Kalanithi Maran

Chairman & Managing Director of Sun Group

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Kalanithi Maran

Born on 22nd July 1964 in a very powerful political family of Tamil Nadu. The Former Union Minister of commerce Mr. Murasoli Maran was his father. India’s former textile minister Mr.Dayanidhi Maran was his brother and Former Chief Minister ofTamil Nadu was none other than his uncle M. Karunanithi. He married Kaveri who is the Joint Managing Director of Sun Network and has a daughter named Kaviya, who was born in 1992.With the present bank balance is approx. $2.2 Billion, Kalanthi Maran is the Chairman & Managing Director of Sun Group – Asia’s most profitable Television Network.

Although belonging to such a strong political background, he was never interested in politics. Even after his father’s death he never thought of going into politics and preferred business over it.

Early Life

Maran always had a spark in him that forced him to emerge as a leader and choose the paths of life that were not taken by anyone else before him. He studied in Chennai in Don Bosco, which is considered to be one of the top schools in India. After completing his Inter, he did his graduation from Loyola College and was selected as chairman of student’s union and led a commotion on the issue of Tamils living in Sri Lanka.

To complete his post-graduation, he moved to Pennsylvania so that he can study Business Administration at the University of Scranton.

What gave him the idea of starting Sun group?

During his stay in Pennsylvania, he had a different experience that gave him the idea of a lifetime. During the mid-80s, Kalanithi saw that the US had ample means spread across multiple brands. It forced him to imagine the future of this technology in India but being young, he didn’t have the courage to start this venture because he was not ready to take such a big risk.

Kalinthi completed his Masters, came back home and started his career as a circulation clerk at Sumangli Publication and also worked for a weekly Tamil magazine owned by his family named as Kunkumam.

His first business started under his family-wing came as a monthly video news magazine (VHS) in Tamil called Poomaalai, which had a successful run. But the year 1992 came as a bad omen for his VHS, he was told to stop it because of piracy.

This failure did not stop Kalanithi Maran but gave a better shape to his future because he made unforgettable decisions from this point of life. As he had gained the necessary experience, and his intuition told him that he was ready to fulfill the dream he once saw in college life in Pennsylvania and with that he started the SUN Network!

The Formation of Sun Network

At an age of 27-years, Kalanithi didn’t lose his composure from all the difficulties thrown in his path and made out the most he could from the opportunities he could catch. Making his father his grantee, he took a bank loan of $86,000. Including all his savings along with the money from the bank, and on14th April 1993started Sun TV. In against a minority stake, he sold out a small stake to his Granduncle M Karunanidhi’s family but didn’t leave it like that and later on bought it as well. Maran didn’t have a large founding group but mostly his college friends forming a team of 25 people.

The next requirement for his team was to find a transponder and to get that he approached the man who started Zee TV, Mr.Subhash Chandra. He approached the man to ask him for an afternoon slot on their transponder. To his luck, a Junior Editor rejected his proposal saying the idea won’t work as few people watched Tamil shows and didn’t give him a chance to meet Subhash. Clearly the junior had wrong information as the four South Indian states of India accounts for one-fourth of the total population, and one-third of all homes owns TV. A setback like this did not demotivate him as he knew what he was doing was correct. After little efforts, he was able to find a transponder space from ATN and finally launched his channel.

His journey ends here?

Launching the channel was only the new start of a long and prosperous voyage for Kalanithi Maran.The state did not have cable operations in those days, and Kalanithi had to brainwash video shop owner’s to convert into cable operators. He eventually became the largest SCV (Sumangali Cable Vision) cable operator in the South as he became the man who never takes no for an answer.

He focused more on building his company than getting into the limelight. During the initial years of Sun Networks, the industry was dominated by the state broadcasters, so Sun TV started off with 3 hours of Tamil programs on ATN channel, and their brand name was Sun TV.

Was it always a smooth path?

On 23rd November 2003, Kalanithi’s father Murasoli Maran passed away. After his father’s death Karunanidhi, who was granduncle of Kalanithi offered him the DMK Party ticket for Chennai Central Lok Sabha constituency for the 2004 elections. But Kalanithi had his heart on his business and refused the offer. Later in 2006 Sun Group was listed on a stock exchange and raised around Rs. 600 Cr. for launching new TV and FM channels along with funding the construction of his new corporate office.

Now was the time when the real problems started to emerge. At the time of filing the IPO (Initial Public Offering), a letter to the Prime Minister was sent by a Member of the BJP Party raising questions about the conflict of interest with Mr.Dayanidhi Maran, Minister of Communication and Information Technology. During this period, it was assumed that Kalanithi’s career was over, but he knew this was not his time instead and waited for the right time.

Comeback

His love for his business finally overpowered all the difficulties, and soon Sun Network emerged as a rising sun from the clouds. By the end of 2010, Kalanithi to bought 38% stake of SpiceJet Airlines from an American private equity investor and UK-based Kansagra family with a downpayment of Rs 750 Cr. In next few years, he invested Rs.800 Cr to increase his stake to 53% that others thought was a foolish step, but Kalanithi believed in what he was doing and later proved himself correct. His Airlines business ran with high profits for four years, but it went into a loss and Kalanithi was force to sell it as he already had faced enough loss.

Achievements

  • US President Barack Obama praised the $2.7 Billion Deal with Kalanithi SpiceJet as a major boost to employment rate in the USA, during his visit to India (2010)
  • Won the ‘Young Businessman Award’ from CNBC, ERNST & Young
  • ForbesNamed him as the “Television king of southern India”
  • Sale of1.2 million copies daily.
  • More than 5.5 million subscribers of DTH wing
  • Released 15 movies to date through their film production and distribution wing.