Posts Tagged ‘Ashish Bagga’

Indian Express, India Today teach NYT a lesson

4 June 2014

To say that the Indian media is in a tizzy of seismic proportions would qualify as the understatement of the year. So far.

Editors are quitting, being sacked, or finding ever new ways of being quietly eased out. Promoters are exiting their dream projects after acquiescing to giant business houses. Reporters are making discreet enquiries. Etcetera.

Still, in the midst of all the bloodbath, there has been a palpable sense of grace in the manner in which Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of the Indian Express has been sent off by his organisation, and the manner in which he has been welcomed to his new port of calling, the India Today group.

Despite Gupta’s exit being in the air for nearly a year, the Express went out of its way to promote his new book, and Express chairman Viveck Goenka (to whom Gupta dedicated his collection of columns) was at hand at the book’s launch. Gupta’s last columns for the paper have been given pride of place on page one.

Goenka’s graceful letter below announcing Gupta’s exit—and Aroon Purie‘s dignified letter welcoming him back into the fold—are a lesson, in an era when even the supposedly great New York Times removed the name of its first woman editor Jill Abramson in a matter of hours.

***

EXHIBIT A: VIVECK GOENKA, Chairman, The Indian Express

My dear colleagues

With much regret, I accept Shekhar Gupta’s resignation as Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express. I truly​ appreciate his letter to all of us and I wish him the very best.

Shekhar leaves on June 15, just a year short of his 20 years here — another moment of transition in the long history of this ​great institution.

When I chose him for the position of Editor​ in 1995, I was taking no leap in the dark. I was absolutely convinced that Shekhar, then 38, was the best person to guide this newspaper into the future. And I feel more than vindicated today.

So many news breaks (I have happily lost count) delivered by the finest reporters, editors, sub editors, designers and photographers, a team I am very proud of,  team which is the envy of every newspaper publisher: three International Press Institute Awards for Excellence in Journalism; the most questioning opinion section in the business and the most generous, too, given how it welcomes dissenting voices; a renewal of talent each year by the youngest and the brightest from our campuses – Shekhar leaves the newspaper stronger than ever.

Key to each one of these achievements has been the consistently stellar work of the Express team under the leadership of Editor Raj Kamal Jha.

Raj’s leadership is grounded in his commitment to professional excellence and uncompromising integrity. He brings to the newsroom creativity, clarity and depth, three qualities increasingly rare in our business. This not only inspires his colleagues, it powers them to realize their best potential.

Raj could not have a stronger partner in the newsroom than Managing Editor Unni Rajen Shanker.

Unni has been a reporter, an Editor, a Resident Editor (Mumbai) and Editor of the Express News Service. He brings to his leadership a deep understanding of all the different roles in the changing newsroom and an unrivalled sense of fairness and empathy. It’s this that enables him attract the finest talent and then nurture them. Unni is one of the pillars of the Express.

Since they joined in 1996, both have steered change and are, therefore, ideally placed to help guide the paper into the future. That is why, to facilitate a seamless transition, I am proud to repose my faith in them and redesignate them for their new roles.

Raj will be Chief Editor and will report to me. Unni will be Editor.

I look forward to working closely with them. They will find me every bit as supportive as all their predecessors, including Shekhar did, as we plan and implement exciting new upgrades to all our news brands.

There is​ work to do.

We have witnessed a remarkable election and an even​ more remarkable victory that bring with it challenges for all of us in the news business whose mission is to question, to report, to interpret and to analyse.

I firmly believe and, more so, given the changes in the media landscape, that these are challenges best suited for The Indian Express given how strongly independence and courage are wired in our ​genes​.

I believe that the present news media environment in India offers us an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to what we do best: faithful and courageous journalism.

With all the shrill voices on TV, the paid news in print and the corporate funded or politician backed news organizations, The Indian Express must be the voice India can turn to and trust.

Speaking truth to power is hard wired in the genes of our editorial teams. The “Express” commitment to this legacy, mine and that of the future generation, will certainly endure. The newsroom is and will be the most sacred space in our institution.

I am committed to raising the bar and instilling a fresh new energy in our editorial teams. In addition to revamped content, I  look forward to closely integrating all our news operating systems because our growth is now across platforms. This​ was evident last month, during Verdict 2014.

We had print editions that were reported and produced to the finest standards and a digital edition that broke all our records with over 52 million page views, more than 100,000 active users for eight hours, a live video news stream from the Express newsroom, all of this making us among the five most visited news sites in the country.

