Posts Tagged ‘Forbes India’

The 10 bravehearts who stood up for Charu

3 July 2013
Mugs

Top row: Indrajit Gupta, Gurbir Singh, Charles Assisi;
Middle: Prince Mathews Thomas, Dinesh Krishnan, Cuckoo Paul;
Bottom row: T. Surendar, Debojyoti Chatterjee, Dinesh Narayanan

Other than when engineering pathetic palace coups or other execrable exercises, much of modern Indian journalism (and indeed corporate life), is increasingly about I, me, myself.

Journalists, otherwise flatulently pontificating on what’s wrong, are willing to stomach the gravest injustices under their cavernous noses as long as their positions, pay packets and other perks are safe.

How heart-warming, therefore, that a bunch of eight journalists (and two business executives) should have bucked the trend and chosen to fearlessly speak truth to power, in their individual capacities, on Charudatta Deshpande, the journalist turned corporate communications manager, who committed suicide in Bombay on Friday, 28 June.

Instead of pretending it wasn’t their business, instead of worrying about what their present and future bosses (and managers) might think of them, instead of worrying about how their lives and careers might be impacted, these fine journalists and executives put their hand up on behalf of a deceased friend and ex-colleague, wrote to the Tata bosses, and initiated a probe that, hopefully, will bring some justice to the family.

These, then, are the nine:

Top row (left to right), Indrajit Gupta, former editor, Forbes India; Gurbir Singh, senior associate editor, Businessworld, and president, press club of Bombay; Charles Assisi, former managing editor, Forbes India.

Middle row (l to r): Prince Mathews Thomas, senior assistant editor, Forbes India; Dinesh Krishnan, former director photography, Forbes India; Cuckoo Paul, senior associate editor,

Bottom row (l to r): Forbes India. T. Surendar, deputy editor, Fortune India; Debojyoti Chatterjee, corporate communications manager, Larsen & Toubro; and Dinesh Narayanan, senior editor, Forbes India.

ramkumarNow is also a good time to doff the hat to Krish Ram Kumar, the ICICI executive director, who too chose not to exercise his right to silence and instead wrote to the Tatas in his individual capacity, flagging many of the concerns raised by the nine.

Time, also, for the rest of us to remember Martin Neimoller‘s famous line:

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

Also read: Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

Tatas deny they tried to sully name of Charudatta Deshpande

External reading: Remembering Charudatta Deshpande

Tatas deny they tried to sully Charu’s name

3 July 2013

Tata Sons and Tata Steel have swung into damage control mode following the extensive media reporting of the murky circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of Charudatta Deshpande, the journalist turned corporate communications head of Tata Steel, on Friday, 29 June 2013.

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Charudatta Deshpande (second from left), with his wife and children, in happier times (via FB)

Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry has reacted to the impassioned letter addressed to him and his predecessor Ratan Tata by nine friends and colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande.

In a letter to former Forbes India editor, Indrajit Gupta, one of the nine signatories to the letter who has offered to testify before an investigation committee, Mistry writes:

“Thank you for your communication of June 30th. I am deeply shocked at the sudden passing of Charudatta Deshpande. He was not formally with us at the time of his demise. But he was one of us in ways that go beyond the niceties of employment.

“We mourn for him and, at this time, our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

“You have referred in your letter to allegations about how he was treated in the last few weeks before his end. We take these allegations with the utmost seriousness. We have put in place an appropriate mechanism to look into these and take necessary action.

“Let me assure you the Tata group does not and will not condone any action of the kind insinuated in your letter.

“Thank you once again for getting in touch with us.

“With regards,

Cyrus Mistry

***

The Tata group has formed a four-member panel to investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of Charudatta Deshpande.

A press release issued jointly by Tata Sons and Tata Steel reads:

“Yesterday, Dr Mukund Rajan, the chief ethics officer of the Tata group, stated that the allegations relating to the demise of Charudatta Deshpande had been taken most seriously by the group and an appropriate process would be established to ascertain the facts.

