Posts Tagged ‘K.K. Birla’

The media Marwari who’s a ‘proper Tam-Brahm’

8 March 2014

goenka

After a long period away from the arclights, Viveck Goenka, the scion of one of India’s most influential newspapers, The Indian Express, is slowly bouncing into the main frame.

He is now playing an increasingly hand’s-on role at his own paper, making key decisions; is seen at media events, is making his presence felt on industry bodies—and is starting to give interviews.

In his first formal powwow in 20 years, in a special issue on Marwaris in the business magazine Forbes India, the chairman of the Express group, talks fondly of his grandfather, the late Ramnath Goenka, and even poses with his son Anant Goenka in a photograph (above) in the paper’s presses.

Viveck Goenka tells Forbes India:

# “Ramnathji taught us never to compromise on editorial values and freedom… to be fearless and not to be aligned to any political party. I have had a whole lot of people threatening me.”

# “There was one thing clear about Ramnathji. ‘If I have an end-goal, I don’t care how I reach that…’ I agree with him but not everyone does.”

# “I see myself as a proper Tamilian Brahmin [Goenka grew up in Tamil Nadu], that’s my upbringing.”

***

The chairperson and editorial director of Hindustan Times, Shobhana Bhartia; Subhash Chandra and his son Punit Goenka of Zee; Gulab Kothari and his sons Nihar Kothari and Siddharth Kothari of Rajasthan Patrika, are the other media Marwaris featured.

The interviews give an inside view of the austere and conservative business and management ethic of the original media Marwaris, which later generations are eagerly dismantling.

# Shobhana Bhartia: “When we started innovative advertisements, my father [K.K. Birla] was taken aback. ‘No, we can’t do this. You can’t affect page one, can’t place something in the middle of it.’ I can understand that his generation was not used to these things. He felt colour pages would be more like a comic book.”

# Anant Goenka: “[As a Marwari, I have] an inherent drive to spend wisely and to build wealth. Whether large or small, [the 2,500 sq ft bachelor pad he bought after running up hefty hotel bills] is our own. It’s a Marwari thing. We are obsessed with appreciation.”

# Punit Goenka: “It is clear that we are in the business to make money; we are not here for charity or for building power or influence.”

# Gulab Kothari: “If you borrow money for growth, I believe you can’t reverse that decision. The question is, do I give my children 100 per cent of the business or leave them to deal with an outsider who I sold a stake to? My view is, expand less and gradually… we don’t need to jump the gun by taking debt.”

The Marwaris who own The Times of India group, Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran “did not participate in the story or were not available”.

Photograph: courtesy Forbes India

Also readWhen Samir served a thali, Vineet served a scoop

‘Zee is the only news channel making money’

When B.G. Verghese is drawn into row, it’s news

24 February 2014

Nobody is safe in the treacherous minefield that is Jammu & Kashmir. Not even B.G. Verghese.

The Magsaysay Award-winning editor of the Hindustan Times, who was sacked from the Birla-owned paper when he stated that Indira Gandhi‘s annexation of Sikkim was “less than proper” —and a welcome voice of sobriety in a mediascape populated by shriekers and attention-seekers—has been draw into a messy debate by a retired Kashmiri government officer.

Syed Mohammed Yasin, the former deputy commissioner of Kupwara, where 32 Kashmiri between 13 and 60 years of age were raped by Army men in 1991, tells the Kashmir Reader today, that the Press Council of India (PCI) team, which Verghese headed, did not do its job properly by giving a clean chit to the men in uniform.

“Yasin said the Press Council of India team led by senior journalist B.G. Varghese, which later gave a clean chit to the Army, had asked him to “save the soldiers in the national interest.”

“I told him (Varghese) ‘are you not ashamed of what your Army has done in Kunan-Poshpora?’

However, he started threatening me and my family. Even the Special Secretary tried to persuade me to close the case. However, I refused to do so. Later, I was transferred from one place to another but I never comprised over my report.”

Also read: A deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

As the year ends, a lament for the media

How Arun Shourie slighted B.G. Verghese et al

HT, Mail Today, and Kumar Mangalam Birla

16 October 2013

Hindustan Times headline: “Coal Scam: CBI books former coal secretary, K.M. Birla”

Mail Today headline: “CBI registers 14th FIR in coal allocation scam”

On the morning after the central bureau of investigation (CBI) named industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla in the coal allocation scam, the news is the page one, lead story, in The Times of India, The Economic Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, The Pioneer, Business Standard….

