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Antrix controversy: Entrepreneurs scared of entering India’s space industry

The Antrix controversy has scared off risk-taking entrepreneurs from entering India’s space industry. Who’ll now bring hi-tech chutzpah to what can be an Indian success story?

It’s been a rough fortnight for the folks associated with India’s space industry. Allegations flew faster than rockets. When the Department of Space barred former chief Madhavan Nair and three other scientists from any future re-employment in any government-related work, battle lines were drawn within India’s space research community.

Even as Nair described the January 13 order of the government as a “witch hunt” and squarely blamed current Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chief K Radhakrishnan for misleading the government in the much-maligned Antrix-Devas deal, the real question is whether this controversy will hamstring India’s efforts in getting private-sector involvement in the fast-growing space industry.

After all, according to the Space Report 2011, the space economy continued to grow for the fifth year in a row, unaffected by the global economic turmoil. The space economy increased by 7.7% in 2010, registering a robust growth rate compared with the average of 5% per annum registered in the previous two years.

The space economy itself increased by about $20 billion to reach an estimated total of $276.52 billion, the report said. Pertinently, the report said, “Some of this growth came from increases in government spending, but the vast majority occurred in the commercial sector.”

While sectors such as telecom may be driving some of this, many of the noticeable activities in the sector are coming from private individuals and corporations. From space tourism to next-generation launch vehicles, almost in every sphere private investments are fast emerging.

So, India can’t afford to scare off entrepreneurs. But that’s what the Antrix-Devas deal has done.


Antrix (a variation of the Hindi word for space, antariksh) Corporation was set up as the marketing arm of Isro in 1992. The company hoped to promote commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by Isro. And most importantly, as Isro said about the Devas deal: “A major objective is to facilitate development of space-related industrial capabilities in India.”

Enter Forge Advisors, a US-based strategic consultancy. In March 2003, Antrix inked a memorandum of understanding with Forge for exploring opportunities in digital multimedia services. Forge later established an Indian company called Devas Multimedia, with some former Isro scientists on board.

On December 24, 2004, Antrix’s board approved the draft agreement between the two sides, and the agreement was signed on January 28, 2005. The agreement provided leasing of 90% of the space segment capacity on two satellites for 12 years to Devas.

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Posted by on Feb 5 2012. Filed under Technology News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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