Posts Tagged ‘Rahul Kansal’

The capital ‘I’ returns to The Times of India

27 May 2013

The capital ‘I’ doesn’t appear on the pages of The Times of India, not on the edit page, not on the commentary page. That’s one way of keeping commentators from preening in the first-person.

And that’s by order from the very top.

But as the paper turns 175 and launches the ‘I Lead India‘ campaign in association with Maruti Suzuki, the dreaded ‘I’ returns, in ads,  in hoardings, and in BCCL chief marketing officer Rahul Kansal‘s opening essay.

The ‘I’ here, of course, is You.

Have Tatas blacklisted The Times of India again?

16 January 2011

Tata Steel, the flagship company of corporate behemoth Tata Sons, is going in for a follow-on public offer (FPO).

This display advertisement appeared in the Delhi editions of the Hindustan Times and Mint, Indian Express and Financial Express, The Hindu and Business Standard, on Friday, 14 January 2011, but not in the Delhi editions of India’s largest English newspaper The Times of India, or India’s largest business newspaper, The Economic Times.

The Friday ad was also published by the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle, the Calcutta-based The Telegraph and the Bombay-based Mid-Day but Times group publications in those cities were conspicuous by their absence.

ToI and ET also didn’t get the issue ads that are rquired to be mandatorily published ahead of an IPO or FPO.

The Delhi-based Pioneer and the Mail Today newspaper of the India Today group too didn’t figure in Tata Steel’s FPO media plans. The Pioneer led the field in the exposure of the 2G spectrum allocation scam and Mail Today was alone among the newspapers in covering the Niira Radia tapes which showed the Tata group in poor light.

The tapes also showed that Radia was in conversation with almost everybody in the ET hierarchy.

Last week, Mint, the business paper owned by the Hindustan Times group, had outed an internal Tata Group communique, dated December 24, that had specifically instructed Tata group companies to “avoid participating” in news stories in Pioneer, ToI, India Today, Outlook* and Open magazines, which exposed the tapes.

The Mint story quoted Christabelle Noronha, chief (group corporate affairs) at Tata Sons, that there had been an instruction to group companies to not participate in news stories being done by the “offending publications and channels”.

It also quoted BCCL (Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd) chief marketing officer Rahul Kansal, who said: “In our (company’s) context, internally there have been rumours about the Tata group banning us. But it would be unfair to say I know for sure.”

But it appears the Tata blacklist goes beyond news stories and well into advertising.

Or does it?

The Tatas had blacklisted the “response-driven” Times group from advertising in the early 2000s, offended by its coverage of the Tata Finance controversy. The Tatas returned to India’s largest newspaper group at the time of the Tata Communciation Consultancy Services (TCS) initial public offering (IPO).

In the wake of the Niira Radia controversy, Tatasons chairman Ratan Tata had voiced fears of India becoming a “banana republic” in an interview with Shekhar Gupta, the editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and The Financial Express for his NDTV program, Walk the Talk.

* Disclosures apply

Vishweshwar Bhat quits Vijaya Karnataka

8 December 2010

Vishweshwar Bhat, the popular yet controversial editor of Vijaya Karnataka, the mass-circulation Kannada daily owned by The Times of India group, has resigned.

Bhat’s decision was announced to his staff this afternoon after a meeting with ToI chief executive officer Ravi Dhariwal and chief marketing officer Rahul Kansal who had flown down to Bangalore.

Bhat confirmed the resignation to churumuri.com, adding that, although he had no negative feelings for the company, he had begun to feel “slightly uncomfortable” in the last few months.

“I decided to quit when things were all right,” he said.

There is no word how long his name will appear on the imprintline or who his replacement is likely to be, although there is a rumour that E. Raghavan, who retired as editor of the Economic Times editions in the south and currently edits the Kannada weekend broadsheet Vijaya Next, may fill the breach.

The charitable version for the exit is that Bhat, who took over the reins of the paper 10 years ago, wanted a three-year sabbatical to go abroad and study which the Jains, who picked up the paper from Vijay Sankeshwar of the logistics company VRL four years ago, were disclined to give.

Bhat says he intends to pursue higher education now that he has been freed of his commitments, although the buzz is he may join a soon-to-be-started Kannada news channel. The no-compete clause in Sankeshwar’s deal with Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd also ends next year opening up new possibilities on the Kannada media map.

However, the press club gossip is less than charitable. This version has it that Bhat had reached the end of the long rope that had been extended him, during which period the paper veered overtly to the right, attracting the ire of Muslims, Dalits and Christians.

In a petition earlier this year, when Bhat was nominated for an honorary doctorate, the Karnataka chapter of Transparency International dashed off a petition, accusing the editor of being “primarily responsible for instigating and fuelling communal hatred by regularly publishing extremely volatile and offensive articles and editorials.”

