Posts Tagged ‘Viveck Goenka’

Shekhar Gupta dedicates book to Viveck Goenka

16 April 2014

sgfirst      sg

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta‘s much-awaited book, Anticipating India, a compilation of his Saturday columns, has seen a change of cover.

At left is the original cover, with the tagline “If Modi wins on Sunday”. At right, is the actual book jacket, with the tagline now reading “The best of National Interest”.

The 516-page book, published by Harper Collins, is dedicated to Viveck Goenka, the chairman of the Indian Express and the grandson of Ramnath Goenka.

“For Viveck Goenka, ninetten years, 900 columns and not one call to ask ‘why’. If you find more newspaper owners like him, please do exchange notes with me.”

The book is also dedicated to his children Mandakini Gupta and Abhimanyu Gupta and their respective spouses, the “four points of my compass”.

The sleeve notes records this line about the author:

“A proud father of a pastry chef in Delhi and a mathematical economist in London, Gupta lives in New Delhi with his wife—and the company of an adorable family of dogs and cats whom you would call stray at your own peril.”

Also read: You have read the column, now read the book

From Viveck Goenka. To: Indian Express employees

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

8 March 2014

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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’

From: Viveck Goenka. To: Express employees

30 August 2013

mr-vivek-goenka-cmd-indian-express-group-with-his-1934-packard-tourer-at-cartier-travel-with-style-preview-photo-18_640x480The following is the full text of the email sent by Indian Express chairman Viveck Goenka, announcing the re-entry of George Varghese into the group as CEO, after editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta relinquished his managerial responsibilities with effect from Krishna Janmashtami:

***

Dear All,

You must have all read Shekhar’s mail of 26th August.

I have always admired Shekhar’s leadership, commitment, acumen and foresight and am proud to say that today, the Express is a lean and efficient company, thriving in a challenging environment. We have created a strong space for ourselves that I now hope to grow.

This is the first of what I hope will be many communications from me to all of you. This one is to introduce to you, George Varghese, whom some of you may remember. He joined the Express very early in his career, where he headed marketing and circulation. He then went on to do stints at Hughes Telecom, Reliance Infocomm and KEC International. I have known him for many years and have admired his energy, thoroughness and professionalism. George will be our new Chief Executive Officer.

All department heads other than editorial and the innovations team will report in to him with immediate effect.

For me, the ideal business model has always been good journalism allied with a robust top and bottom line. I take pride in the fact that this company has never declared a dividend. Whatever money we make goes back into the paper and to the cause of high-quality and empowering journalism.

All of you have worked at the Express with an admirable sense of commitment and purpose and I am sure you will continue to do so.

Consequently, the transition from Shekhar going back to an editorial role will be seamless. Shekhar will continue to shape the public discourse through the pages of The Indian Express and The Financial Express. He is, to my mind, one of the finest editors India has produced. I hired him as our Editor when he was all of 38 years of age and I am proud of the result.

News media is facing a time of enormous change but I believe that this is also a time of enormous possibility, especially with the new audiences the internet brings to our content. While the old certainties may be gone, the values of the Express—integrity, courage and the relentless pursuit of the truth—are immutable. These values and my commitment to the independence of the Express will never change.

With best wishes,

Viveck Goenka

***

Photograph: courtesy Zig Wheels

Also read: Shekhar Gupta gives up his managerial role

To all Express employees. From: Shekhar Gupta

Shekhar Gupta gives up charge as Express CEO

27 August 2013

Below is the full text of the “global” email shot off by Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta on Monday, August 26, in which he formally announces his decision to relinquish his managerial functions at the newspaper group.

***

Dear All,

Looking at the flurry of communication from me over the past few weeks, mainly on corporate and business issues, some of you may have wondered what was going on. This is particularly because it hasn’t been my method to write “dear all” mails often.

Or, more likely, that I am too lazy to be doing so.

