Tag Archives: Forbes

The journalist who suddenly forgot everything


In the fourth anniversary issue of Open, Forbes India managing editor Charles Assisi recounts  what every journalist dreads—losing the one thing that counts most in our profession:

“To cut a long story short, a little over two years ago, some neurons misfired in my head. I was in my office when this happened. I won’t gt into the sordid details and drama that accompanied the episode—except that my colleagues were witnesses to my falling down in a heap, frothing and convulsing. A couple of them bundled me into a car and drove like maniacs where I was admitted into the intensive care unit.

“A month after I was discharged, my family and friends were told a virus had invaded my immune system, permeated the blood-brain barrier, damaged some parts of my brain, and triggered a bout of viral encephalitis—a rare disorder with high mortality rates in some conditions.

“I was among those who survived.

“The only problem is, survivors have to deal with various kinds of complications, In my case, I had lost my memory. I had no idea who I was, where I was, and save a few people close to me, who everybody around was. For all practical purposes, I was dead, But I was breathing, most of my other faculties were still intact, and I hadn’t forgotten the language….

“Between my wife, brother, parents and a few close friends, they took turns to tell me who I was. But I’d get in a few minutes and get back to being a body of nuisance to pretty much everybody around by repeating the same sets of questions.

“No, how do I know all of this happened? Because my wife Anna began compiling a notebook that outlined I detail answers to my questions. My brother Kolya tried to explain what was happening in my head. And my cousin Niffy wrote me long notes of events, places and things from our younger days when were growing up.

“My colleageues at work—IG [ Forbes editor Indrajit Gupta], [director of photography] Dinesh [Krishnan], and special features editor Peter [Griffin]—pitched in by trying to help put in place the pieces of my day job as a journalist.”

Photograph: courtesy Charles Assisi

External reading: Charles Assisi on Ankit Fadia

Eight reasons journalism is the best profession

A recent survey ranking journalism as the fifth worst job to have—alongside dishwashers and oil rig workers—has got journalists all worked up.

Jeff Bercovici lists eight reasons why that’s not true, despite the low salaries,the long and irregular working hours, etc.

# You’re always learning

# You get paid to read a ton

# You get paid to meet interesting people

# You get to meet celebrities

# Maybe you even get to enjoy a little celebrity

# “Stress” is excitement

# Journalists get around

# And then there’s the small matter of self-expression

Read the full article: Forget that survey

Also read: Congratulations, all of you, for a great job


Photograph: In the hit film Jaane bhi do yaaro, two commercial photographers (played by Naseeruddin Shah and the late Ravi Baswani) pick up freelance assignments for Khabardar, a muckraking publication edited by Shobha Sen (Bhakti Barve) that ostensibly wants to expose the link between an unscrupulous builder (Pankaj Kapoor) and a corrupt municipal commissioner (Satish Shah). The lensmen come up with damning evidence but, well, the editor is “stringing along” with another builder (Om Puri) and strumming a different tune.

Since flattery is best expressed thro’ imitation—II

The Superman metaphor makes it to the cover of two Indian magazines in the space of three months.

Left: The October 2010 cover of Pragati. Designers: Aditya Dipankar and Anuj Agarwal.

Right: The December 2010 cover of Forbes India. Designers: Arindam Duttgupta and Benu Joshi Routh.

Also read: Since flattery is best expressed through imitation

External reading: Nitin Pai: Cover versions

Peter Griffin: It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…

Second editor of Indian origin for ‘Newsweek’

Tunku Varadarajan, the Indian-born, US-based writer-educator, has been named the new editor of Newsweek international, becoming the second journalist of Indian origin after Fareed Zakaria to hold the reins at the American magazine.

Tunku broke the news through a tweet on Wednesday: “My news: Looks like I’ll be editing Newsweek International”.

Born Patanjali Varadarajan, 48-year-old Tunku—named after the father of Malyasia’s independence—is currently writer-at-large at The Daily Beast, the online magazine floated by legendary British editor Tina Brown. His appointment comes as part of the revamp of the struggling magazine, after the Washington Post company sold it to stereo tycoon Sidney Harman for one dollar (Rs 45) earlier this year.

Tunku, whose brother Siddharth Varadarajan works for The Hindu in New Delhi, has served as the correspondent of The Times, London, in Madrid and New York; worked at the editorial and op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal; and taught business at New York University and journalism at Stanford.

When his old boss Rupert Murdoch (who owns The Times) bought the WSJ, Tunku left to join Forbes.com.

In 1997, the 50th anniversary of India’s independence,  a  New Yorker item listed the nattily dressed Tunku, then 34, as one of New York City’s “most in-demand bachelors”.

“‘At the Times, we used to have a rule. Always dress as if you might have to go to a funeral or interview a Cabinet minister’…

“How often is he invited out? ‘Every day, I fear. A lot of these calls I take completely blind,’ he says, sipping a Scotch-and-soda. ‘If the person’s voice sounds nice, I tend to say yes. I suppose this could get me into a lot of trouble.’

Cricket-mad Tunku, a firm believer in the gung-ho vivacity of British newspapers as opposed to the deadly dull objectivity of their American counterparts, called Pakistan a “State of nothing” on that midnight child’s 50th anniversary.

Photograph: Tunku Varadarajan with wife Amy Finerty. The couple have a son, Satya (via Facebook)


Also read: Who, when, how, why, where, what and WTF

How a slumdweller became a Newsweek reporter

‘Magazines, like mushrooms, should grow in the dark’

Fortune India and Forbes India in numbers

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


# 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)

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

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.

Does a free newspaper stand a chance in India?

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’