Rashmi: Hi Niira, my name is Rashmi and I write for The Economic Times.
Niira: Hi Rashmi, how are you?
Rashmi: I’m good, I write on telecom, out of Bombay.
Niira: I know, I’ve heard so much about you.
Rashmi: Okay, actually you know that this is regarding another story that I have learnt and of course it can be totally – you know, I mean, you might not have anything to offer on that. It’s about Bharti Airtel being in talks with Tata Communication, with Tatas rather, to buy out their stake in Tata Communications, okay?
Niira: What nonsense.
Rashmi: I know, I know. You have the right to say all that you want to say, I’m sending you a short questionnaire. We also have details, I mean, we have just very broad details, we also don’t have finer details, inner details.
Rashmi: But um, the fact is that I don’t want to write anything before of course letting Tatas the chance-- giving Tata the chance to, you know, respond.
Niira: It’s actually incorrect. It leads me to a meeting I had with Rahul Joshi yesterday where I told Rahul that you know, even in the case of Tata Motors, your Nandini and Lijee [?] and all of them write stories and I have ten stories sitting on my table today – eight of them are actually incorrect. Incorrect matlab, matlab actually --
Rashmi: I don’t know if you’ve been tracking my stories or not, by and large I -
Niira: No no, I have great respect for you. Rohit has been telling me about you and I have absolutely great respect for you. You’ve always been, I mean you’ve been – normally spot on, but let me tell you somebody’s having you on, coz you will force me to -
Rashmi: No no, now I’ll tell you. Niira – Niira, I’ll tell you – It’s not only me, there’re two more seniors in different centres, they’re not even in Bombay, they’re calling me up – they told me on Sunday about the same thing, and I -
Niira: Rashmi, aisa kaun spread kar raha hai? (Rashmi, who is spreading this news?). There is only one bunch of loonies that spreads anything -
Rashmi: I know -
Niira: – which is -
Rashmi: I know, I know, Niira, I exactly know what you’re saying, but something is off -
Niira: Rashmi, you know what their attempt is right now, to show that Bhartis and Tatas are getting closer together.
Niira: So they want to try – see what is their attempt, single attempt, to get 6.25 MHz of spectrum by fudging all the figures and doing what they want. They want to show the government, or not so much the government – they want to show Raja, because they’ve tried every other way to show that how they’re getting closer to Sunil Mittal, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, whatever. They want to now show that they’re actually entering into a business engagement -
Niira: – So that, we are – so they can go Raja and say look, Tatas and Sunil Mittal are going to hit you, I’m the only one who’s going to protect you.
Niira: I know their game, Rashmi, (inaudible), you can send me your questionnaire, I’m going to send it to Rahul, I’m going to tell him it’s absolutely wrong -
Rashmi: No, I’ll…I’ll still -
Niira: Because it’s wrong.
Rashmi: I’ll still send you a questionnaire, you can send it to Rahul, and uh, of course I’m sending it after talking to Bodhi and Javed and all, so it’s not that I’m randomly sending you a questionnaire on a story big like this. So what I’ll do is, I’ll send it, I’ll mark a copy to Srinath if you want me to -
Niira: Please do, please you can mark everyone a copy including Mr. Tata (laughs), I don’t mind -
Rashmi: No no no! I mean, that’s why I’m asking you, it’ll be n dot srinath at tata…com, what is it, I don’t know -
Niira: Uh, Srinath ki email id kya hai? Srini ka? (What is Srinath’s email id?)