“Accordingly, a committee chaired by Ishaat Hussain, non-executive director of Tata Steel, and including Mukund Rajan, N.S. Rajan, the group’s chief human resource officer and Bharat Vasani, the group general counsel, has been constituted to ascertain the facts.

“The committee has been mandated to convey its findings direct to the Board of Tata Steel within the next two months.”

***

Earlier in the day, the Tatas also denied the insinuation contained in two letters that the Tatas had sought to “sully” Charudatta Deshpande’s name after his death:

“No Tata company would condone or authorize any action or behaviour as reported in sections of the media. As confirmed yesterday, we will establish an appropriate process to ascertain the facts and take action accordingly.

“We are shocked and distressed by his passing. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

“We also categorically deny any action by the company concerned and/ or its partners to sully the name of the deceased.”

***

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Tata Steel and suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

2 July 2013

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The circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of journalist-turned-corporate communications expert Charudatta Deshpande in Bombay last weekend, has exposed the dark underbelly of one of India’s biggest corporates, and the stress, pressure and threats that hacks face when silence is no longer a conscionable option.

Deshpande, 57, had resigned in April as chief of corporate affairs and communications at Tata Steel, having held that job for a little less than a year; he was due to join the PR firm Ad Factors on July 1. He had previously served as general manager, ICICI Bank, and prior to that as senior general manager of Mahindra & Mahindra.

As a journalist, Deshpande had worked at The Daily, The Indian Express, The Economic Times, Business India TV, and the Business and Political Observer.

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A group of nine friends and colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande (including the president of the Press Club of Bombay) has written to Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and his predecessor Ratan Tata, urging them to institute a proper inquiry into the death.

In their letter, written in their individual capacities, Charu’s friends claim:

# Charu was being bullied into signing some documents/ bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

# Charu was being blamed for “facilitating” a story (in picture, above) in Forbes India and was under enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

# Charu was was under “house arrest” in Jamshedpur and that his cell phones were being tapped.

# Charu was being called and threatened by an unnamed mafia.

***

In his individual capacity, ICICI executive director Ram Kumar, a well known figure in HR circles, has also written to the Tatas on the “disgraceful” manner in which Deshpande’s services had been terminated, and the “untold pressure and threat at Jamshedpur” in the weeks preceding his death.

The Economic Times reports:

“Ramkumar’s letter, referring to the claims of the people who met Deshpande in the four weeks preceding his death, alleges that he was “confined” for over two weeks at Jamshedpur.”

Amazingly, or perhaps not, nobody from the House of Tatas, who routinely clamber on to the high moral horse, called on Deshpande’s family for three days after the alleged suicide and Ramkumar has alleged in his letter that a PR firm tried to “sully” Deshpande’s name after the death.

On the other hand, ICICI Bank, where Deshpande had worked earlier, has facilitated a job for his son Gaurav, who graduates in two weeks’ time.

***

Below is the full text of the letter sent by nine friends of Charudatta Deshpande to Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata and Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, on 30 June 2013:

Dear Mr Tata and Mr Mistry,

We write to you as the collective conscience of a group of friends and former colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande, a former Tata Steel employee, who committed suicide on Friday, June 28, 2013.

From whatever evidence we have gathered until now on the back of conversations with Charudatta in the weeks leading to his demise, and with those who knew him closely, Charu was placed under enormous stress and subjected to harassment by officials at Tata Steel.

Our understanding is it was this harassment that prompted him to commit suicide. This letter is an attempt to bring this episode to your attention and seek your intervention into instituting an urgent and independent inquiry into the matter.

Charu was head of corporate communications at Tata Steel. About a month ago, he resigned from the company. The events leading to his exit are relevant and we would like to place them before you for your consideration.

In April, a few months into his new assignment, Forbes India magazine ran a cover story “Remoulding Tata Steel”. The story is online here on http://forbesindia.com/article/boardroom/putting-the-shine-back-into-tata-steel/35049/0.