Those of you in the New Delhi newsroom know this well, since you see me pacing up and down every Friday evening, wrestling with those 1200 words for National Interest, and in the dread of delaying City-I once again.

So here is the story.

This series of mails was by way of completing a great deal of unfinished business. All of you know what a procrastinator I am. So everything that can be put off till the last moment, is put off. Or, as we like to say in cliched journalism, put on the backburner. Until a deadline takes away the excuses.

The deadline we had given ourselves was end of August (and on a personal note, August 26, my 56th birthday). And both ways we are getting there now. Hence, this note.

***

As you may have seen from my earlier communication, as also the buzz in the market, our company is now in an unprecedentedly robust shape.

We have already had six stellar quarters and, on all evidence as I track revenue figures for this month and the projections for September, are heading for an even better seventh. Businesses have to now work in this brutal QSQT (Quarter-se-Quarter-Tak) environment. And it is a truly brilliant achievement on the part of our various teams given the mayhem in media markets.

We are today acknowledged to be one of the soundest news media companies within-our-size category. And no, we never do paid news, or stretch any of the First Principles of Journalism.

Never.

The truth is, it is overly simplistic to say, that we have a Chinese wall between marketing and editorial. We have never needed one. Because it is our colleagues in sales and marketing who have protected our editorial integrity with as much zeal and commitment as us journalists.

And yet, we have built such a fine company. It vindicates our belief, our founder’s and our CMD Viveck Goenka‘s, that there is no contradiction between good journalism and the market.

This is why, I believe, and can say with great satisfaction, that my job on the corporate side is now done.

***

It was in an unusual set of circumstances, and at a critical juncture in the history of our company, that Viveck had asked me to take over the additional responsibility of overseeing the management.

Those unusual circumstances, or any sense of imminent crisis, no longer exist.

From those perilous years, the company has now been nursed into great health.

Credit for this goes to all of you, but most of all to Viveck.

My profound gratitude is also owed to him for placing his trust in me to handle a responsibility I had no skills or training for. It is a perfect time, therefore, for me, to hand over a flourishing company back to Viveck, now that he has the time to take over the management.

And since you can always trust him to pick the most auspicious day in the calendar, he has chosen, for the new arrangement, August 28, Janmashtami.

***

We will share more details with you in the course of time. I am pleased to also inform you, meanwhile, about the return of another Express Group veteran, George Varghese, as the Company’s CEO, to assist Viveck who will be fully hands-on.

Given where the company has reached now, I believe that we need a more structured and formally organized corporate leadership to build on the wonderful platform all of you have created. That is precisely what we will get now. George is a wonderful professional and old-timers among us remember him fondly.

Please join me in wishing him, and Viveck well.

Since I am a story-teller by profession, though, I can’t help but tell you one here. When Viveck asked me to take over this additional charge one winter afternoon, I was petrified. I did not even know debit from credit and thought an RO, our daily bread-giving advertisement Release Order, was some water purifying system.

So I excused myself for a minute, went outside, and called T.N. Ninan, my friend and former editor whose counsel I have sometimes sought with such dilemmas and who has himself done a fine job of balancing edit and business leadership.

He gave me a bunch of quick suggestions and then concluded, in his usual grave tone: but be careful so-and-so…people should not say that a journalist took over a publishing business and made a mess of it.

If I have no such concerns now, it is entirely because of the motivation, talent, commitment and trust that all of you have shown, often surprising even the thick-skinned me with your resilience and optimism.

***

A couple more thoughts. Besides a consistently decent bottomline, we had also set ourselves stiff targets on improving our working conditions, technologies and, of course, compensations. All of you have contributed to turning into reality what had then looked like an impossibility.

We routinely have media websites wondering how we manage to have such nice offices and pay ourselves so well.

Our answer: go check our balance sheets. So thank you all once again for so energetically putting your shoulder to the wheel, even overlooking the unusual fact that I was such a novice to business. And nor did I carry a corporate title, or any title other than the old-fashioned Group Editor-In-Chief.

