A magazine in 14 languages? Everyone even slightly serious about media – the seniors in the fraternity included – had genuinely laughed when we had bounced the idea off them! They gave tens of reasons why the idea was not worth it and why the same would not be successful. The reasons given were very logical ones though. We don’t want to undermine anyone’s intelligence or reasoning; but they were totally right in their own ways and were not trying to pull me down. They were trying to be helpful... it was just that our definition of success differed from their definition. As our magazine The Sunday Indian completes five years, I can say that financially, we haven’t yet become successful – so all of them were right. We started breaking even as a media house only one month ago, after about seven years of struggle. It has not been an easy journey.
But financial success was never our benchmark of success. For me, personally, success is always a competition with self-imposed standards of excellence. And if I am convinced that excellence has been achieved, then I go into the market and fight it out against all odds. Thus, we have always believed in striving for world class and then going all out to market it. We have failed when the product failed to live up to the expected standards; but then, we’ve reworked and bounced back. Our institute fought out and won against the biggest of established names despite being tagged rank outsiders! Our movies did the same! And now our media house is doing the same!
Losing or winning is not success. Success is the courage to undertake great journeys. And this has been our toughest, and therefore greatest journey! Personally, I loved being called a guy who knew nothing about media; even being told that our media venture was a joke! And all this by very senior people I respect a lot, even today. Again, the gentlemen who said these things didn’t know what we had set out to achieve. So they were right in their own ways. We did know less about media – especially the dirt in it. Truthfully, I didn’t know anything about media the way others knew. For me, media has always been a vehicle to take a message to the larger masses – something that is not told by those who want to maintain status quo in the name of media. The discussions and debates in accented English that we were having inside the walls of IIPM classrooms, we wanted to take to those who were outside the classrooms in their mother tongue languages. Inside the classrooms, we teach around sixty students in one go; through media, we could reach out to six lakhs! And hopefully one day, sixty crores.
Media is to us a way of teaching the reality of things all around in simple words, in the language closest to the hearts of the people. We are teachers and not just reporters. So we have never believed in giving news alone. We have given news that has been opinionated and that has clearly taken positions; positions which are honest and committed to the masses regardless of being left of the centre or right. Despite our hearts being in the left of the centre, we ripped apart the Indian Leftists when they went wrong; and yet, didn’t waste moments before supporting them wholeheartedly when they went against the government on the nuclear issue. Only the Leftists as per us had the intellect to call a spade a spade in the midst of sold-out politicians in general. We have felt Sonia revived the Congress and was doing a great job in her last run. And yet, this time we have ripped through her inability to tackle corruption, and that too almost inside her own house. We went the complete mile in supporting Anna’s crusade; yet, minced no words when we felt that he needed to be less stubborn. We praised Modi for his exemplary work in Gujarat... And yet, we showed our extreme disappointment that the BJP could not take advantage of the massive opportunity they got during this endless phase of corruption-related exposes within the Congress. All in all, I think not a single politician can say that they could predict our stories or that they could get a story planted in our magazine. Being outsiders has its advantages. We are accessible to none – and party with none. So we are completely unbiased and hard-hitting when it comes to bringing truth to the front.
Our biggest success has been the feedback of our readers. I can say confidently today that no other magazine would be receiving as much feedback as we receive. Hundreds of letters in this day and age; thousands of messages on phone and Facebook... it is an incredible feeling! Extremely senior regional language lovers have been moved to tears while writing about our endeavours to bring out a magazine in their language. From Urdu to Marathi to Bhojpuri, the way we have penetrated the hearts of real Indians, no other media group has. Irrespective of whatever anyone says, finally, all editions combined, we are today the second largest read and circulated newsmagazine in the country. That’s success!
Success is seeing our readers first swear by our magazine and then by our supplements. Success is not just about seeing those scores of ‘Likes’ each time I upload my editorial pieces on my Facecook page, but about seeing the amazing amount of feedback that each one of our columnists gets. Prasoon’s articles break all barriers of economics and touch the readers’ hearts like no other economist’s columns can.
Prashanto’s exceptionally sensitive and humane outlook towards life keeps people asking for more. They both have very beautifully also managed the economics and lifestyle sections of this magazine with their wonderful team members Sray, Akram, Tareque, Indira, Anu, Spriha and others.
The most committed – to cause and sincerity – efforts of Saurabh Sahi, Anil Pandey and Mridu always leave me amazed and feeling successful. Not to forget Mayank, Pooja, Mahendra and the entire edit team which works with such terrific commitment. This magazine’s big achievement is its ability to come out in 14 languages – and without people like Asokan, Rajashekhar Panciker, Nirupama Dutt, Dhrutikam Mohanty, Devdas Matale, Naresh Nunna, Manish Macwan, Onkareshwar Pandey, Chandrashekhar Bhattacharjee, Syed Khurram Raza, Monalisa Gogoi, and Kumar Buradikatti, it wouldn’t have been possible. They not only bring out such lovely language editions, but also contribute to the richness and depth of the English edition with the most unique stories from the heartlands of India. And thus, the success keeps multiplying. Of course, it doesn’t end here. It’s just the beginning! Pramodji and Priyanka have been the rock-solid base of the political affairs section, and Saibal the force behind the magazine’s copy-edit standards while always being inspirational whenever he writes. Ranjit, of course, has been the most amazing human being (like everyone else actually, from Priyanka to Indira) who additionally has steered the editorial standards of this magazine to success. They say, never judge a book by its cover. But when the design team is lead by Satyajit – a magician by hobby as well as work – and his team of stunning designers from Manish to Pragnesh to Siddharth to Alpana to Priyankar to Shantanu, you can forgive people for often falling in love with our magazines by looking purely at our covers and design. Great design requires great photography – and Ranjan and Sujan Singh, with their great team including Mukunda, see to it that that is always world class! But all this can come to a naught without exceptionally committed and sincere people at the production and circulation end. And Gurudas leads from the front in that, along with his teammates like Digamber, Soumyajeet, Bhupinder Bisit and others!
While I celebrate our success in terms of commitment and excellence, I should not forget the traditional definition of success – the financial success! As we celebrate our breaking-even in the media business, we need to thank Abhimanyu who started it all and who continues to contribute hugely through his action-oriented ideas, Deepak who as our CEO has now taken us to a totally different league, and Amim who has been the fountain of passion and hard work in this dog-eat-dog world of advertising and marketing!
But over everyone else are two people. One, who is waiting for my editorial columns in the middle of the night to see to it that every word in our magazine goes without a mistake; who is the backbone of our group’s business research section, due to whom our business magazines are so intellectually stimulating and due to whom the media house remains together – A Sandeep. Without him, we wouldn’t have reached anywhere remotely near where we have been able to, in terms of analytical excellence. Just his presence next to me makes my life worth it. That’s success... working with my best friends... forever... And there is no one who would have understood this, and the power that lies in this. Finally, the success of this magazine is about being led by Sutanu Guru. Only those who have seen him in action without personal jealousies would know what he is. I have. And I can certify that he is the god of political economy. He is the human database that can run an entire media house. He is an entrepreneur who can manage about two dozen editors that we have in our media house now with the five magazines and eighteen supplements! Standing next to him and completing five amazing years is what success is! And that, in short, has been the journey of The Sunday Indian till now. It’s about people; it’s about uncompromising ideologies; it’s about dedication to the cause of the masses. As we complete these five years, I feel immensely successful being at the helm of a venture that for me, personally, means commitment to India. I have stayed awake night after night writing these editorials and have enjoyed every moment of it. To me, it has been five successful years of being Passionate About India. The journey continues, and will always remain the reward.
- 08 October 2011 |