We have heard Infosys Chief Mentor Narayana Murthy talk about his company’s IT strategy, merits of outsourcing, role of ethics in the corporate world, philanthropy, venture capitalism – the list goes on. But his keynote address on this particular event was clearly different. For here, he talked about a future where people of India and Pakistan could freely move across borders and explore each other’s nations. The event was the Aman ki Asha Indo-Pakistan business summit organised by The Times of India (TOI) group and the Pakistan-based Jang Group on May 18, 2010 at the Taj Palace, New Delhi. It has been hailed as a business meet unparalleled in the history of the two countries, when you consider the number and stature of the delegates in attendance. It was track 2 diplomacy at its best, all the more significant considering how the wounds of 26/11 were still fresh in the minds of the Indian people. The Aman ki Asha campaign has already created waves with its unique message – that it should not be impossible to have India, Pakistan and love in the same sentence – and the associated initiatives. Pulling it off required a tremendous amount of resources, brand power and the willingness to go on the road less taken. To say that TOI has these in more than ample measure, would be stating the obvious, or even understating it in reality.
For the fact is that our cover headline summarises the reality of a media house that has defined the benchmarks of intellectual and committed journalism and reporting time and again; a media house that has beaten even us (and this is the hard part) time and again in the race for showcasing how world-class, data driven, statistically supported and irrefutably incisive a news analysis could be. They remain – undefeated, undisputed, and most importantly, understood by the huge masses – which is why they are now the world’s largest circulated English newspaper, the nonpareils of the global media industry.
If one wants to even begin comprehending the basis of the sheer power of brand TOI, legacy would be the most obvious place to begin. Admittedly, there is little in common between the copy of The Times of India you get every morning today and the bi-weekly Bombay Times & Journal of Commerce founded on November 3, 1838. When East India Company lost its monopoly, Bombay became the hub of business all of a sudden, mainly due to its strategic location; and this paper aimed at empowering the burgeoning business community with timely & accurate news. The group’s first editor Dr. J. E. Brennan wrote about how Britain was failing to recognise India’s potential for ‘philosophical investigation’ and ‘practical exertion’ in the first edition. In recognition of the leading role of the Bombay press, the paper was renamed ‘The Times of India’ in 1861.
Content was king then, and now for any media publication. Due to its immense relevance from the outset, TOI had the benefit of some of the most distinguished editorial talent at the helm, even during the British raj. There was Thomas Bennet himself, who took up the cause of the ryot, and Lovat Fraser, who strongly advocated better living conditions for cotton mill workers. His colleague Stanley Reed enforced the culture of retaining all news that came up till midnight for the paper next morning, from the earlier deadline of 5pm. He also predicted that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand would trigger World War 1, a prediction made by only one other newspaper in the world – Vorwaerts. In 1948, the paper passed into the hands of the Sahu Jain group. Even after Independence, the paper boasted of exemplary editorial talent – like N. J. Nanporia with his deep understanding of foreign issues, Sham Lal with his analytical and incisive abilities and Girilal Jain with his strong tilt towards nationalism. Dileep Palgaonkar was the first to introduce ways to make the paper more interesting and readable, with suitable changes in hitherto stringent edit guidelines. And then came the most defining era within the Times group, where the philosophy was driven to make employees understand that there are no “famous” editors, but only “famous” design, editorial content, and marketing! It was an era that was literally redefined by TOI in educating media houses and contemporaries (TOI’s contemporaries post independence were many, but in the realm of English dailies, the leading ones were Hindustan Times, Statesman and Hindu; other next level leaders included Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald & Pioneer) that anybody could be promoted as an editor, as long as – and this was and is most important for the group – the editor was committed to championing supereminent excellence, to providing outstanding and medalist content, to believe that providing world-class news, analysis, presentation was at all times considered greater than the individual delivering it. A cursory look at any Sunday TOI edition – we consider TOI’s Sunday editions iconic, given their rambunctious and electrifying compendium of intellectual content – would be enough to prove how the TOI group has shown the world they have many such people, who day after day, night after night, are working like splendid paladins providing the reader with inductively fantastic and deductively reasoned analysis.
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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2010.
An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).
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