and 120 Mount Litera Zee schools across India and three institutes of higher education; the Zee Institute of Media Arts (ZIMA), Zee Institute of Creative Arts (ZICA) and the Himgiri Zee University, Dehradun (HZU).[44] The company also promotes and operates the ZeeQ channel of the Zee Entertainment Enterprises.[55] The student coaching firm MT Educare became a subsidiary of Zee Learn following an acquisition in May 2018.[56]


Alongside its major subsidiaries, the Essel Group also has investments in movie screening. real estate and infrastructure through the companies of E-City Ventures, Suncity Projects and Essel Infraprojects, respectively.[57] The group owns and operates the amusement parks of "Essel World" and "Water Kingdom" in Mumbai.[58] The Shirpur Gold Refinery uses the brand name of Zee Gold in a joint venture with the Essel Group for the marketing of the refinery's products; the Essel Group gets royalties of 20% on the net profit for the brand usage.[59] The group also operates the online lottery Playwin in Sikkim.[60] The lottery however ceased operation in 2020, following the sale of assets by the Essel Group for the repayment of pending debts.[61]


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