Posts Tagged ‘Sunil Rajshekhar’

ToI group in squabble over Kannada paper title

30 March 2012

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A first-generation newspaper promoter launches a newspaper with his first name as part of the title. After a few years, he sells the now well-established newspaper to a well-established newspaper group. The new owners (neither of whom share the original promoter’s surname) continue to publish the newspaper in its original name.

Now, if the original promoter buys up the title of another existing newspaper, which coincidentally also has his first name as part of its title, and decides to compete with his first newspaper in the same markets, is he banking on the saleability of his name—or indulging in trademark infringement?

Confused?

Well, that’s the sum and substance of a controversy that has broken out in Bangalore between The Times of India group of Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, and VRL Media owned by the truck operator Vijay Sankeshwar.

Thirteen years ago, Sankeshwar lauched the multi-edition Vijaya Karnataka, which soon became market leader. In 2006, he sold the daily and associated properties to The Times of India group. After the lapse of the five-year no-compete clause, Sankeshwar announced plans to launch a new daily.

He zeroed in on the title Vijaya Vani for his new project.

But The Times group is not amused. In fact, it has apparently issued a legal notice to VRL Media and the matter has landed in the courts in Bangalore. The Times group’s legal notice comes on the eve of Vijaya Vani‘s promise launch on Sunday, April 1.

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of Vijaya Karnataka who now edits Kannada Prabha, points out on his blog:

“If the use of a name like “Vijay” is the cause of the strife, surely Samyukta Karnataka could have objected whenVijaya Karnataka was launched because the word Karnataka was in it? And surely, Praja Vani and Udaya Vani too could take objection to the title Vijaya Vani because the word Vani is in it?”

That’s problem no.1 in The Times argument. Problem no.2 is Vijaya Vani is a title that had been peacefully coming out for a small town called Tumkur, on the outskirts of Bangalore, till Vijaya Sankeshwar purchased it. So, if ToI had no problem with that title for six years, why does it have one now?

Problem no. 3: those who have seen dummy editions of the new (relaunched?) Vijaya Vani  say it will have a picture of the owner, Vijay Sankeshwar, alongside the masthead for a few months. Can either the courts or the registrar of newspapers deny a owner to name a paper after himself with a photo prove?

And who has forgotten the launch of Financial Times by The Times group 20 yers ago that has stymied the launch of the original FT for the last 20 years?

When Samir served a thali, Vineet served a scoop

15 April 2011

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: As it approaches its dosquicentennial, India’s biggest English language newspaper, The Times of India, truly deserved a meticulous biography to tell the world on “what goes on inside this amazing media machine”.

Sadly, Bachi Karkaria‘s Behind the Times (Times Books, 325 pages) is not that.

Poorly structured, poorly sourced and poorly edited, Karkaria’s is an airy tribute to the war-room surgeons who botoxed the Old Lady of Boribunder into a sassy lass, but it airbrushes the foot soldiers in the trenches, on whose sweat, toil and guard stands “The Masthead of India” across the nation.

As Karkaria’s creation “Alec Smart” would have said:

Marwadiya! It’s a bloody Parsimonious salute, dikri!”

Yet, despite its Bombay Gym view of Dadabhoy Naoroji road, Behind the Times has its moments in demystifying some of the myths built around its formidable helmsmen— the brothers Samir Jain and Vineet Jain—and in humanising a gigantic group.

***

On SAMIR JAIN, vice-chairman (VC): On the international Response (advertising) conferences—holidays really—the participants not only wallowed in VC’s generosity, they also learnt about cost consciousness from him. Once Indira Deish [of Times Response], while taking her room key, instructed the receptionist to give her a wake up call, and send a pot of bed tea with it. She felt a tap on her shoulder, turned around and saw VC. “He put his hand into his suit pocket, pulled out something, and put it in my palm. It was a couple of tea bags. After that, I always carried a box of these, and ordered only hot water. I learnt the value of thrift.”

