From market leader to defaulter: the rise and fall of Venugopal Dhoot


Starting with a family, who owned a dealership of Bajaj Auto’s scooters, to become the owner of a household name in consumer equipment that could afford it Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan as a brand ambassador, Venugopal Dhoot’s is a story about an aggressive small-town businessman’s quest to rise to the top. Now arrested in connection with the loan fraud case of the ICICI Bank, Venugopal Dhoot was not the one who was only waiting for small achievements in his heyday Videocon become the largest manufacturer of television sets in India.

The eldest son of the late Nandlal Madhavlal Dhoot, who became the Videocon group by 1984, Venugopal was largely responsible for encouraging the conglomerate to diversify into various industries such as oil and gas, real estate and retail, in addition to its successful consumer electronics and home appliance businesses.

Dhoot, the safari-suited businessman, was born into an agricultural family in Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), where his father owned a cotton ginning mill and ran a wholesale grain business.

When public broadcaster Doordarshan started broadcasting color television programs in India in 1982, it opened a new segment. Here the Dhoot family tried their luck in the unknown field of manufacturing conventional tube based color televisions.

Dhoot, who had an engineering degree from the University of Pune, left for Japan for a year to be trained at electronics companies.

In 1986 he founded Videocon International, which aimed to produce 1,00,000 TV sets per year. It entered into a technical partnership with the Japanese superpower Toshiba and there was no turning back from here.

In the 1990s, Videocon expanded from color televisions to other industries, such as refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, home entertainment systems and other small appliances. It pushed contemporary rivals like Mirc Electronic (Onida), Salora, Weston etc with affordable prices.

Its TV models like Bazooka and Bazoomba were the favorites in the market in the early 90’s.

After having success in its consumer electronics and home appliance business, Dhoot Videocon Industries expanded into other areas such as oil and gas, mobile services and others.

However, Dhoot’s downfall started when it entered the mobile service area with Videocon Telecommunications. It could only launch commercial services in 11 of the 18 circles for which it was licensed.

In 2012, after the 2G spectrum case, the Supreme Court revoked 122 licenses issued by the national government in 2008, 21 of which were Videocon licenses. In the 2012 spectrum auction, Videocon won back licenses in 6 circles, but sold to the market leader Bharti Airtel and cessation of operations.

In addition, South Korean giants such as LG Electronics and Samsung entered the Indian market in the late 90s, disrupting consumer electronics and appliances with the latest technology and quality products at affordable prices.

Although Videocon Industries had several industries, its main cash cow was consumer electronics and appliances trading.

Failing to meet the challenges of rivals Sony, LG and Samsungs, Videocon’s revenues stagnated and it gradually sat on a pile of debt.

Dhoot tried to pare debts by selling some of his assets. The company merged its DTH business with Dish TV. They sold ownership of some of their gas fields and telecoms business, but it didn’t work.

Finally, in 2018, it was dragged to the NCLT insolvency court by its creditor. It owed about Rs 31,000 crore to the banks, including interest.

At the request of lenders, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has conducted a consolidated corporate insolvency resolution process by merging Videocon Industries and the other 12 Videocon group companies.

In June 2021, a bid of just Rs 2,692 crore from Twin Star Technologies by billionaire Anil Agarwal to acquire Videocon Industries was approved by the NCLT. This also drew controversy.

Earlier this year, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had set aside Twin Star’s bid of Rs 2,692 crore, with orders to invite new bids.

Although it has been challenged in the Supreme Court by Twin Star, Videocon Industries’ creditors are still looking for a buyer. According to some sources, the lenders are even considering liquidation if they fail to find a buyer for the company, which was once a success story.

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