It attempted to chronicle the challenges facing Tata Steel at a time when a crucial CEO succession drama was unfolding.

The story was based on extensive and independent reporting that lasted more than five months. Soon after it appeared in print though, a distraught Charu got in touch with those of us at Forbes India and alleged officials at Tata Steel were placing the blame on him for “facilitating” a story they thought inimical to their interests.

He added he was subsequently grounded for more than two weeks; that for all practical purposes was “under house arrest” in Jamshedpur; that his phones were being tapped; and that he was being subjected to enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

Many of us have worked in the past at various newsrooms including at the Economic Times where he was a senior editor. We have also known him professionally in his stints as head of corporate communications at organisations such as ICICI Bank, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Steel.

We remember him as a thorough professional who placed a premium on the interests of the organizations he worked for. Each one of us can personally vouch that in his interactions with us, he has never behaved irresponsibly or tried to damage the reputation of the firms he represented.

Those of us who were at Forbes India when the story on Tata Steel was being researched are willing to testify on any forum that matters he conducted himself with integrity and responsibility.

What we also know of the events that preceded his death are outlined below.

1. He was in discussions with officials at Adfactors PR, with whom he was negotiating employment prospects. He told them he was being called and threatened repeatedly by a ‘mafia’ – a term he used constantly; and that his cell phone was being tapped.

2. He had informed a friend that he was being bullied into signing some documents/bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

3. Immediately after the story appeared, he was in constant touch over the phone with Indrajit Gupta, the founding editor of Forbes India. He confided in Indrajit Gupta and spoke of being confined for over two weeks at Jamshedpur, being harassed after the story appeared in the magazine, was not allowed to travel without permission, and articulated his concerns about his cell phone being tapped. Despite being advised to escalate the matter to higher authorities, including the Tata Headquarters at Bombay House, Charu insisted it would be futile and make things worse for him.

Whatever be the circumstances behind his exit, most of us assumed he would put the setback behind him and move on. However, he alleged the threatening phone calls he got even after exiting he company was causing him a lot of stress.

What transpired after Charu passed away was even more despicable. Even as the news of his demise trickled in on Friday evening, there were concerted attempts made by Tata Steel officials and the PR agency to pass off his death as a heart attack, and not a suicide.

A senior PR official even insisted that he had visited Charu’s residence and confirmed the news of the heart attack, which turned out to be untrue. Some regional papers even hinted he had embezzled funds.

We believe this is an attempt to tarnish the reputation of a senior professional and take the focus away from the root cause behind his untimely death.

Discussions with Charu’s family have revealed he had no personal problems or disputes there. His brother-in-law Mahesh said Charu was extremely disturbed and depressed in the month before he finally quit Tata Steel. Mahesh also spoke of Charu confiding in the family he made a serious mistake in joining Tata Steel.

These apart, he also spoke of having been let down by the company on various counts and not being provided manpower and resources he was promised when he joined.

The Tata group has nurtured a long tradition of practising and upholding the highest standards of ethics and probity in public life. Nothing that we now do can redeem what has happened. But for the sake of justice, we would urge you to institute an inquiry into this matter.

If nothing, it will help bring closure to a traumatic episode for Charu’s family and his circle of friends. Equally importantly, an inquiry of this kind will go a long way to ensure episodes of this kind don’t occur again.

The all of us who have signed on this note would be willing to aid any inquiry process you choose to institute by providing evidence and witnesses with whom Charu had spoken to before his demise.

We trust the both of you will do what is right.

In anticipation,

On behalf of

Indrajit Gupta, Gurbir Singh, Charles Assisi, Prince Mathews Thomas, Dinesh Krishnan, Cuckoo Paul, T. Surendar, Debojyoti Chatterjee, Dinesh Narayanan

***

Photograph: via Facebook

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Also read: Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia‘s services

What Niira Radia told PAC on Barkha Dutt chat

Four lessons in journalism from the Tatas’ chief PRO

Tamil journalist’s house raided in 2G spectrum scam

Nakkheeran journo denies wife worked for Radia firm

2G scam bribe was diverted to Tamil TV channel

Has media credibility suffered a body blow in 2G scam?