Looking ahead, that’s the road we take. Not only reporting the news first but also being the first to understand it and​ question its assumptions. This means better stories, better analyses, better pictures, better everything and ensuring that The Indian Express journalism of courage reaches the reader wherever she is, whenever she wants it, whichever device she wants to receive it on.

Shekhar, whether he is at the Express or not, will always be a part of this journey.​ For, he leaves us with a sense of determination and purpose. And a wonderful tool-kit of ideas and values that we will use and keep adding to.

Please join me in wishing him, once again, the best of luck as he scales what I am sure will be a new professional summit.

And, Raj and Unni, let us​  get to work. I wish you and your teams my very best.

Best always

Viveck Goenka

***

EXHIBIT B: AROON PURIE, Chairman, India Today group

Dear Colleagues

I am delighted to announce the appointment of Shekhar Gupta as Vice Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of all news properties of the India Today Group. It includes all our news and business publications, news TV brands and all related news and business digital brands. This comes into effect July 1, 2014.

This is a homecoming for Shekhar. He joined India Today in 1983 and was here for 12 eventful years during which he was an outstanding journalist. He broke many exclusive stories and covered world changing international events like the fall of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War, Afghan Jehad and the Tiananmen Square uprising.

In 1995, he took charge of The Indian Express group steering it into a position of editorial leadership and financial strength.

Shekhar is a reporter’s Editor, thinker, author, mentor and active on the international speaking circuit. He typically is an “all sleeves rolled up” hands-on professional who not only leads from the front but works collaboratively and believes in action.

He literally “Walks the Talk”! He is highly regarded  in the profession for his integrity independence and knowledge. That’s why he attracts, inspires and builds fine talent.

As I mentioned in my Founders Day speech I would like us to be the best media group in every which way by our 40th birthday which is two years from now. I believe Shekhar joining us would be a force multiplier in achieving this goal.

He will report to me and will be responsible for the editorial quality of all our news and business brands, and our overall expansion and profitability. He will work closely with Ashish Bagga, Group CEO, and enable him to effectively grow the readership and viewership of our brands, profitably.

Anil Mehra will step down as Vice-Chairman but will continue as consultant to advise the Group on matters of strategic importance.

At a personal level, Shekhar’s return is a moment of deep satisfaction and vindication of my belief, our shared belief, in the power of good journalism to reveal and to inform, to question the unquestioned, to help make sense of the noise rather than to add to it.

We need to work relentlessly to prove our essential belief that there is no contradiction between good journalism and the marketplace.

I have always believed: create good content and money will follow. That will be the principle behind another project that I greatly look forward to with Shekhar’s arrival: the launch of some new editorial offerings that will uniquely blend the best of reporting and analysis.

In his new role, Shekhar has promised to liberate me from day-to-day operations so that I can work to guiding the group into a future of great promise, growth and excitement.

Shekhar, welcome back.

Aroon

***

Also read: An Aroon Purie tribute worthy of emulation

Aroon Purie: how to say goodbye to a departing editor

Good news: ‘Media sector is a sunrise sector’

19 May 2012

What was bazaar speculation for quite a while is now a matter of record. Aroon Purie, the bossman of the India Today group, has divested over a quarter of his holding in Living Media India Limited, in favour of one of India’s richest men, Kumar Mangalam Birla for an undisclosed sum

(Business Standard reports that the deal may have been worth Rs 35o crore).

The stake sale brings one of India’s biggest corporate houses, the Aditya Birla group, into mainstream magazine and television space (the K.K. Birla group owns the newspaper Hindustan Times); sets up a clash of telecom titans for the 4G space (Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries has bought into the TV18 network); and raises questions over growing corporate ownership of the media.

Below is the internal note shot off by Ashish Bagga, the group CEO of the India Today group, at 9.10 pm on Friday, 18 May 2012:

***

Dear All

I am pleased to inform you of a significant development for the INDIA TODAY group.

Just this afternoon, the $35-billion Indian multi-national, ADITYA BIRLA GROUP (ABG) and your company, which is India’s most respected and diversified media corporation, have come to an agreement for a 27.5% financial investment by a private investment company of the Aditya Birla Group in our holding company, Living Media India Ltd.

Commenting on the investment, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla group said: “The Indian media sector is a sunrise sector from our investment point of view. I believe that the India Today group offers one of the best opportunities of growth and value creation. ITG’s management ethos, values, brands, product portfolio and future plans offer one of the best opportunities for growth and value creation.”

