Sanjay Gupta is CEO of Jagran Prakashan Ltd which publishes Dainik Jagran, Inquilab, i-next, Mid-Day, the Gujarati Mid-day, Jagran Punjabi, Sakhi, City Plus, and now NaiDunia. He spoke about his acquisition of NaiDunia, journalism, and why papers need to expand to survive.
On how editorially hands on he is:
Dainik Jagran is still run by me as editor. Mid-day and the other publications all have professional editors. DJ I run because of the legacies involved.
Any large newspaper driven by family editors will change it to a completely professional set up. We have an editorial core board. They send me the news list, my role is more one of guidance. Any professional investor you meet, and I meet a lot of them, will always drive the point—there must be independence of the news operation. There is a lot of difference if Indians are running a foreign investment fund.
On how much he is willing to invest in news:
I think everything must be budgeted properly. At the end of the day it is running like a business. Nowadays there are also those who run media houses to protect their businesses. We don’t have much other business interests, our business is media. We do have a mall in Kanpur.
On why there is such a cash crunch today in media, particularly in TV:
They didn’t know how to manage the capital outflow. At the end of the day there is a limit to how much capital to burn in the business. At times TV companies have become like online businesses.
The Hindi media earns less. its cost per 1000 in terms of the advertising rate charged is much lower than that of English publications. But my infrastructure cost is four times higher. Doorstep delivery of just Jagran would require a lot of infrastructure. I have 240 editions in 11 states, and 29 print centres for 35 lakh copies. All the papers together sell 4.5 million copies. including City Plus (that is a free sheeter started 3 yrs ago, as a neighbourhood paper). City plus sells in places like Hyderabad and Pune where Dainik Jagran has no brand recall. Mumbai has seven editions of it. I am in the business of content.
On the ideology of the Group’s newspapers and whether they supports the Bharatiya Janata Party:
Dainik Jagran is a right wing paper and incidentally the BJP is a right wing party. DJ’s ideology does not apply to papers which have their own editors, and own editorial policies within our group. They have different viewpoints. We publish an Urdu paper. Initially there was some feeling that a media house with a right wing paper like DJ runs an Urdu brand. But Inquilab has its own policy and editor. And NaiDunia will have its own editor and i-next has its own editor.
At the end of the day you have to respect the nation and give credit to what is right.
On why they have acquired NaiDunia:
We could not expand Dainik Jagran in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh. I would say its lucky that this thing came. A greenfield project would have been too difficult, to launch a fresh brand would have been too expensive. We bought Mid-Day in Mumbai to enter that region. it is a very promising brand. Entering Mumbai or the Nationa Capital Region is trying to get a piece of a very large cake.
I am buying into a brand which has some relevance. Acquisition is buying into brands, not closing them down. Values of print properties are dropping every day . now internationally print values of companies very low.
On their decision to push for foreign investment:
We brought in foreign direct investment because we needed the capital to protect the business. That is how the Irish Independent came in. Later we went public to give the Independent an exit route. They got out because of their problems with the Europe market. DJ was probably the best feather in their cap. Gavin O Reilly still an independent director in our company.
Today nothing can be small or you will be gobbled up. This logic was applied in our family 30 years back. Expand, or perish. We began in Jhansi and then the time we launched Gorakhpur. we were not an entrepreneurial family backed by large funds. They were completely editorial driven. The whole concept of DJ was nationalistic in nature. The whole concept of running a paper back in 1947 was also to make money. we were not some kind of an ngo.
On whether the shrinking of small family media will affect journalism:
Today the debate is twofold. Should you earn out of journalism, and if so how much should you earn. I don’t think we should start disowning capitalism and start moving towards socialism.
As for Nai Dunia, that brand basically gets the advantage of our scale, not that our brand gets scale because of it. That brand starts getting things at lower cost and synergies start happening. All these things make a new brand coming into my stable more viable. They will give returns to you when you have brought scale to them.
Buying another media brand helps that brand and its journalists. Mid-day’s circulation has gone up from 80,000 or so at the time of acquiring it to 1.5 lakh in one and a half years. Some of its senior journalists are getting ESOPs.
I am not gobbling them, I am making them grow strong. I am giving them their right place to survive in the market. If Bhaskar buys them they will close it down. I am buying and mentoring an old brand which would have withered away. Today a Mid-day is standing up to a DNA and HT onslaught and even a Mumbai Mirror because I have given them an infusion of capital.
Biases will be removed, they will become more independent to run their show. They must have done something wrong to have lost out. If a newspaper is about an idea of journalism and not able to survive it needs to go and sit in the lap of a media group. Whatever its tradition it is going to be a stronger paper. Vinay Chhajlani, grandson of the founder said, NaiDunia ki growth Jagran ke haath. I need an advisor to the board so he will be the advisor.