The journalist who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe?

Steve Forbes named in Forbes India legal notice

28 June 2013
ig_dk_charles_shishir1

Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

Three of the four Forbes India editors, who were forced out of the fortnightly business magazine allegedly for demanding that the promoters fulfill their contractual commitments on employee stock options (ESOPs), have shot off legal notices to Network 18 and Forbes Media, demanding immediate reinstatement and settlement of dues and damages for loss of livelihood, reputation and mental harassment.

Steve Forbes, the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media, and William Adamopoulos, CEO Asia of Forbes Media, have been named among the eight respondents, since Forbes India is a title licensed by the American parent organisation, Forbes.

The others named in the legal notice are Network 18 chief operating officer Ajay Chacko, editor-in-chief web and publishing R. Jagannathan, group HR director Shampa Kochhar, group general counsel Kshipra Jatana, and group CEO B. Sai Kumar.

Interestingly, neither Raghav Bahl, the controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18, nor Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, whose name was drawn into the controversy by the Bombay Press Club, have been named in the June 18 legal notice.

(Update: The managing director of Digital 18 Media is the chief recipient of the legal notice, which at this current time happens to be Raghav Bahl.)

The “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, was slammed by the Editors Guild of India as a move that cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

While the first three have sent the legal notices, the fourth has chosen not to contest the case.

The notices are seen as the first step before a full-blown court case which would test human resource practices at one of India’s largest media organisations.

The silence of the Press Council of India, created to preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country, has been defeaning, given the demonstrated propensity of its chairman Justice Markandey Katju to intervene in public debates.

Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Forbes purge is a freedom issue: Editors’ Guild

External reading: Forbes will stick to its DNA: R. Jagannathan

Forbes purge is a ‘freedom’ issue: Editors Guild

10 June 2013

20130610-104004 PM.jpg

The editors guild of India has reacted to the “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of his colleagues Charles Assisi, Shishir Prasad and Dinesh Krishnan.

The guild has termed Network 18′s summary decision as lacking in “elementary courtesy” and that it cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

Below is the full text of the statement issued by guild president N. Ravi, former editor of The Hindu:

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“The editors guild of India is deeply concerned over the abrupt termination of four senior editorial team members of Forbes India including its editor Indrajit Gupta, managing editor Charles Assisi, executive editor Shishir Prasad, and director photography Dinesh Krishnan.

“The four senior journalists had worked with the magazine since its inception as part of the launch team, and their sudden removal without reasonable notice and even elementary courtesy cuts at the very root of editorial independence. (emphasis added)

“Basic security and protection from arbitrary action are essential if senior journalists are to go about their task with courage and fairness.

“Whether their termination is a reaction to their insistence on exercising their contractual rights to employee stock options (ESOPS) or is the result of an overall restructuring exercise undertaken by the company is a question to be settled in another forum, and preferably by way of negotiations leading to an agreed solution.

“Considering that senior journalists are involved in this dispute with a media house, the guild would reiterate at this stage that it is essential that all contracts should be honoured.”

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Photograph: Network 18 boss Raghav Bahl (courtesy Forbes)

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Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Bombay Press Club blasts ‘Forbes India’ purge

8 June 2013

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The Press Club of Bombay has reacted to the “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of his colleagues Charles Assisi, Shishir Prasad and Dinesh Krishnan by the magazine’s India franchisee, Network 18.

The Club has termed the manner of the dismissals of the four journalists “nothing short of shameful”, and curiously , or perhaps not, drawn Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani into the debate.

The following is the full text of the resolution passed by office-bearers of the Club on Saturday.

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“On Monday, May 27 and Tuesday May 28, four of the senior-most editors of Forbes India – editor Indrajit Gupta, Managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan and executive editor Shishir Prasad – were summarily dismissed from service either by unilateral termination or through resignations extracted by bullying and threats.