Much earlier Indira learnt a similar lesson during the sesquicentennial celebrations in Delhi where she was part of the reception team. At the accompanying dinners, Samir Jain taught us “never to change a plate mid-meal. It unnecessarily added to the caterer’s bill.”

Thrift lesson #3 came from a regular office advice. Samir Jain, preempting the later global fashion, sent detailed instructions on how to recycle, reuse, and refuse to waste. He made it a ‘criminal offence’ to send a fax on a letterhead. The ‘grains’ pixelation of the printed header added three minutes more to the transmission time; so it was far more economical to photocopy and then fax….

Mahendra Swarup was inducted to bring his global marketing skills to Vineet’s baby Times Internet Limited. Before formally starting he naturally had to meet Samir Jain. Swarup had been struck by flu, but he went anyway at the appointed time to Jain House at 6, S.P. Marg, then still the whole family’s address.

If he had been less of a newbie, he would have postponed the meeting because Samir Jain is extremely susceptible to colds, and immediately dispenses with anyone with the slightest sniffle. However, Swarup recalled an extremely solicitous Samir Jain not dispensing with him, but dispensing medication. He summoned a minion to bring out an array of ayurvedic pills and potions, and discussed their various powers. And that was the sum total of the 40-minute ‘interview’. Later in the day, he even sent more vials to Swarup’s house….

For Swarup [who came from Pepsi], the early differentiator between the MNC and VC styles was the dining table. “Whenever we were at lunch, he observed what I relished in the lavish thali, and what I was ignoring. He told me what was good for me, and what I shouldn’t eat. Not just that, he served me personally. And would often show up at my house followed by the driver staggering in with a large hot-case. He’d say, “Mahendraji, aaj aap ki favourite kadhi banayi thi.”

***

On VINEET JAIN, managing director (MD): Vineet Jain rolls up his sleeves—-meticulously in v. neat folds—and buckles down to the nitty-gritty in all the media that exercises him at that time. he even orchetrates news stories on Times Now, as he did during the rescue of Prince, the little Rajasthani boy who fell into an open 60-ft-deep borewell, in 2006. His social connections enable him to add muscle or masala to a report.

And on one memorable occasion, the MD actually one of the big news stories of 2009: that Manu Sharma, the politically connected main accused in the high-profile Jessica Lal murder case, was out on parole ostensibly to meet his ailing mother, but actually partying….

The MD was on the case like a proper newshound. He alerted Vikas Singh, the Delhi resident editor; he told the Delhi Times reporter not to file the story till he had vetted it himself. He then called Vikas again, and told him to hold the story because “there’s too much hearsay. Tell the reporter to go back and get the bar manager’s quotes. On tape, and clandestinely if necessary.”

In the meanwhile, Vikas had a run-in with his immediate boss, Jojo (executive editor Jaideep Bose), who was hollering him on the line from Mumbai pressuring him to release the story for all editions so that no one else out-scooped the ToI.

Vikas told him, “The reporter says it will hold.”

Jojo thundered: “Who the hell is this reporter?”

Vikas replied: “MD”.

***

On R.K. LAXMAN, cartoonist: The most notable feature of the creator of the common man was that he was completely lacking in the common touch. To all but a close circle of personal friends and a coterie of the editors he worked with, R.K. Laxman was arrogant to the point of rudeness….

Laxman and [his wife] Kamala had gone to Qatar as guests of the sheikh. A public lecture was part of the deal. The opening line of his speech left his audience and his princely host stuned. He said, “Ever since I have set foot in your country, I have been most unhappy, in fact down right miserable.”

He then went on, “If a car is to pick me up at 10, it is always there at five to 10, with the AC switched on. I never have to open the door, the smartly uniformed chaffeur has always jumped out to do this for me. My heart sinks every time I drive through your country. The ride is always smooth with none of the potholes I am used to back home. Every street light is working. The walls are clean without a single blob of betel juice. How do you expect me, a person from Bombay, not to feel totally depressed about this?”