But not the Hindustan Times or Mail Today.

HT which belongs to the Birla family (chairman Shobhana Bhartia is daughter of K.K. Birla, whose brother B.K. Birla‘s son was Kumar Mangalam’s father, Aditya Birla) consigns the news to a single column story on page 10 in its Delhi edition.

Mail Today has it on page 25. The tabloid belongs to the India Today group, which is part-owned by Kumar Mangalam Birla, who bought a 26 per cent stake in his personal capacity, in India Today‘s holding company, Living Media in May 2012.

Mint, the business berliner which is owned by HT Media, has it on page one with a single-column story leading into page 3.

Also read: HT wedding unites Birlas and Ambanis

Zee News, Jindals and the silence of the media

Lokmat sets up the freedom of the press statue

Karan Thapar takes on Shekhar Gupta on credit

B.G. VERGHESE: The declaration of Emergency

5 October 2010

The former Indian Express and Hindustan Times editor B.G. Verghese has just released his memoirs, First Draft (Tranquebar). This excerpt, carried by HT last week, captures the declaration of Emergency and the introduction of press censorship by Indira Gandhi‘s regime in 1975.

***

By B.G. VERGHESE

A little before 2 am on June 26 [1975], the phone rang in my bedroom. It was Abhay Chajjlani, editor of Nai Dunia from Indore. Was anything happening in Delhi, he asked anxiously? I asked why he thought so. He said his premises, like those of other newspapers in Indore, had been raided, the presses stopped and all newspaper bundles seized. Political leaders had been arrested.

I said I would find out and call back if I could.

Another call followed immediately thereafter from Romesh Chandra of The Hind Samachar, Jullundur, sounding a similar alarm. I rang Romesh Thapar, who exclaimed, “My God, so it’s happened!”

I called the HT. The city edition was still in the midst of its first run. I asked the news editor to summon the bureau chief, chief reporter, photographers and all possible hands to scour the city and to alert our state correspondents and be prepared to run a new late edition or a special supplement. I would be coming over immediately.

…I got to the HT by 2.30 am by when one or two others had trickled in. We added a ‘stop press’ insertion to the late city edition under printing. We also prepared to bring out an early-morning supplement, to hit the streets as soon as possible with whatever news we could gather, and with whatever staff was available, as many sub-editors, compositors and press workers had gone off the night shift.

A reporter rang to say the Cabinet had been summoned for an urgent meeting at 6 am at the prime minister’s residence…. The promulgation of the internal Emergency was conveyed to a subdued Cabinet on the 26th morning with only Swaran Singh raising a mildly questioning voice.

Meanwhile, the first posters went up in the HT press noticeboards stating that the editor and a clique of anti-people journalists could not put the livelihood of the press workers and staff in jeopardy. By now the management was astir and had summoned the watch and ward to bar us from entry to the press, and shut it off.

With great difficulty we managed to get, maybe, a couple of hundred copies of our June 26 Emergency Supplement printed before the rotary ground to a halt. We collected those precious copies and carried them out for selective private distribution by journalist staff.

I retained a copy. It is probably now a collector’s item.

Photograph: Femina editor Vimla Patil interviews Indira Gandhi, with H.Y. Sharada Prasad, then the prime minister’s press secretary, in the background, in 1974 (courtesy Vimla Patil)

Also read: A deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

Kuldeep Nayar: Hindu, HT were the worst offenders in 1975

H.Y. Sharada Prasad: Middle-class won’t understand Indira

People, not the press, are the real fourth estate in India

A deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

1 October 2010

B.G. Verghese, the Magsaysay Award-winning editor, author and columnist, has penned his memoirs, First Draft, “a worm’s eye-view of history as an individual saw it“.

“George”, as Mr Verghese is better known, did a stint as media advisor to then prime minister Indira Gandhi. Appointed editor of the Congress-friendly Hindustan Times in 1969, he grew critical of her actions. When he suggested that “her annexation of Sikkim was less than proper”, the K.K. Birla-owned paper sacked him.

The veteran editor, author and columnist T.J.S. George pays tribute to a gentle giant who stands tall.

***

By T.J.S. GEORGE

Out of the blue, as it were, a new and wholly unexpected voice broke above the newspaper din in India in 1959.

In a politics-obsessed world, this voice began talking about development projects—Bhakra Nangal, Damodar valley, Hirakund, Nagarjunasagar—and then about “brand names of distinction” like HAL, HMT, BHEL, ONGC etc.