“We understand the immediate dispute was over payment of ESOPs that had matured and were due to them, but the HR and business teams thought otherwise.

The method of ejecting them from the company was nothing short of shameful. (emphasis added)

“Journalists are not only messengers of news and information, but are the collective voice of civil society. They have a special place in our democratic polity, especially in the current times of stress and confusion. Surely, this team of editors which has served Forbes India since 2008 deserved better.

“We don’t rule out changes in business plan the Forbes India management may have wanted to make; but there is the way of discourse and negotiation.

Editors with 15-25 years of experience cannot be forced out with a gun on their head.

The episode has shocked journalists throughout the country and shown the Network18 Group in bad light.

“We will be writing to [Reliance Industries chief] Mukesh Ambani, who has a special position of influence in the media group, as well as to the Network18 Group’s MD Raghav Bahl, to appeal to them to reverse this decision and to enter into discussion with the editors so that an amicable solution is found.”

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Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

How the ‘Forbes India’ editors were forced out

6 June 2013
IG_DK_Charles_Shishir

Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The abrupt exit last week of the top four editorial heads of the business magazine Forbes India, including of its editor Indrajit Gupta, has swung the spotlight once again on the questionable—but rarely ever questioned—human resources (HR) policies and practices in Indian media houses.

In this case, one of India’s biggest: Network 18.

On the face of it, the “termination” of services of Indrajit Gupta, and the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, might seem like a small matter—even an “internal” issue—in a company whose 2012 assets were valued at Rs 2,400 crore.

In fact, Network 18′s chief operating officer Ajay Chacko sought to paint the exits as a routine matter; almost a natural consequence of the ongoing “restructuring” in the company after First Post editor R. Jagannathan‘s leadership role was expanded in March to also overlook the print publications in the stable such as Forbes India.

“There were always going to be some redundancies after ‘Jaggi’ took over [as editor-in-chief],” Chacko told Media Nama, after reports of the sudden exits emerged, suggesting that in a converged newsroom, the presence of the four was not required.

However, a closer examination of L’affaire Forbes India, based on multiple off-the-record conversations, reveals the brazen manner in which giant Indian media companies, whose promoters flatulently pontificate on how India must be run, conduct themselves and play around with the lives of their employees and their families.

More importantly, the exits throw not-so-kind light on the pulls and pressures Indian newsrooms are facing due to growing financial pressures; how global brands which franchise their titles are dealt with by their Indian partners; and how the high-stakes game of “valuations” is getting shaped in the digital age.

Above all, that all this should have happened in a business magazine belonging to a company with two business TV channels (CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz), which is part-owned by India’s most powerful business house, Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries Limited, provides no small irony.

And that there is so much silence all around from the media fraternity tells its own story.

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forbes-india

The launch issue of Forbes India, 2009

Insiders at Forbes India, which was launched within four days of the UPA return to power in 2009, say there was little indication of the impending exits of M/s Gupta & Co till as recently as even a fortnight ago.

When the magazine came out with a special double issue to mark its fourth anniversary recently, SMSes and e-mails congratulating each other were being happily exchanged between the editorial and business sides.

But plenty was afoot in the boardroom of Network 18′s Matunga office in central Bombay, where Forbes India staff were now sharing the floor with their First Post colleagues, in the first baby steps towards “integration”—the creation of a combined newsroom where the website’s and magazine’s staffers would happily cohabit under editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan, “Jaggi” as he is known to friends and colleagues.

Indrajit Gupta, Charles Assisi, Dinesh Krishnan and Shishir Prasad, all key founding-members of Forbes India’s launch team, were involved in conversations with the HR side of the company, reminding them on the Employee Stock Options (ESOPs) which they had apparently been promised five years ago when they were being induced to come on board.

The quantum of the combined ESOPs is not known.

