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Zee Chief Publishes ‘The Z Factor’

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 Media Mogul Dr. Subhash Chandra releases autobiography  The Z Factor

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Dr Subash Chandra
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Dr Subash Chandra

The autobiography of a media pioneer who changed the face of Indian broadcasting will be launched at the ‘ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival’, on 21st January 2016. HarperCollins India is the publisher.

Subhash Chandra, the promoter of Essel Group and ZEE, is an unlikely mogul. Hailing from a small town in Haryana, where his family ran grain mills, Chandra has been a perennial outsider, repeatedly aiming high and breaking into businesses where he was considered an interloper.

Starting work as a teen to pay off family debts, Chandra had to rely on bluff, gumption and sheer hard toil to turn things around. A little bit of luck and political patronage saw him make a fortune in rice exports to the erstwhile USSR.

Always a risk-taker, Chandra then had the vision of getting into broadcasting early, even as established media players failed to see its potential. His Zee TV, India’s first private Indian TV channel, changed the rules of the game and tickled the fancy of a public starved of entertainment.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Dr Subash Chandra
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Dr Subash Chandra

Several gutsy initiatives followed, though not all of them were successful. Chandra’s attempts to launch satellite telephony and a cricket league came a cropper. But the man continues to reinvent himself; he is now also focusing on infrastructure and smart cities.

This is an unusually candid memoir of a truly desi self-made businessman who came to Delhi at age twenty with seventeen rupees in his pocket. Today, he has a net worth of $6.3 billion and annual group revenues of in excess of $3 billion.

Excerpts from the book:

IT WAS 14 DECEMBER 1991 when Ashok Kurien of Ambience ad agency and I reached Star TV’s office in Hong Kong. There were ten to twelve senior and junior executives in the room. Richard Li, head of Star TV, was not there. So we waited awhile. It was like waiting for the king to come in and give his blessings.

Richard walked in suddenly and sat opposite me. ‘OK, Indian channel … Hindi channel. Where is the money in India? ’ Richard was very dismissive. ‘I am not interested in a joint venture.’

Most of us in the room, including his executives, were shocked. It appeared that Richard had already made up his mind about the futility of the project.

So I addressed him directly. ‘Mr Li, if you are not interested in the joint venture, can you consider leasing the [satellite] transponder to us?’

‘There is no transponder available for less than $5 million per year,’ Richard said. It was a haughty statement to put me off.

‘That is fine. I will pay $5 million!’ It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. I did not realize the implication of what I had said …

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