Which is how I will be working full-time henceforth. Besides all editorial teams (except Loksatta), our tiny but super-productive brand, innovation, archive and CSR teams will continue working with me. I also hope to be able to find more time to build EXIMS, our media school, which is a labour of love.

I will soon be speaking with the team heads individually and answering any questions they might have. I will be fully helping out with transition on the corporate side. Meanwhile, please make sure nothing falls between the cracks. We must maintain total continuity.

If confused, send communication, clearances etc to me with copy to Kumar Gyanam and we will either give you the answers, or be good postmen and redirect you to the correct addressees.

Yet again, before I sign off for the day, thanks and all the best. In any case, I am always around, and accessible and just as chaotically so — as before.

Shekhar Gupta

Editor-in-Chief

Photograph: courtesy Impact

Also read: To all Express employees, from the editor

A new paper in India’s most crowded market

15 August 2013

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With the South-based New Indian Express group of Manoj Kumar Sonthalia entering the Delhi market with the Sunday Standard, the North-based Indian Express group of Viveck Goenka has returned the favour by entering the Bangalore market with the National Standard.

The 20-page daily, priced at Rs 4, has been launched on Independence Day with a near identical pagination as the main paper in Delhi, but with a strong component of national news, a key blank in the existing newspapers in Bangalore.

Writes Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta in the launch issue of National Standard:

“We will work to translate the news—and noise—of New Delhi to help you understand how it affects life in the city…. As a newspaper, National Standard will strive to be as complete as Bangalore’s bisi bele baath, that delicious mix of rice, lentils and vegetables.”

After the split in the Indian Express group following Ramnath Goenka‘s demise in the mid-1990s, his adopted son Viveck Goenka got the Express editions in the North, West and East, and Financial Express, which had no geographical boundaries.

The southern editions went to Manoj Sonthalia, who relaunched the publications in the South and Orissa as The New Indian Express. (Manoj Sonthalia’s mother and Viveck Goenka’s mother are sisters.)

(Ramnath Goenka’s daughter-in-law Saroj Goenka (Goenka’s biological son B.D. Goenka had predeceased him), got the lion’s share of the group’s real estate, including the Express building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and Express estate in Madras, on a portion of which she has built that city’s biggest mall, Express Avenue.)

The Manoj Sonthalia and Viveck Goenka groups had an agreement not to step on each other’s turfs, which was broken with the launch of Sunday Standard under Prabhu Chawla. The northern group took the matter to court but in vain.

For the record, The Times of India is the market leader in India’s most crowded English newspaper market, Bangalore, with a circulation said to be at least two times more than no.2 placed Deccan Herald .

The New Indian Express, The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, DNA, are all also-rans. The National Standard is printed at the DNA‘s press in Bangalore.

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‘Shekhar Gupta has done a fantastic job at IE’

9 July 2013

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A new son rises in the west. Anant Goenka, the scion of the Indian Express (Bombay) group of Viveck Goenka, and the grandson of Ramnath Goenka, has given an interview to the Mint on the digital future he has envisioned for the paper.

The 27-year-old talks about his father’s superstitions, about growing up in a house in Nariman Point with a press in the basement, of the ravages caused to what was once India’s largest newspaper group by the split in the family in the mid-1990s—and of the fine job done by its current editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta in restoring some of its lost lustre.

When did you realize you were interested in the newspaper business?

I always loved it. There are photographs of Ramnath-ji taking me to the press at a very young age. The press was in my house, it was in the basement of the Express Towers (in Mumbai), so every night I would always take a walk down with dad or mom.

I’ve always had a lot of love, passion and affection for Express because of the kind of stories that you hear about it, kind of change it’s made with the Emergency stories. It’s too inspiring to be able to walk away from. It’s always been something that I wanted to do….

What kind of relationship do you share with the editor?

I think Shekhar (Gupta) has done a fantastic job with Express.