Aroon Purie, our chairman said, “I am delighted to partner with the Aditya Birla Group to aggressively address the current and future potential of the Indian media business which is at a tipping point. The Aditya Birla group with its strong leadership, global footprint, diversified business interests and its shared values of integrity, commitment and social responsibility make it a perfect fit with the India Today group.”

By virtue of this development, your company will embark on a high growth and expansion strategy across all its existing and new businesses.

I look forward to a successful and trail-blazing future.

Ashish Bagga, group CEO

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Minister distributes newspapers in Kerala

28 March 2012

Kerala, is in the throes of an indefinite newspaper strike. A section of newspaper agents in God’s own country are demanding a trade discount of 50 per cent of the cover price, festival advances, pension schemes, etc. The strike oddly doesn’t affect papers owned by political parties, including the communist newspaper Deshabhimani.

***

From The Hindu:

Minister for social welfare M.K. Muneer and historian M.G.S. Narayanan joined a group of newspaper readers who gathered at a bus station here on Tuesday morning to protest against the ongoing strike by newspaper agents in several parts of Kerala.

The Minister, a leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, and other protesters said they wanted to express their resentment over the strike since it had denied ordinary people their right to read the newspapers of their choice.

The Minister and Dr. Narayanan distributed copies of certain newspapers at the spot.

While it was the legitimate right of every group to launch agitations over grievances, methods of protest that deprive people of their right to information were unfair and indefensible in a democracy, Dr. Muneer said. The strike was unfair since it deprived common people of their daily morning fare of news and information they offered, he said.

Dr. Narayanan, a former chairman of the Indian Council for Historical Research, said that without the morning newspaper ordinary Malayalees like him just felt lost. Several other social workers including a former vice-chairman of the Kerala Sahithya Akademi, U.K. Kumaran, and novelist K.P. Sudheera took part in the demonstration. Kumaran said the striking newspaper agents had a “hidden political agenda.”

How papers are working around wage board

30 November 2011

With the Union government having notified the recommendations of the Majithia wage board for journalists and other employees, newspaper managements are on a collision course.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has slammed the government go-ahead despite industry representations; at least three newspaper houses have filed cases against it; and insiders say a November 16 meeting of INS was “defiantly unanimous” that newspapers should not implement it, come what may.

Meanwhile, some newspaper managements, like that of the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day (now owned by the Dainik Jagran group) have commenced their own measures to deal with the debilitating economic effects of the implementation of the wage board recommendations by circulating a bond for its journalists to sign.

Point no. 3 reads, inter alia:

“We, therefore, exercise our option to retain our existing salaries and wages of existing emouluments as defined in Majithia wage board award along with all existing allowances of whatsoever nature as well as method of determination and extent of neutralisation of dearness allowance being following by the newspaper extablishment (Mid-Day) year after year, with retrospective effect. We also realise and agree that all such future increments as may be granted by the newspaper establishment (Mid-Day) in respect of pay, allowances and emoulments shall be in our interest and we shall abide by the same.

“Now in witness whereof we being all the employees of newspaper establishment (Mid-Day) in exercise of our option as available under the Majithia wage board, retain our existing payscale and “existing emoulments” including allowances with retrospective effect by affixing our individual signatures hereinbelow.”

M.J. Pandey of the Brihanmumbai union of journalists (BUJ) writes:

“The Mid-Day management has got its staffers to sign a special undertaking that they are not in favour of the wage board and wish to opt out of the award. Last week, the staffers were called in and made to sign the opt-out form individually and on the spot. No copies of this undertaking were given to them.

“All the journalists, who are on contract, have complied. However, the non-journalist employees, who are part of the Maharashtra media employees’ union (MMEU), have refused to sign the undertaking and are awating the implementation of the award.

“It is incredibe that these journalists have made no calculations of the benefits they would have got under the wage board. This wage board, for the first time, brings the wages of non-contract employees on par with the contract employees – especially in larger media conglomerates – and that’s part of the reason for the stiff resistance of the latter to the wage board.”

Image: via Geeta Seshu

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

Allow me to point out, Mr Arnab Goswami

INS: ‘Wage board move will kill most newspapers’

27 October 2011

After dithering for months, the Union cabinet has approved the recommendations of the G.R. Majithia wage board for journalists and other employees of newspapers and news agencies, subject to the final order of the Supreme Court which is hearing petitions from at least three media houses.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS), which had steadfastly opposed the recommendations, has slammed the government’s move.

