- ToI’s publisher BCCL’s revenues are in excess of Rs 9,800 crore
When they called it the Information Age, it was supposed to be about a technological leap—away from the old, towards the digital, a deep McLuhanian shift in the mediums through which the world made sense of itself. No one perhaps expected how much traditional media would come to coopt the new and accumulate more power and mindspace. The rather reclusive media potentate, Samir Jain, exemplifies this. Vice-chairman of BCCL, India’s largest media company, since 1982, he turned The Times of India into the most widely-circulated English newspaper in the world, with revenues in excess of Rs 9,800 crore and over 10,000 employees. Its wide territories, which he manages with younger brother Vineet Jain, resemble a subcontinental map—over 50 cross-country print editions in English, Hindi, Marathi and Bangla, besides two TV news channels and entertainment channels on radio and TV.
It was in the 1990s that Samir Jain brought in his corporatised approach with an unabashedly growth and profit orientation, defining media as a consumer product, going for strong “branding” techniques, using extensive market feedback, trying to cater to the widest possible array of readers. The English daily would be a window to the world for non-metro readers, and city audiences got a big slice of local life—trends widely mimicked. BCCL also set no “group-wide” position on issues—under its umbrella, ToI, Navbharat Times, Times Now and Economic Times all pursued their own readership’s interests. To him is also attributed the slow fading out of celebrity editors, the only exception being Arnab Goswami, whose medium dictates such terms. “Samir Jain wanted an editor who’s neutral—not tied to an ideology, a cause or a party,” says Ravi Dhariwal, former executive director and CEO, BCCL. “You see, flamboyance doesn’t mean you’re also a good editor, which is what you need for a paper to maintain its neutrality. That’s why he chose Jaideep Bose, in whom ToI has an excellent editor.” Jain too, perhaps apocryphally, never gets himself photographed. Even the New Yorker couldn’t get a hold of him some years ago for its report on how print survived the online onslaught in India. Not for him the lectern at big media conclaves, no media guru sparkle. Rather, “VC” is known to retreat occasionally to the quiet of Rishikesh.