***

On DILEEP PADGAONKAR, former editor: Dileep was, in his colleague [former Bombay resident editor] Dina Vakil‘s memorable phrase, an ‘impresario editor’…. Dileep presided over a fine dining table and the TOI, many would aver, in that order. One of the nuggests in the newsroom’s annals is that the only time he sent out a memo and one steeped in aged balsamic at that, was when The Sunday Times of India appeared with ‘bouillabaise’ misspelt. For the Francophile and foodie editor it was a crime worse than a murdered filet mignon.

***

On GIRILAL JAIN, former editor: As DileepPadgaonkar described him: “He was given to making Spenglarian statements covering vast ages and aeons in a single sentence. he was a blend of Curzonian ambitions and Haryanvi conceits.” No surprise then that when he went to Iran to interview the Shah, he is supposed to have ended up tutoring the Pahlavi monarch on matters of geo-political strategy. On an evening, Giri would walk in the Lodhi gardens, puff at his cigar and come up with statements that would flummox even the lofty companion he had chosen. he would pronounce, ‘The Hun will be pitted against the Hindu.”

***

On  SHAM LAL, former editor: When Sham Lal retired, the newsroom (which he had never stepped into) gave him a farewell. It was held in the 6th floor canteen where the aam janata, not ‘invited’ to the august directors’ lunch room, ate. Sham Lal was seldom seen in the latter, so he probably did not even known of the existence of the former. He was escorted up in the lift and into the huge hall. News editor, chief reporter, subs, peons, all sung his fulsome (sic) praises. The quiet but universally admired editor was presented ‘floral tributes’ and a salver.

Then the master of ceremonies grandly announced, ‘Now Mr Sham Lal will give a speech.’ Sham Lal slowly shuffled to his feet, cleared his throat, and as the packed hall waited in anticipation for an outpouring of enlightenment from the man who had attained intellectual nirvana, he merely said, ‘Thank you’. Then he went back to his chair and sat down….

At a party in Mumbai, Sham Lal was cornered by a large, garrulous American woman. After a 15-minute monologue, she stopped mid-flow and asked, “Am I boring you?” and Sham Lal replied with extreme and genuine courtesy, “Yes I am afraid you are.”

***

On PREM SHANKAR JHA, former assistant editor: The editorial HQ was still Mumbai, and he wouldn’t roll up to the portico in a taxi like his colleagues. He arrived with his bulk perched incongruously on a frail moped. He would come directly from his morning tennis at the Bombay Gym and would fluster into the edit meeting invariably late, dripping with sweat and clumsily dropping his helmet and racuqet. Sham Lal would mildly glower and Prem would clasp his podgy hands and say, ‘Maaf kijiye, Sham Lalji, maaf kijiye’….

One day, hearing hysterical screams from the inner cabin, the long-suffering Iyer entered to find his portly boss balanced precariously on a chair, quaking in impotent terror and staring at a cockroach on his desk. As soon as he saw his steno, he ordered him to swat it. Iyer froze at such an unBrahminical directive, with Prem getting more and more apoplectic by the minute. He finally shouted, ‘Kill it, kill it, you f***ing vegetarian.’ Iyer fled.

***

On J.C. JAIN, former general manager: J.C. Jain was among the most powerful GMs of the time when this was top executive position. He had a reedy voice, sometimes cruelly described as ‘having one vocal chord’. The story goes that on a visit to Hollywood, JC met the smokey-voiced beauty, [Humphrey Bogart's wife] Lauren Bacall. Trying to think of something smart to say to this icon, he quipped: ” Miss Bacall, is it true that you are sometimes mistaken for a man?” The lady arched her famous eyebrows and retorted, “No. Are you?”

***

On T.N. NINAN, former Economic Times editor: T.N. Ninan was extremely possessive about his editorial domain. Samir Jain was raring to bring many innovations into ET, but Ninan, more as a matter of principle, was less than enthusiastic. One of these was ear panels, but Ninan resisted on the belief that the masthead should not be devalued by small ads on either side.