These were all new terms at that time and the overall picture that came through was that of a massive change under way in the thinking as well as structural composition of India.

It was as good as a scoop.

That was B.G. Verghese’s entry into public attention. He had entered journalism ten years earlier, unplanned and unprepared, and spent time writing editorial notes until he got himself transferred to reporting. His ground-breaking reportage on “the temples of Modern India” was a departure for journalism itself.

Verghese’s editors in the Times of India recognised this and published his series on the front page. (Those were days when the ToI was a NEWSpaper led by some of the finest journalists India has known.)

The freshness of his “Bharat Darshan” tours and the importance of the message his reports conveyed remained the trademarks of Verghese’s journalism ever since. It made him a unique institution not comparable to anybody else in the vast galaxy of Indian journalism.

It gave his career a historical edge.

Hence the relevance of his just-published autobiography, a big-ticket 573-page tome called First Draft: Witness to the Making of Modern India (Tranquebar).

Frank Moraes, once Verghese’s editor, titled his political autobiography Witness to an Era. Both men were witnesses to great events and both were professionals to the core. But there the comparison ends. Moraes was ideologically partisan: Pro-American, pro-big business, anti-communist.

Verghese has strong views, but no ideological hangups.

Verghese crammed several lives into one. He was a reporter, an editor, a traveller, a bureaucrat as information adviser to the Prime Minister, visiting professor at the Centre for Policy Research, fellow of the Administrative Staff College of India, Chairman of the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission and of course author.

The journalist prevails over all others in the writing of this autobiography. So his account of events, his references to the dramatis personae and his summing-up observations have the appeal of honesty, not the evasiveness of diplomacy.

His stint as adviser to Indira Gandhi allows him to speak frankly about the reality of high-level activities—how drafts for after-dinner speeches are finalised only after the dinner has started, how the Government does not work out a world view and relies instead on tired slogans, “the haphazard manner in which government functioned and the Prime Minister’s inexperience in so many matters”.

Verghese’ assessment of Indira Gandhi is a highlight of the book. He pays tribute to her qualities of leadership, the dignity of her deportment, her pride in India. But he is unsparing in his condemnation of the Emergency, the “savage and thoroughly illegal demolition orgy” of Sanjay Gandhi and of Indira’s own “split personality”.

B.G.Verghese is a serious person, concerned with serious, “un-sexy” topics like water resources. That makes his humour more appealing. The quality of his mind is reflected in the lightness with which he describes his introduction to the Prime Minister’s secretariat.

“There was no airconditioner in the room as the previous incumbent was a mere deputy secretary who ‘as per rules’ was not entitled to feel overly hot. The official theory was that the blood grew thinner with ascending seniority, entitling the officer to one, two or more airconditioners. The same theory worked for arm rests, back rests and foot rests….. Nor did I allow my chaprassi to hover around the car park in the morning to relieve me of my briefcase the moment I arrived. Official research had established that senior officers carry so much responsibility that the weight of a briefcase could do incalculable damage to their spine.”

His briefcase tightly held in his own hand, Verghese kept his spine straight and walked tall.

Photograph: B.G. Verghese with grand-daughters Naina and Diya at the launch of his memoirs, First Draft, in New Delhi on Wednesday (courtesy Oinam Anand/ The Indian Express)

Also read: As the year ends, a lament for the media

How Arun Shourie slighted B.G. Verghese et al

Vir Sanghvi’s first HT blog targets Mint again

2 February 2009

Former Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi has once again launched into the new editor of Mint, R. Sukumar, for not carrying a column in which he had attacked the fledgling business paper’s coverage of the INX saga starring Sanghvi.

In his first column for the newly launched blogs section of HT, Sanghvi writes glowingly of the freedom he allowed columnists who took a contrarian position (backed, he claims, by the paper’s owners K.K. Birla and Shobana Bharatia), but disses Sukumar for censoring a column which contained “two paras” that were critical of Mint‘s coverage.

“Clearly, Mint can dish it out but it can’t take it.

“The mature option would have been to carry the piece, which would probably have passed unnoticed. I am an admirer of Mint and my criticism was restricted to its media coverage, which is already regarded within the profession as a joke, an island of gossip and inaccuracy amidst page after page of well-meaning, serious, magazine-type articles.”

Read the full blog: Critical freedom

Also read: Vir Sanghvi lashes out at Mint censorship

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