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.
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.