Forbes India insiders say it is about Rs 2 crore in all, split between the four; others at Network 18 say it could be a little higher but not exceeding Rs 5 crore. However, unlike in listed companies, Network 18 underwrote the value of the ESOPs. Meaning: it assured the four Forbes India staffers that it would pay the promised money at the end of four years.

Network 18 sources say about a month and a half back, the four Forbes India staffers began the process of cashing out their ESOPs, first informally, then officially.

On Friday, May 24, when they met formally with the company’s HR, they were told to forego their old ESOP scheme and presented with a new ESOP scheme.

They were given a 48-hour deadline to sign up.

However, on Monday, May 27, the HR head Shampa Kochhar, in the presence of Jagannathan, is said to have served editor Indrajit Gupta a fait accompli: resign on the spot by signing a letter that absolved the company of all claims on the five-year-old ESOPs and take a severance cheque. Or have your services terminated.

Indrajit Gupta is believed to have opted for the latter course.

The experience of the other three was no different.

They, too, were told to relinquish the old ESOP plan and presented with a new ESOP plan. And they, too, were told that they must resign on the spot or face termination with no benefits.

Unlike Gupta, Assisi, Krishnan and Prasad resigned.

(A fifth ESOP recipient, online director Deepak Ajwani, however acquiesced.)

***

msg

When news of the exits trickled out on Thursday, May 30, it was clear that the dirty tricks department was already at work.

Forbes editors were negotiating with a PE (private equity) fund to take over the magazine once Network 18′s franchise with Forbes expires next year. Network 18 found out and asked these editors to quit,” read one SMS this reporter has seen.

In truth, though, Network 18′s end-goal of integrating the Forbes India newsroom with the First Post newsroom seems to have been the trigger which sparked the implosion—and the ESOP scheme seems to have come in handy to force the exits.

The less charitable view within Network 18 is that the “old school” Gang of Four sought to cash out their ESOPs because of their reservations over the “integration” plan and that they were always hoping to go out this way and end up as martyrs in the eyes of the world.

# From the Forbes India perspective, integration meant its reporters reacting to breaking business news and writing for First Post, perhaps vice-versa too. It also meant getting used to having an editor-in-chief (Jagannathan) besides the editor (Indrajit Gupta).

# From the First Post perspective, integration meant the domain expertise of an established brand like Forbes India in business stories. It meant access to sources and subjects. It also meant credibility.

# From Network 18 group’s perspective, it meant a larger workforce to feed the “bottomless monster” that is the worldwide web, at no extra cost.

Initially it looked like a win-win, and the indication was that Jagannathan and Gupta were on the same page.

The two had worked together at Business Standard and at a review meeting in April, the former is reported to have said that he would make way for the Forbes India team to run the show after a few months.

Network 18 sources say initially Gupta & Co were not seen as a “hindrance” to the integration, although at least two of the four were allegedly told in their “exit” meetings with HR that they were seen as such and that they would be “redundant” in the converged newsroom.

Since a couple of crores could not have been the problem for either Network 18 or RIL, the key problem area could perhaps have been “mindset”.

The orbits of the two organisations—and their means, methods, motives and motivations—are signficantly different.

Like its US parent, Forbes India occupies the leisurely and rarefied world of a fortnightly. Stories are deeply, immersively researched. Stories are slow-cooked from a week up to a month or more, before being written and re-written and re-re-written by editors.

On the other hand, First Post is all speed and on-the-spur. Provocation is its middle name. And, despite coming from a massive group backed by a giant business house, much of its output is cheaply spun and rehashed by arm-chair pundits with an “angle” and “attitude”.

More importantly, the political impulses of the two organisations were diametrically different.

Although Forbes prides itself as the “capitalist tool” in America, Forbes India had a slight liberal streak. First Post, on the other hand, like Network 18 founder Raghav Bahl, unabashedly tilts to the right. (Bahl recently said in the presence of Narendra Modi that India’s predominant political impulse was “right”.)