If you look at the last 13 years, we have had some really rough patches. I think ever since the family fight, and ever since Express was split three ways, it really cost the group. Real estate, what is worth about a billion dollars now, went to Ramnathj-ji’s daughter-in-law, Saroj Goenka. Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, my uncle, got The Indian Express in the south.

We had to let go of Express Towers in Noida. In Delhi, we have been very unlucky. We pay market rent on this building (Express Building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg) to Saroj Goenka, dadiji as I call her.

The position that we have today is something that has worked but it also worked because of Shekhar’s complete editorial independence. And he has ruthlessly cut costs. We have come down from 4,000 to 2,400 people.

Photograph: Pritam Sengupta

Read the full interview: Anant Goenka

Also read: The Express journo who broke the chopper scam

Thrice bitten, will FT find love after 20 years?

4 May 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For a newspaper that likes to think it is the handbook for global executives on how to run their businesses, Financial Times hasn’t quite had a textbook entry into India.

Twenty years ago, when the doors of the economy were opened ajar and the rumours of the iconic British business newspaper being published from India gained steam, The Times of India group tripped FT by launching a weekly supplement to The Economic Times, mischievously calling it Financial Times. A long courtroom battle over trademark violation ensued between the two groups.

Boxed into a corner, FT got into a tieup with what was then India’s no. 2 business newspaper, Business Standard, becoming the first foreign company to make a major investment in Indian media. FT‘s representatives sat in the BS news and board rooms, but that relationship went sour in 2008, with FT divesting its 13.85% stake in the paper.

Three years ago, rumours of Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 launching the India edition of FT hit the roof, with rumours of then ToI executive editor Jaideep Bose being wooed to head the operation. ToI again hit back, retaining “Jojo”, as Bose is known, and elevating him to editorial director. The global downturn also helped put the project in cold freeze.

Today, the Indian Express group of Viveck Goenka, which owns the Financial Express, has announced a “content partnership” with the Financial Times, exactly two years to the day after it started printing a facsimile edition of FT‘s rival, The Wall Street Journal.

“In addition to daily news and features from the Financial Times, readers will benefit from access to reporting from FT bureaus around the world and columns by eminent writers such as Martin Wolf, Lucy Kellaway and Simon Schama,” reads a front-page announcement in the Express.

Express is already in a similar “content partnership” with The Economist, which is half-owned by Pearson, the publishers of FT, publishing a co-branded page a day.  The Rupert Murdoch-owned WSJ, besides printing its editions in Express presses, is in a “partnership” with Mint, the business daily owned by the Hindustan Times.

Thrice bitten, will Financial Times find lasting love in relationship no. 4 with the Express group? And will the consummation of the marriage see the birth of FT in the 20th year of reforms? More to the point, is there an unseen hand, with nascent interests in news television, behind the Express-Economist-FT partnership?

Will The Sunday Standard set the Yamuna on fire?

31 March 2011

Dummy editions of The Sunday Standard, the weekly newspaper from the Madras-based New Indian Express group, have begun doing the rounds. The eight-page dummy printed on standard newsprint seems to suggest that the 21st century weekend paper will have a conventional, 1990s design.

Edited by former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla, the paper was originally slated to be launched on March 20, and is now rumoured to see the light of day in “early April“.

The Sunday Standard will compete with M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian, and the Crest edition of The Times of India for weekend readership. Former India Today executive editor, the cartoonist Ravi Shankar, is among the more familiar bylines in the dummy issue of The Sunday Standard.

The Sunday edition of the original Indian Express of Ramnath Goenka used to be sold under The Sunday Standard masthead, before the split in the family. The old title is being revived by the south-based Manoj Kumar Sonthalia to gain a foothold in Delhi in a manner that will circumvent the no-compete clause with the north and west-based Viveck Goenka.

Indian Express vs The Hindu, N. Ram vs N. Ravi

25 March 2010

***

The Indian Express, Delhi, has a front-page “exclusive” on the fracas in the family controlling The Hindu, Madras.