Irritated, the VC called the Bangalore branch head, Sunil Rajshekhar, and said, “This is what I want, and it has to be in ET there tomorrow.” Sunil passed on the VC’s instructions to the RE, Nageswaran, who mentioned this in a routine mail to his boss. Ninan blasted him, “Do you report to me or to Sunil Rajshekhar?” The hapless guy spluttered, “But, Mr Ninan, the VC asked for it to be done.” Ninan thundered, “I don’t care who asked. I am the Editor.” Yes, he was. But not for long.

***

On JUG SURAIYA, edit page editor: Some time in 1987, Ashok Jain summoned Gautam Adhikari, and said, “I am told there are no good young journalists in India outside the Times.” Gautam said, “No, sir, there are many good journalists, and I am sure they would be happy to join us.” The chairman said, “Give me a note.” Gautam made out a spreadsheet which included their brief bios, even a ballpark estimate of their current salaries…. Gautam’s list included Chandan Mitra, Swapan Dasgupta and Jug Suraiya from The Statesman.

When Gautam called his old quizzing friend and said, “Could we meet?” Jug thought he wanted to join The Statesman, and sounded out the editor. Sunanda Datta-Ray removed his cigarette-holder from his lips and replied, “He will be an asset. Ask him to telephone me.” But when they met at the Elphin bar, it was Gautam who was doing the offering. To everyone’s surprise, Suraiya was willing.”

***

On SWAMINATHAN AIYAR, former Economic Times editor: The economics whiz Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar had many quirks. As a genius he was entitled to the full quota. One of these was unqiue: he always carried his cup of tea to the 3rd floor loo in Times House, Delhi.

***

On PRITISH NANDY, former editor, Illustrated Weekly of India: Some-time Science Today editor Mukul Sharma had acted in Paroma, an edgy film made by his ex-wife, the well-known actresses-turned-director Aparna Sen. He played the foreign-returned photographer who had an affair with his subject, a traditional Bengali house. The beauteous Rakhee essayed the title role. Mukul boasted to his friend Pritish that when he lay atop her for a bedroom shot, he counted 29 golden flecks in her amber eyes. Nandy smirked and said, “36”.

***

On PRADEEP GUHA, former response head: Two years into Pradeep Guha’s powerful stewardship of Response, and his raking in the moolah by the shovelful for the group, the chairman Ashok Jain turned to his son, Samir just after PG left the room, and ingenuously asked, “Achcha, yeh banda karta kya hai?‘ (What exactly does this chap do in the organisation?)

***

On DINA VAKIL, former Bombay resident editor: In December 2003, Salman Rushdie returned to his boyhood city, Mumbai, after a gap of 16 years. The interview team comprised three people: resident editor Dina Vakil, who had published an excerpt from Midnight’s Children in the Indian Express and had met Salman when he was a young tyke, and was allegedly featured as Mina Vakil in the Ground Beneath her Feet. The other was Rushdie fan Nina Martyris. Bringing up the rear was the veteran photographer Shriram Vernekar.

Terrified that Shriram would innocently discuss the ‘scoop’ with his photographer friends in other publications, Dina threatened him with dire consequences as her car drew up to the Taj. “I will kill you,” was her (usual) refrain as she wagged a perfectly manicured finger in his mystified face. Shriram, whose storming ground was the Sena shakha and Ganesh visarjan, didn’t know what the fuss was all about.

While shooting them, the genial Shriram did his bet to put a slightly awkward Rushdie at ease, by engaging him in small talk. He lowered his camera, looked up at the celebrated writer and said conversationally, “First time in Mumbai?” Even as Dina rolled her eyes and looked like she wanted to throttle Shriram, an unfazed Rushdie twinkled, “Not quite.”

