Vice President of Times of India (TOI) Ninan Thariyan talks to Richa Tilokani about the evolution of TOI and the media in the country.
Question 1: Your first job was with TOI. Now you are in the enviable position of Vice President. Tell us about your journey.
I have had a very interesting and satisfying journey so far. I started with the Free Press Journal, Mumbai after getting a post graduate degree in Personnel Management and joined the Personnel department there. My area of focus was Industrial Relations and I handled labor welfare and industrial relations etc. Less than a year later, I joined the Personnel department of The Times of India at Mumbai. Later, I took a sabbatical to go to the US to get an MBA in Marketing. During that period, I worked with the Orange County Register in Los Angeles. On my return to Mumbai, I resumed my work at the Response department at The Times of India’s corporate office until I headed to the Chennai office. My next stop was at the Pune office as the head of Response where I spent six years. Later on, I moved to the Ahmedabad office to head the Response department there until I moved back to Chennai in 2000.
Question 2: About the evolution of TOI and the message in it for media in the country.
When I joined The Times of India, the company had fewer publications and editions. But, over a period of time, the organization has grown tremendously with editions all over India. The Times of India has also attained the distinction of being the largest circulated English newspaper in the world while The Economic Times went on to become the second largest business newspaper in the world. The language division of the company became the third largest language entity in the country. I was very fortunate to be a part of the organization when these historic milestones were achieved. The group’s other achievements include the foray into television, radio, internet and Out of Home during this period. Today, the company has become a large business conglomerate and an undisputed leader with footprints across the country.
As far as the message for media is concerned, I think The Times of India can be credited with pushing the envelope to take the print industry in the country to greater heights. While the print media in many parts of the world is on the decline, India has managed to buck the trend by showing growth, year on year and I think TOI has played a pivotal role in creating this success story for print media in India. In fact, I can confidently say that TOI is a trendsetter in every way.
Question 3: You were part of the team that launched TOI in Chennai. Tell us about your experiences in this connection.
The launch of the Chennai edition was one of the most exciting phases of my career mostly because of three significant reasons:
1) It was one of the most awaited launches as talks about the TOI launch were in the air for a long time.
2) It was a very competitive market which made our task cut out for us.
3) In my experience, it was the best team work I had seen and been part of.
There were a lot of skeptics who felt that there was no room for one more newspaper in the Chennai market. But we created a market for ourselves. TOI was accepted warmly by the city and we soon became a part of the city’s culture.
Question 4: You must have worked in several places for TOI all along. Tell us about that.
In terms of work, I have found Chennai to be challenging and exciting and I really enjoy working here. Having studied here, I share a huge emotional connect with the city. When it comes to non-work areas, I liked Pune. A city that is rich in its cultural traditions like Chennai, there are also several getaways close by where you could take off to during the weekend. We also had a good enthusiastic team there. Being a language market, Ahmedabad proved to very challenging. The thing about the culturally rich city is that it takes time for you to get used to the place. But before you realise it, the place grows on you. Mumbai was a different place altogether. The hustle-bustle, the long hours of commuting and at work and the fact that TOI was numero uno. Work, studies at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute and bachelor life at the YMCA – Mumbai is amazing. It has something for everyone.
Question 5: Tell us a little about your family.
My wife and two daughters make my family. My wife is a home-maker, my elder daughter works with Goldman Sachs and my younger child is in Class XI pursuing Humanities curriculum at Lalaji Memorial Omega International School.
Question 6: A few words for RITZ on our 10th anniversary.
Ritz, for me, is Chennai social life in a capsule. When I miss reading newspapers during my absence from the city, I turn to Ritz to fill in. Whether it is the social life in the city, the glitz and the glamour or hyper-local news and happenings, Ritz has it all. 10 years of Ritz, perhaps tells the story of the social transformation in Chennai.