Below is the full text of the INS press release.

NEW DELHI: Ashish Bagga, president, the Indian Newspaper Society, has expressed grave apprehension that the decision of the Union Cabinet on the eve of Diwali to accept the recommendations of the Majithia wage boards may lead to the closure of a majority of small and medium newspaper publications across the country as the proposed wage hikes are very high and beyond the capacity of the industry.

He cautioned that even large publications would find it difficult to implement these steep wage hikes.

It is indeed unfortunate that the INS’ request for re-examination of the flawed and one- sided report has not been considered by the Government. A number of petitions challenging the Working Journalist and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1955 and the Majithia Wage Boards recommendations are before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and the decision of the Government would be subject to the final order of the Supreme Court. After the recommendations are published, these petitions may be amended if required, he added.

Bagga said that the Fourth Estate of our vibrant democracy is under threat of losing its well-nurtured fabric of plurality of ownership and the situation created by the Government’s decision will throw up a clear and imminent possibility of consolidating media power in the hands of a few. This coupled with the danger of large scale retrenchments as a consequence of possible closure of a large number of newspaper establishments throughout the country not only pose a great threat to the Fourth Estate but could also lead to colossal job losses in a job-scarce country such as ours.

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

15 June 2011

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The proprietors, promoters and publishers of India’s newspapers and magazines haven’t had a word to say on some of the biggest issues confronting Indian media—and directly impacting the trust and faith of the reader—in recent years.

Paid news, in which advertisements are couched as news? Silence.

Private treaties, in which vested interest is touted as ads? Silence.

Medianet, in which anybody can buy his or her way into the paper? Silence.

Cross-media ownership, which results in monopolies shutting out choice? Silence.

Dubious ownership, in which crooks, criminals and the corrupt become media barons—and underwrite major industry conventions? Silence.

Predatory pricing, which strangles small newspapers? Silence.

Dumping of copies to pump up circulation numbers? Silence.

Complicity of journalists with lobbyists? Silence.

The killing of journalists in the line of duty? Silence.

But the big guns of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS)—which represents 1.017 small, medium and large members—have suddenly sprung into life as one in slamming the recommendations of the G.R. Majithia wage board with the undisguised intent of blocking its implementation.

In just the first 15 days of this month, The Times of India has published four articles on the subject:

# June 2: The paper’s CEO Ravindra Dhariwal weighs in on the subject in an edit-page piece titled “Muzzling the Media

# June 4: “Wage board proposal will force many newspapers to shut down: INS

# June 6: “Wage boards challenged in Supreme Court” on the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group filing a petition in the Supreme Court

# June 9: INS president Kundan R. Vyas authors another editor-page piece titled “Future of Press at stake?

And now, ToI and The Economic Times have published an INS advertisement on its pages, essentially encapsulating the key points wage board opponents have been making for years.

For good measure, Ashish Bagga, the CEO of the India Today group and a prominent functionary on INS, has written an opinion piece titled “How to kill the print media” in the latest issue of the magazine, and Hindustan Times has a report titled, “Wage board outdated: experts“.

The theme of all the pieces is the same: 1) The newspaper industry is the only industry in the country to have a statutory wage board; even other sectors of the media, like TV, radio, internet don’t. 2) The wage hike recommended takes salaries of non-journalistic staff way beyond what the government itself pays its staff. 3) The wage board recommendations could end becoming a convenient tool for the government to turn the screws on inconvenient newspapers and agencies.

All fair points, no doubt, when viewed purely through the prism of the bottomline. But it is not so much the loyalty of journalists that INS is bothered about in opposing the wage board recommendations (most in the big newspapers are now on contract) but the disloyalty of non-journalists in not falling in line.

Easy hire-and-fire policies may yet be a legitimate objective to follow for proprietors, promoters and publishers to achieve efficiency, but where is the INS when other questions of importance confront journalists and journalism, many of which affect the small players in whose name they are fighting the battle against the Majithia board?

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

External reading: Wageboard for journalists

An Aroon Purie tribute worthy of emulation

24 September 2010

Farewell speeches and circulars in Indian media houses—where good HR practises are somewhere between 18th and 19th century—are usually grim, graceless, god-awful affairs.

The moment the exit sign lights up over an employee’s head, the good times are over: bosses suddenly bare their fangs, colleagues start hissing amongst themselves, and management chamchas slither around suspiciously.