***

On RAJDEEP SARDESAI, former assistant editor: Why just the stenos, even the peons were totally clued in and, when it came to Byzantine state politics, the Maharashtrian ones could teach a thing or two to the younger assistant editors. Once Rajdeep Sardesai, hot off the dreaming spires of Oxford, wrote a whole three-part series on the rising presence of the Shiv Sena without, it was whispered, meeting a single sainik or visiting a single shakha. On that occasion, it was left to the more hands-on Kalpana Sharma to fill in the gaps.

External reading: The Economic Times review of the book

The Times of India review of the book

The Business Standard review of the book

Vishweshwar Bhat, new editor of Kannada Prabha

7 February 2011

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of the mass-circulation Vijaya Karnataka belonging to The Times of India group, has joined the State’s fourth largest paper, Kannada Prabha, as editor-in-chief, in a move that is likely to shake up the Kannada newspaper market in more ways than one.

Bhat was introduced to the editorial staff and management team of Kannada Prabha by Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, chairman and managing director of The New Indian Express group which owns Kannada Prabha, in Bangalore this evening.

On his newly launched blog, Bhat called the shift to Kannada Prabha a “homecoming”, having served it for four years as sub-editor in the initial stages of his career and then having done another four years at the Asian Schoool of Journalism when it was launched by the Express group.

Bhat confirmed the shift to sans serif. (An announcement of the appointment was made on the front page of Kannada Prabha on Tuesday, February 8)

The popular yet controversial Bhat quit Vijaya Karnataka on 8 December 2010, and the market had since been abuzz about his next port of call. Bhat himself wrote on his blog that he briefly considered launching a new newspaper but had to abandon the idea of a startup because of the constraints of printing presses.

There were also rumours that Bhat was headed towards Udayavani, the Kannada newspaper published by the Pais of Manipal, but clearly Kannada Prabha‘s reach and reputation—not to mention the deep pockets (and ambitions) of its owner in waiting, phone baron-turned-parliamentarian, Rajeev Chandrasekhar—tilted the balance.

Both Bhat and Chandrasekhar appear to be similarly politically aligned.

Bhat served as an officer on special duty to the former Union minister Ananth Kumar of the BJP, and Chandrasekhar, an independent MP elected with BJP support, has been seen with both Ananth Kumar and the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on a “Friends of BJP” platform.

***

Bhat’s decision to join Kannada Prabha, however, shows that an official Times VPL internal circular, issued in the name of CEO Sunil Rajshekhar that said he was leaving Vijaya Karnataka to pursue “higher studies“, was merely for public consumption.

Kannada Prabha, which currently belongs to The New Indian Express group of Sonthalia, is set to come into the control of Rajeev Chandrasekhar by June this year.

Chandrasekhar had entered into a “strategic partnership alliance” with Express publications in March 2009, and picked up a minority stake. His stake in Kannada Prabha Publications (valued at Rs 250 crore) currently stands at 48%. The grapevine has it that he will obtain a majority controlling stake of 76% by June.

So far, the fight for the Kannada advertising pie has been between Vijaya Karnataka (average issue readership 34.25 lakh readers, IRS round 3) and No.2 Praja Vani (29.10 lakh readers) belonging to the Deccan Herald group. But the Bhat-Chandrasekhar combination at Kannada Prabha (11.15 lakh readers) is likely to muddy the scene.

Vijaya Karnataka is said to be mulling the launch of a Bangalore Mirror-style Kannada tabloid to be issued free with Vijaya Karnataka to blunt the Bhat effect at Kannada Prabha, and also to overcome recent circulation and readership losses to Praja Vani.

***

Bhat’s entry into Kannada Prabha is also poised create a ripple in Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s media stable.

Chandrasekhar already has a sizeable media presence in Karnataka through his Suvarna and Suvarna News channels. He had successfully wooed Kannada Prabha editor H.R. Ranganath to the Suvarna News camp at the expense of incumbent Shashidhar Bhat two years ago.

Ranganath came to Suvarna News with his band of print journalists under the belief that Rajeev Chandrasekhar would start his own newspaper. That plan first came unstuck with his purchase of a minority stake in KP.