Recent surveys also showed that Vijaya Karnataka‘s readership and circulation were moving southwards, to the discomfiture of the bosses, necessitating the change of guard.

All things considered, to Bhat goes the credit of turning a fledgling daily into a market leader and opinion maker, overtaking the 60-year-old Praja Vani from the Deccan Herald group in next to no time with a series of innovations and reader-friendly initiatives.

The prolific Bhat churned out a weekly Sunday diary, a Saturday media column, a Thursday edit-page piece, and wrote on a range of issues each week, besides regularly publishing books, compilations and translations. There was no inkling of the coming end even in Wednesday’s paper which carries a tribute by Bhat on page 7.

Bhat’s resignation is the third reorganisation exercise undertaken by VPL president Sunil Rajshekhar after shutting down The Times of India Kannada edition and launching Vijaya Next.

Also read: Bhat in a flap over honorary doctorate

Is the management responsible for content too?

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

External reading: That’s Kannada.com

Is it all over for DNA in the battle for Bombay?

26 September 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The October 8 issue of Forbes magazine, from the CNBC-TV18 group, carries a four-page story that reads more like an advance obituary for DNA, the English broadsheet daily newspaper that was launched by the Dainik Bhaskar and Zee television groups to humble The Times of  India in urbs prima in Indus.

Five years and Rs 1,100 crore later, writes Rohin Dharmakumar evocatively citing the 1961 film Guns of Navarone, DNA’s original ambition lies in tatters, although the “theory” was perfectly feasible.

# DNA’s Bombay readership is down 15% from its 2009 peak, while The Times of India’s is 2.5 larger.

# DNA’s ad rates are one-third ToI’s on paper, but closer to one-seventh due to discounting.

# DNA’s revenue was Rs 148 crore last year, up 22% over the year before, but still Rs 70 crore short of covering its operating costs.

# DNA is now a distant No.3 in Bombay and Bangalore to Hindustan Times and Deccan Chronicle, respectively, and both are reportedly close to dislodging it from that position.

# Only current executive editor R. Jagannathan remains from DNA’s original star cast, many of whom were lured from The Times of India and hired at high salaries.

In hindsight, DNA’s faulty subscription drive, the launch and free distribution of Mumbai Mirror with ToI and the increase of ToI’s cover price to suck the newspaper budget of households so that a second newspaper cannot be bought, are seen to have been the key drivers in ToI fighting off the challenge.

Rahul Kansal, the chief marketing officer of ToI, is quoted as saying:

DNA came in with a lot of overconfidence. Heady with their launches in Gujarat and Rajasthan, they thought The Times of India would be a sitting duck. They started their outdoor campaign four months in advance, giving us adequate time to launch a new paper. I think they displayed their hand way too early, so by the time they launched, we had already soaked up a lot of the reading appetite.”

The southward turn in DNA’s fortunes is reflected in Subhash Chandra of Zee edging out partner Sudhir Agarwal of Dainik Bhaskar for a more hands-on role. Cost-cutting is the mantra of DNA’s CEO K.U. Rao, a former Shell executive in his first media stint.

“Probably the most stark sign of DNA’s transformation comes from Bangalore, where just over a year after it spent Rs 100 crore to put up a state-of-the-art press, it is now using it to print over 200,000 copies of Bangalore Mirror for The Times of India,” writes Rohin Dharmakumar.

The Forbes piece will be available online after October 7.

‘Vijaya Next’ editor Deepak Thimaya resigns?

15 June 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA in New Delhi and PALINI R. SWAMY in Bangalore write: Vijaya Next, the weekly Kannada newspaper launched by The Times of India group for the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga population”, is said to be looking for a new editor, just three weeks after the paper hit the stands.

Sources at Times House on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg claim the paper’s first editor, Deepak Thimaya, put in his papers days after the 24-page, all-colour paper was launched on May 28 and has been relieved. He is said to be serving his notice till the end of the month.

“Yes, we are searching [for a new editor],” messaged a Times insider.

There were indications in Bangalore that something was seriously amiss at the paper from Day One.

Thimaya, a well-regarded interviewer for Udaya TV of the Sun group and a noted quiz compere and emcee, was conspicuously absent from the first issue of the paper itself. There was no article or interview by him, and the only place his name appeared was in the imprintline.

In fact, Vijaya Next staffers were surprised that the paper was introduced to the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga” in a signed piece not by Thimaya, the paper’s editor, but by Visweshwar Bhat, the editor of the group’s flagship Kannada daily, Vijaya Karnataka.

Times sources in Delhi are understandably tightlipped over what went wrong as the hunt for a new editor gathers pace. Insiders at Vijaya Next in Bangalore say Thimaya was out of sorts in the new medium although this must have been blindingly obvious to Times managers who wooed and hired him.