Take a bow, Aroon Purie.

The India Today bossman has penned a touching farewell note for his Bombay bulwark, Mohini Bhullar (in picture), whose exit from the group was announced on Wednesday vide an email.

Below is the full text of Purie’s syanora laden with grace, goodness, gratitude—and civility—something that pumped-up managers and accountants would do well to ctrl-x and ctrl-v.

***

“Please join me in making this announcement very special.

“Because, it’s about a very special person.

“Because, it’s perhaps the most important and emotional formal announcements I have ever made in my life, and one I thought I would never make. It’s about someone who stood by my side for nearly a lifetime, and helped me steer the company from its inception to the enviable position it occupies today. It’s about someone who’s an integral part of the India Today group – and my professional life.

“Mohini has decided to move on from the India Today group effective September 30, 2010, after a glorious innings spanning over 40 years. She came on board with our group company Thomson Press as part of the sales team and was the first to establish a beachhead sales office in Bombay for Thomson Press. When we entered publishing, this became the very critical ad sales office for LMI [Living Media India] which she headed. The rest, as they say, is history. What a journey it has been!

“Mohini’s unflinching zeal, conviction and never-say-die attitude are some of the personal traits that have made her an indispensable part of the company. I can say this without any hesitation that the success we enjoy today is primarily because of her contribution and her enormous dedication.

“There was one common thread that kept her going in her entire career with the India Today Group, be it as editor of Bombay magazine, as publishing director of ITMB, as marketing director of the entire company, or for that matter, as the executive director in charge of the events SBU. It was her indomitable will, energy and her total professionalism. She is revered as the ‘Mother Queen’ of Indian print media by advertisers, agencies and the media alike – a fitting tribute to her competence and accomplishments. She has handled all her diverse and challenging roles with her usual aplomb.

“Now at the golden age of 77, Mohini is still very young in every which way. She still takes early morning flights, climbs up 3 flights of stairs at our F14 office in Connaught Place, probably faster than most of us, parties till late, shares the latest jokes with the young trainees who work with her and even supervises the event set-up for the IT Conclave at 1 am! And I also know for sure that she responds to calls, emails and text messages within a few seconds. Truly amazing!

“When I was running Thomson Press, and we were trying to figure out how to create our own work for the press, we came up with the idea of creating our own children books. Not finding any willing authors, she and I even wrote children books. We had great fun together. That’s the way it has been ever since.

“She brought to India from the Thomson UK the rights (for free of course) to publish a medical journal called the Journal of Applied Medicine, and that small publication was our first foray into magazine publishing and a precursor to India Today and all that followed.

“Mohini has single-handedly helped to build the brand India Today, while leaving me and the founding edit team to concentrate on the various editorial challenges when we launched India Today in 1975. Thanks to her, I didn’t, and still don’t have to make a single sales call to any company or ad agency. She completely insulated the editorial team from the commercial pressures advertisers are prone to exerting and established the abiding cornerstone of the company of uncompromising editorial integrity.

“Mohini has inspired the key younger generation of leaders in the Group. Our CEO, Ashish Bagga, tells me that his first interview as management trainee was with Mohini in Bombay in 1983, at her office in Jolly Maker Chambers. Malcolm Mistry, publishing director, was Mohini’s understudy for over 6 years and was handpicked by her. Most of the advertising and media professionals in India have at some point in time worked or interacted with Mohini. She has represented the Company on the INS, ABC, NRS, ASCI, MRUC, AIM and many other premier industry bodies.

“But alas, I guess, all good things have to come to an end. Mohini has decided to move on and I on behalf of the entire 5000 employees of ITG, comprising TP, LMI, TVTN, IDIL, MT, ITAS, Bagit, HCI and all the ones that are currently being incubated, wish her an amazing and successful journey ahead. A journey full of good health, happiness, prosperity and satisfaction.

“It is my good fortune to have found a wonderful colleague like Mohini so early in my working life and I am filled with sadness that our ‘lucky shining star’ will be leaving us. But I know for sure that she will continue to cast her lucky charm on us and guide us to even better and happier times.

“We will all really miss Mohini. No words are sufficient to thank her for her contribution to the Group. We will continue to reap the benefits of that for the years to come.

“Please do join me in wishing Mohini the very best in all her future pursuits and to radiate happiness to all around her with her ever so charming smile and demeanor.”

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