Now, with the arrival of Vishweshwar Bhat and his own band of print journalists from VK, the former Kannada Prabha journalists in the Suvarna stable are in a dilemma about their future course of action. One of them, Ravi Hegde, is reported to have left Suvarna News and joined Udayavani as editor.

K. Shiva Subramanya, who took over from Ranganath as editor of Kannada Prabha, is reported to have indiciated his decision to leave Kannada Prabha, with the entry of Vishweshwar Bhat, even as Vijaya Karnataka looks around for a full-time Kannada editor.

Whether Bhat will also have a say in Suvarna News or not will be clear in June when both the channel and the newspaper come under a common owner, but it is more likely than not that Bhat will be projected as a face on Suvarna News, both to push Kannada Prabha as a paper and to lend the channel more journalistic gravitas.

The editorial-musical chairs in Bangalore had set the Kannada tabloids and blogs on fire over the last couple of months, with allegations, counter-allegations, innuendos and insinuations, all showing Kannada journalistic egos in very poor light.

Bhat’s resignation also resulted in an ugly war of words with his longtime friend, Ravi Belagere, editor of the popular Hi! Bangalore tabloid. Till recently fought from the shoulders of the former Vijaya Karnataka columnist Pratap Simha, the squabble has increasingly become personal, with Bhat reportedly even sending off a legal notice.

Pratap Simha welcomed Bhat’s decision on his blog thus:

“Our dear editor VISHWESHWAR BHAT has joined “KANNADA PRABHA” just now!! He is the man who gave different dimension to Kannada Journalism, he is the man who captured the imagination of us through his journalistic skills, he is the man who changed the way v all used to think, he is the man who made stars out of writers, he is the man who gave forum to nationalistic views which were unheard until his arrival. I have reason to believe that, his new innings will set new standards and new parameters in Kannada Journalism. Just WATCH OUT…”

Also read: ToI group editor in a flap over honorary doctorate

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

Is the management responsible for content too?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

‘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

Times of India to shut down Kannada edition

8 March 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, the publishers of The Times of India, have decided to shut down their Kannada edition, published with The Times of India masthead, tomorrow.

An internal email has convened a meeting of all staff of the paper with CEO Sunil Rajshekhar at 4pm on Tuesday, March 9, after nearly a month of rumours of the impending demise.

The March 10 issue of the paper will the last for the paper which has been published since January 2007 under industry veteran Ishwar Daitota.

Rumours are that some of the existing staff of 55 will be absorbed to bring out the proposed Kannada translation of the weekly Crest edition of ToI.

Several versions abound for the sudden closure. The chief among them is that the paper’s rising graph was coming at the cost of Vijaya Karnataka, the Kannada paper purchased by the Times group in 2006 along with Usha Kirana and Vijay Times, from the truck operator turned newspaper publisher, Vijay Sankeshwar.

(Usha Kirana was turned into ToI Kannada to exclusively cater for the Bangalore (Market); the paper largely carried stories translated from the English edition of the paper although a skeletal staff produced original stories. Vijay Times was shut and turned into the tabloid Bangalore Mirror.)

Vijaya Karnataka has seen its market leader status diminish in the face of a strong comeback from Praja Vani, the Kannada daily published by the Deccan Herald group. Its ABC numbers have fallen for two cycles in a row. ToI Kannada insiders say their paper was being held responsible for the lack of growth of VK in the key Bangalore market, prompting VK to go in for an expensive relaunch and redesign to stem the damage.

For the last few days, Vijaya Karnataka was being supplied free with ToI Kannada in Bangalore to convert existing readers.

Another version has it that although ToI Kannada was gaining numbers (it was selling between 30,000-60,000 copies depending on who you asked), it was not attracting any advertising on its own; most of its advertising coming from package deals sold by ToI.

Yet another version has it that the management saw little hope for the paper, and only more expenses, with Rajeev Chandrashekhar‘s impending foray into the newspaper world to complete his Suvarna stable.

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