“It’s all a big mess. They bought a Kannada paper (Usha Kirana) and turned it into ToI Kannada. They got rid of its first editor (Venkatanarayana) by bringing in Ishwar Daitota. They shut ToI Kannada down and launched Vijaya Next. They brought in Deepak Thimaya to get rid of Daitota, and now even he is gone,” said an exasperated Times insider.

The first indications of trouble came when, even before Vijaya Next was launched and with Thimaya already on board, Vijayanand Printers Limited (VPL) president Sunil Rajshekhar roped in E. Raghavan, former resident editor of The Times of India in Bangalore, in a consulting role.

Rajshekhar and Raghavan had been part of the team that launched The Times in Bangalore, although Times managers claim “old school” Raghavan had to be pushed to The Economic Times in 1996 to begin the “reforms” process at ToI that eventually enabled it to overtake market-leader, Deccan Herald.

The first three issues of Vijaya Next have come out under Raghavan’s stewardship to a tepid-to-cold market reaction. Most of the claimed circulation has come from complimentary copies slipped in with Vijaya Karnataka.

Last Saturday, Thimaya had this telling status update on his Facebook account:

Times House insiders in Delhi say the group isn’t looking at Raghavan, who retired from the Times group to serve as a consultant to arch-rival DNA in Bangalore, as a replacement for Thimaya. A number of names, including that of a theatre activist, is doing the rounds.

Sunil Rajshekhar who left Times to launch indya.com for Rupert Murdoch returned to the group to head Times Internet Limited (TIL) and was then shafted to Times Private Treaties (TPT), from where he returned to Bangalore to replace Chinnen Das as president of VPL, the BCCL subsidiary, that the group purchased in 2007.

Photograph: courtesy deepakthimaya.com

Also read: Vijaya Next gives ToI Crest a Kannada avatar

The Times of India to shut down Kannada edition

Network 18 rejects no-poaching pact with Times

27 April 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: In what is being interpreted as a sharpening of knives before the next round of The Great Indian Print Media Battle, Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 is said to have summarily rejected a proposal for an informal “no-poaching agreement” floated by the country’s biggest media group, Bennett, Coleman & Co which publishes The Times of India and Economic Times.

Tens of Times journalists have been eyeing Network 18 after the group unveiled plans for an Indian edition of Forbes magazine and the Financial Times. With ToI executive editor Jaideep Bose, aka JoJo, being mentioned as a possible editor of FT, the Times group is understandably apprehensive of a newsroom exodus and an exponential increase in costs to retain talented staff.

(Senior staff at ET have received hefty hikes as high as 50 per cent in recent weeks but it is not proving to be enough for the privately-held Times group despite its deep pockets to keep its flock together. Network 18 is a listed company.)

ToI brand director Rahul Kansal is reported to have sought a meeting with Bahl and Network 18 CEO Haresh Chawla last week to enter into a no-poaching agreement after the exit-JoJo rumours surfaced. With the Times group planning a business television channel to exploit the Economic Times brand image (which could see reverse traffic from CNBC-TV18) Kansal thought he had it all firmly sewn up.

But Network 18, whose print ambitions against the might of the Times group hinges on attracting top-flight business journalism talent, is believed to have nipped the proposal in the bud.

The Times group had entered into a tribal no-poaching pact with the Hindustan Times in an earlier skirmish for the Delhi market. The logic was that both groups would benefit by not trying to poach staff from the other, thus keeping journalists’ salaries in check. The two companies even set up a joint venture to bring out the tabloid Metro Now. But the only winner in the bargain has been the Times group.

Aware of that precedent, the Bahl-Chawla rejected ToI‘s no-poaching overture outright.

“Kansal called and sought a formal meeting with Bahl and Chawla. But knowing what was coming, the two declined even to meet. Let’s meet for a drink if you like, but as far as a no-poaching agreement, it’s a no-no from our side was the signal,” says a Network 18 source in the know.

Meanwhile, as its executive editor’s fate hangs in the balance, the Times group is pulling out all stops to stymie Network 18‘s FT venture. One publisher, who brings out a slew of business magazines, says senior Times functionaries have approached him to join a publishers’ lobby to thwart the entry of foreign titles such Forbes (from Network 18) and Fortune (from Ananda Bazaar Patrika).

“Who are the Times folk fooling by wanting to oppose Forbes or Fortune when they are not even in the magazine space? Their real target is Financial Times,” says the publisher.

The Times group (along with The Hindu) has long been at the forefront of the opposition to the entry of foreign publications and foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Indian media.

It had launched a weekly supplement titled Financial Times in the early 1990s to prevent Pearson from setting foot in India in collaboration with T.N. Ninan‘s Business Standard. After a long court case, when FDI upto 26 per cent was allowed in the print media, FT invested in Business Standard hoping to take the association forward.

But FT pulled out recently and got into a tieup with Network 18, which is what is giving the Times group the heebie-jeebies.

Also read: The dream paper

FT India: The buzz is rising

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