Unnamed: (inaudible, in background)
Niira: srinath dot n at tata communications dot com
Rashmi: Okay…tata communications…you know, if it was only me who had heard I would still doubt myself, but since some very senior people and -
Niira: I know where it’s coming from! I know where it’s coming from. I can tell you exactly where it’s coming and I know who in your system is talking to who. The names that you’ve just given me, I can assure you, they’re in touch with them, and I know that for a fact. Rashmi, tum yeh story carry karoge mujhe letter likhna padega (Rashmi, if you carry this story I will have to write a letter). Simple baat hai (simply put) -
Rashmi: Nahin nahin woh to (no no, that’s -) (inaudible) -
Niira: (inaudible argument) – You tell Bodhi, and you tell Javed also -
Rashmi: I’ve told Bodhi, told Javed, and uh, what Rajeev has already written so many letters (laughs). (inaudible)
Niira: I will not even bother with Rajeev, because this is something that is absolutely lies, I know where it’s coming from, it might be not even true. We’re not talking to Bharti in anyway at all, there is no discussion with anyone – this is absolutely somebody just doing kite flying. And I don’t think you can carry stories which are just – I mean, tomorrow I can say you know that, Bennett Coleman has been bought off by Subhas Chandra but -
Rashmi: You know Niira, everybody tells me the same thing, that your company is being bought by this this, and Rupert Murdoch is buying BCCL and you know, everytime I write a story like that and you know, display back the same thing to me. I really don’t know, if I don’t write, someone else will write. Maximum…I mean, I’ve kept everybody in the loop including Javed and Bodhi. I’ll just check with them once again but I don’t think it will be like a no-no from them.
Niira: Eh, Rashmi, you tell um, Bodhi that you’ve spoken to me.
Niira: It’s lies.
Niira: You run the story, then let him put it – run it past Rahul. Rahul and I’ve had a discussion yesterday, I’ll leave it for Times of India to decide, and ET to decide how they want to go forward on this.
Rashmi: I will just tell them
Niira: If the story comes out, I will then take it right to the top, because the story is wrong. I won’t leave it, you can tell Bodhi that.
Niira: I’ve said that because I know the story is wrong, na? I don’t have to convince you that – because I know it’s not correct.
Rashmi: Niira, why don’t you call Bodhi and have a word with him, I think that’ll be better.
Niira: No no, tell him – I’m not even going to bother calling, I’m going to call Rahul just now and tell him that this is absolute nonsense that’s happening and that this needs to st – this is exactly what I met Rahul on yesterday -
Niira: I told him, I said, Rahul, if I find negat-- I don’t care if it’s negative or positive, if you have a negative story and we’ve done something wrong and you carry it Rashmi, no problem, as long as you carry my point of view, right? I have no issues -
Rashmi: Your point -
Niira: But you carry a story which is actually wrong, then I have a problem.
Rashmi: Your point of view will be carried, Niira, your point of view will be carried.
Niira: Jab story hi nahin hai to (when there’s no story to begin with), it’s not even true, Rashmi. Rashmi, if I was lying, if Bharti is talking to us, it would be there na? I’m telling you it’s not true!
Rashmi: It would be where? It would be where, tell me? It would be where? You would -
Niira: It’s not there! Zero!
Rashmi: (inaudible) Even when you were…Niira, it’s been my experience yaar, everytime there’s…anybody talks to anybody they always deny it till the last minute, right?
Niira: To baat hi nahin hai, Rashmi, main tumhe ek baat bata do, yeh baat nahin hai (There’s no possibility of that, Rashmi, I’ll tell you one thing, there’s no possibility of that). Jo hai, agar hum log baat – you know what I will then tell you, Rashmi? Main comment nahin kar sakti ispe (I cannot comment on this), is what I will tell you.
Niira: Then you carry the story, I don’t have a problem.
Niira: What I’m telling you is -
Rashmi: Accha, theek hai, now let me, let me -
Niira: – that this is not even remotely possible.
Rashmi: – no, what I’ll do is tell Bodhi what you are saying and then I’ll run the questionnaire through to him and then I’ll like, you know, then we can take it forward from there, if I send you a mail I’ll SMS you saying that -
Niira: Rashmi, you send me the mail, I’m going to send it to Rahul, I’m not going to respond to you, I’m going to let you run the story and after that I will leave for the Tatas to decide what they want to do with Bennett Coleman. (inaudible)
Rashmi: But we will not run the story – we will not run the story without your comment, na?