The main points the Express story (also simultaneouly carried in its sister-business daily Financial Express) by media correspondent Archna Shukla makes are:

a) disagreements over the “proposed retirement” of publisher and editor-in-chief N. Ram;

b) the stripping of powers of his brother N. Murali as managing director of the company; and

c) Ram’s recent appointment of family members to the paper allegedly without the board’s consent: his daughter Vidya Ram as the new European correspondent of The Hindu Business Line and Narayan Lakshman as the Hindu’s new Washington correspondent.

N. Ram hit back within hours of the Express story, stating that he would launch “civil and criminal” defamation proceedings against the Express reporter, editor-in-chief, editor and publisher.

“These reports are riddled with demonstrable falsehoods and defamatory assertions, some of them attributed to unnamed sources, made with reckless and malicious disregard for the facts and the truth. And this despite the professional courtesy I extended to the journalist and the newspapers by responding precisely and factually to five specific questions emailed to me on March 24 by Ms Shukla.”

Ram also put out the news of his seeking legal recourse to his 6,562 followers on the micro-blogging site, Twitter.

If rumours of the family rift are true, this is the second round in the battle for control of The Hindu.

N. Ram was at the centre of the first one, too. In the early 1990s, then editor G. Kasturi had made way for Ram’s youngest brother N. Ravi and their cousin Malini Parthasarathy at The Hindu, while Ram was shafted off to edit Frontline and Sportstar.

Ten years later, Ram later teamed up with Kasturi to stage a return.

It now looks like payback time with Kasturi’s son K. Balaji being made managing director of the company at the February 20 board meeting, sharing wideranging responsibilities and supervisory powers over several departments: accounts, production, industrial relations, EDP, purchase of newsprint and other raw materials.

The Express story says Ravi and Malini Parathasarathy have now objected to the manner in which…

“Kasturi’s resources, financial as well as editorial, were used to further the interests of some board members”.

As if to underline the substance of the Express story, N. Ravi revived his Twitter acount after four months to say what he thought of N. Ram’s tweet on (and threat of) the defamation case against Express.

And as if to leave the world in no doubt about who stands where in the undivided Hindu family, Malini Parthasarathy retweeted N. Ravi’s tweet, with her own tweet on Twitter.

Internecine family battles are par for the course in the Indian media. The Deccan Herald group went through it in the mid-1990s, as has the Indian Express reporting The Hindu strife, though both have found ways and means of dividing labour within the family without further bloodshed.

More recently, the Amar Ujala group was also in the middle of a messy family battle, which hit the headlines after some worthies including India Today editor Prabhu Chawla‘s son were caught passing a bribe.

What lends The Hindu vs The Indian Express legal battle an added edge is the abrasive nature of the two people at the helm: Hindu editor-in-chief Ram and Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta. (Ram came in at No. 70 in the Express powerlist published in January this year.)

Secondly, The Indian Express and The Hindu are at opposite ends of the political and ideological spectrum. While the former is a gung-ho supporter of all things America (nuclear deal, GM foods, etc), the latter, under the CPM card-carrying Ram, is decidedly less so.

If the defamation case goes ahead, it will be interesting for more reasons than one.

The resident editor of Express in Delhi (responsible for news selection under the law) is Seema Chishti, wife of CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.

N. Ram and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat have been bosom buddies since their days at Madras Christian Loyola College, where they were together with home minister P. Chidambaram, now ironically seen to be close to Shekhar Gupta.

Meanwhile, as rumours of a fresh board meeting gain ground, clearly the sudden turn of events is causing much mirth in rival publishing houses, too, even if they share the same name as the paper that broke the story.

Aditya Sinha, editor-in-chief of The New Indian Express—the new name given to the southern editions after the Indian Express split following the death of Ramnath Goenka—does his bit to fan the rumour mills through his Twitter account.

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