In the end, a low-cost solution seems to have been found to a potentially head-on editorial—and ideological—collision between the online and offline organisations, but at what cost?

Regardless of what prompted the exits, will Forbes, which licensed its title to Bahl’s Network 18 for six years, be told why the top four names on the masthead will be suddenly missing from the next issue?

Will its readers be told?

***

At the end of the day, though, the issue is one of signals.

By securing the exit of senior editors in this fashion, by showing how dispensable even an Editor is, the signal has gone down the line, to fall in line. Or else.

And by making ESOPs such an elastic matter, other ESOP holders in different companies of Network 18 have been sent the signal that they too can take nothing for granted.

But…

# What signal does the viewer receive at 9 am every week day, when Udayan Mukherjee and Mitali Mukherjee start grandly quizzing TCS, Infosys or Wipro managers on ESOPs?

# What signal do editors across the country receive when the Press Council, Editors’ Guild and other bodies remain silent when media corporations treat employees and their lives with such abandon?

# What signal do media houses send of their concern for a free, fair and responsible press if HR staff behave in an irresponsible manner and attack professional, independent minded journalists?

# What signal does a global brand like Forbes, or other foreign media houses, receive of the seriousness of their Indian partners to play by the book and observe the rules?

# And finally what signal does Mukesh Ambani’s RIL, which is now in the media in a big way, send of the seriousness of corporates to preserve the core values of the media?

Also read: What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

Fortune India and Forbes India in numbers

27 September 2010

Much anticipated and much delayed, Fortune, the business magazine from the Time Inc stable, has finally made its India debut, in collaboration with Aveek Sarkar‘s Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) group, 16 months after the launch of the Indian edition of Forbes in collaboration with Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 group.

# Forbes India periodicity: fortnightly

Fortune India periodicity: monthly

# Forbes launch cover price: Rs 50 (raised to Rs 100)

Fortune launch cover price: Rs 100

# Forbes inaugural subscription price: Rs 950 (26 issues)

Fortune inaugural subscription price: Rs 800 (12 issues)

# Total pages in Forbes launch issue: 122

Total pages in Fortune launch issue: 192

# No. of names in Forbes launch issue masthead: 43

No. of names in Fortune launch issue masthead: 20

# No. of articles in Forbes launch issue: 30 (+ regulars)

No. of articles in Fortune launch issue: 25 (+ regulars)

# No. of ads in Forbes launch issue: 25

No. of ads in Fortune launch issue: 61

# No. of gatefold ads in Forbes launch issue: 0

No. of gatefold ads in Fortune launch issue: 2

# Forbes India: launched by Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief, Forbes

Fortune India: launched by B. Muthuraman of Tata Steel and Ravi Kant of Tata Motors

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# Forbes launch issue cover story: Lakshmi Mittal

Fortune launch issue cover story: India Inc’s international workforce

# Firang gyan in Forbes launch issue: Steve Forbes

Firang gyan in Fortune launch issue: Andy Serwer, managing editor, Fortune

# India peg in Forbes launch issue: Lakshmi Mittal, Vijay Mallya (UB), Tulsi Tanti (Suzlon)

India peg in Fortune launch issue: Jawaharlal Nehru article from 1942 Forbes, Naresh Trehan (Medanta), Pramit Jhaveri (Citibank India CEO)

# Forbes India shit-I-didn’t-know-that story: Suzlon’s wind energy plans become a nightmare, debts and losses are Mallya’s new companions

Fortune India shit-I-didn’t-kn0w-that story: Bill Gates‘ favourite teacher’s father was born in Bengal, Wal-Mart will soon have $500 billion in sales

# Forbes India Freudian slip: “Indians can’t work, Chinese can’t think”

Fortune India Freudian slip: Will Brazil overtake India?