Niira: Nahin, to main tumhe comment bhejungi na (No, so I will send you a comment, won’t I)? Because to me this is – you and I have spoken, as far as I am concerned this is absolutely wrong, this information is inaccurate, you are being led up the garden path. I don’t even want to respond that it is wrong because I’ve told you this, I’m not – I’m just going to – I’m going to send it on to Rahul and I’m going to say this is yet – please add it to my list of of Lijee Philip and other Economic Times stories which are factually wrong. (pause) So then I will let Tatas decide what they want to do with Bennett Coleman.
Rashmi: (laughs) You don’t tell me all that, I’ll tell Bodhi -
Niira: (inaudible) bol de na Bodhi ko (tell Bodhi) -
Rashmi: I’ll tell Bodhi -
Niira: (inaudible) Rashmi, that’s how strongly I feel about it because I’m so tired of having to defend (inaudible).
Rashmi: My problem is, you know Niira, my problem is I’ve been stopped from writing stories till the eleventh hour -
Rashmi: – only to see them being formally announced the next day. So my experience with the Tata Group in particular has been so bad and um -
Niira: No with Tata Tele and you’ve had a couple of instances Rashmi and I’m really sorry about that, but yeh Bharti ka issue nahin hai, it’s not there! (pause)
Niira: Yeh baat hi galat hai (this information is wrong).
Rashmi: That’s what I’m saying, that’s what I’m saying na, my experience with the group has been so bad that I mean, if it was for the first time somebody was saying like, then I would have believed. But then -
Niira: So what is your query? That Bharti is buying Tata Communications?
Rashmi: No the – (laughs) – only your stake, I mean only Tata’s stake, not the whole company, they’re buying out Tatas from the venture.
Niira: From the government?
Rashmi: No, not from the government! See, Tatas have 51% in the company no? So Bharti is buying that 51% from Tata.
Niira: What nonsense.
Rashmi: I know it is, I know it is (inaudible) what you’re saying -
Niira: What nonsense!
Rashmi: Anyways, you… you agree with me, you’ve told me exactly how you feel about it.
Rashmi: Let me, let me just discuss it with Bodhi also and um then -
Niira: Rashmi. Rashmi, Rashmi, why don’t you follow nice stories? Usko tum 6.25 spectrum dila doge, why don’t you – (breaks out laughing) – follow sensible stories – (still laughing)
Rashmi: I follow all sorts of stories Niira, I follow all sorts of stories. I don’t write only…these big stories only come once in a blue moon. No no, I’ll tell Bodhi exactly, I’ll tell Bodhi exactly what you’re telling me -
Niira: You tell him you please – front page de do mujhe (put me on the front page), double – I want full spread front page -
Rashmi: You want?
Niira: Ya, you please give me 5 columns.
Rashmi: Hmm, for what?
Niira: After that I will let Ratan Tata decide what you want to do with Bennett Coleman.
Rashmi: For which story, you’re saying?
Niira: This one, this one – Bharti buying Tata Communications stake.
Rashmi: No no, I’ll not say all that, I’ll just tell exactly what -
Niira: – 5 columns to mujhe dogi na isme (you’ll give me 5 columns, won’t you), with big headline?
Rashmi: No accha, let me just uh, we’re wasting time Niira, I’m wasting your time and so -
Niira: You’re not, Rashmi, you’re not wasting my time, I would put it another way, seriously I’m telling you – please run the story.
Rashmi: I will -
Niira: You run it in 5 columns, give me 5 columns -
Rashmi: I will just tell Bodhi what you’re saying. I’ll just tell Bodhi and I’ll tell Javed also, theek hai (alright)?
Niira: Ya tell him – tell him, run the story.
Rashmi: And if at all -
Transcribed by Shaina