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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Bollywood goes dot.com

Movie goers can look forward to new ventures from their stars
By Sanjeev Srivastava in Bombay

At an exclusive pool-side bash in a posh Bombay hotel this week to celebrate the launch of a new venture by Australian media baron Kerry Packer, it was not just the usual crowd of industrialists and businessmen who raised a toast.

Lending a touch of glamour to the evening were a host of stars from the film industry - Bollywood - including the biggest of them all, Amitabh Bachchan.



After all some of the Bollywood stars are well established brand names

Analyst Mehul Desai
But it was not just another social evening where the showbiz crowd mixed with the city's business community.

Many of the stars were there to understand first hand the nuances of venture capital funding, internet start-ups and the way to raise funds through an initial public offering (IPO).



"Tremendous craze" for teen heart-throb Hrithik Roshan
Dot.com is the latest script doing the rounds of Bollywood and many film-makers and stars see the internet as providing the outline for their next blockbuster.

And this time around - like the film world has often done with topical issues in the past - they will not be capturing the dot.com mania on celluloid for the reel world but would be entering the net business for real.

Hrithik Roshan

Among the first to bite the internet bullet was Hrithik Roshan, a young star whose debut film Kaho na pyar hai (Tell me I love you) was the biggest hit this year.

Hrithik, the reigning teenage heart-throb and described as the next superstar of Indian cinema has decided to launch a dotcom venture, Numero E-Ventures Pvt Ltd.



Actress Kajol has teamed up with her husband
Hrithik will hold 50% of the equity in the company which will take up dot.com projects, manage star events and do celebrity management world-wide.

The company will also have exclusive rights to use Hrithik's name for marketing and merchandising products through the net.

The Hrithik branded products would be available on an entertainment portal which would also offer live chats with the star on Myhrithik.com.

There is "tremendous craze for Hrithik not only in India but also abroad," says his partner, film producer Sanjay Khan.

"He is already a superstar and we think one of the best ways for him is to start dot.comming," he said.

Widespread interest

Hrithik and Sanjay Khan are not the only Bollywood stars trying to ride the dot.com-IPO wave.



Looking to the markets to raise cash
India's most popular actress, Kajol, has teamed up with her husband and popular actor, Ajay Devgan.

The couple plan an IPO soon for their production company.

Well known producers Boney Kapoor and Subhash Ghai are also planning to hit the markets with their IPO in the next couple of months.

And if the industry grapevine is to be believed Amitabh Bachchan may also like to revive his sick entertainment company - ABCL - through an IPO offer in the coming months.

Optimism

According to a report in The Economic Times newspaper, as many as 30-35 Bollywood entities are hoping to raise cash from the markets in the next six months.

Market analysts say not all Bollywood offerings may be lapped up by the markets.

But they were optimistic of their overall prospects.

"After all some of the Bollywood stars are well established brand names," says Mehul Desai, an analyst with a Bombay based brokerage firm.

"And if they do come up with an attractive, profit-making business mode, there is no reason why the investing public should not share their dreams," he added.

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