# Forbes India editorial mission statement: “We will strive to convince you of a point of view with hard evidence, logic and clear reasoning. But at the same time, we will have an attitude, an edge, and strive to be conversaional like someone on a bar stool telling you a story. We’ll also be fun to read. Companies may be a shade dull—but their managers almost never are. That’s why we will tell our stories through people… It’s not just words alone. Our design—images, graphics, and illustrations—will work in tandem with our stories to create a contemporary business magazine.” (Indrajit Gupta, editor)

Fortune India editorial mission statement: “As we bring you the stories that matter from around the world, through meticulous reporage, deftly edited to ensure an effortless read, lavish pictures, and sophisticated design, we’ll always endeavour to make the magazine enjoyable. Indeed, to make you partners in the greatest journalistic assignment in history.” (D.N. Mukerjea, editor)

Does a free newspaper stand a chance in India?

15 September 2010

Per Mikael Jensen, president and CEO of Metro International, the Swedish company behind the world’s largest free newspaper Metro, on his India plans, in the latest issue of Forbes India:

# We’ve been looking at India for the last five years. It would have to be a joint venture or a franchise. FDI allows us to own 26% of the operation and we have increased our efforts towards exploring the opportunity through our India representative, Husain Quettawalla.

# In Latin America, we are in four countries. The two most recent launches in Mexico and Brazil have done extremely well and have become profitable in less than two years, which is very good performance. When we look at the Indian market, we see some similarities. We are not likely to need a giant market share to become profitable.

# Where we stand out is that we are so focussed on our target audience—the young urban audience between the ages of 20 and 40. When I look at Indian readership figures for Indian newspapers, like The Times of India for example, I’m not scared to death with their readership to be honest.

# The main time we target our audience is during the morning when they have 15 to 20 mintues to read our paper. This is when people are entering the metro trains or are waiting for the trains. We distribute at university campuses, high schools and waiting rooms at hospitals—everywhere people have 20 minutes they could use in reading the newspaper. But in India, given that our target audience doesn’t really travel by the trains, we won’t be focussing on the public transport system. So the model will focus on distribution at traffic lights or even targetting people when they get out of movie theatres.

But in a country where most English dailies are sold at rock-bottom prices, does a freesheet stand a chance?

Read the full interview: ‘I’m not worried about ToI‘s readership’

Sorry, brother, we got a few million $$$ wrong

1 August 2009

ambani

The battle between Dhirubhai Ambani‘s children—Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, and children they truly are—also has a small but remarkable media subtext.

Both “camps” scour through news reports with a fine toothcomb, and both “camps” are not unknown to plant a few saplings in fertile newspapers and magazines to score points.

This clarification appears in the Delhi edition of the Indian Express on August 1 for the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Infrastructure, which used to be Reliance Energy just a few months ago, which used to be BSES just a few years ago.

***

The Indian edition of Forbes, the capitalist tool now in formerly socialist India, courtesy Network 18, runs a gossip column on its last page titled “Insnider”, yes “Insnider”, “because fat cats tend to have soft underbellies”

In its July 3 edition, the third issue of the magazine, Forbes India was forced to carry this “apology” for rubbing “fat cat” Mukesh Ambani’s underbelly on the wrong side, along with those of his “fat kittens”.

“In our issue dated June 19, 2009 under the heading Self-Reliance, we published a snippet stating that Isha and Akash, children of Mukesh Ambani, would be accompanied by a mini-entourage of three servants when they proceed to Yale for their undergraduate studies. The same piece went on to state and imply that Isha and Akash had not been admitted on merit but that Mukesh Ambani had, by improper means and use of his influence, secure their admission to Yale.

“We had published the report based on information that we had believed to be reliable.

“We have, however, subsequently ascertained and now recognise that there was no foundation to these allegations and we sincererely regret that they were ever made. We are happy to take the earliest opportunity of correcting our error and expressing to Mukesh Ambani and his children Isha and Akash our regret and embarrassment caused to them by publishing the original snippet.

“Similarly we also regret any references that were made to Yale University and its officials in the original snippet.”

Also read: Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

How media hyped up the Reliance Power IPO

Anil sues Mukesh for New York Times profile

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