The UK's publicly-funded BBC has won radio licences covering seven of the Indian subcontinent's biggest cities.

The corporation's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, and its local partner Radio Mid-Day West will operate FM radio services in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, among others.

The BBC has a 20% stake in Mid-Day West - the maximum it can hold under the country's media ownership rules. The majority shareholder is Mumbai-listed Mid-Day Multimedia.

The BBC is investing around £4 million ($7m; €5.8m) in the venture and, claims Monisha Shah, director of emerging territories for Europe, the Middle East, India and Asia: "Given the significant size and audience reach of these licences, our radio venture has now created the substantial national presence we were aiming for."

The Indian group's managing director, Tariq Ansari, says the company aims to use the BBC's expertise and technology to become one of the leading private radio stations in the country.

According to analysts, advertisers in India spent around $40 million with commercial radio stations in 2003, less than 2% of total adspend. The market, in a country of one billion-plus people, is potentially huge and radio revenues are expected to rise to around $150m by 2008.

Data sourced from and The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff