Title: Network 18 – The Audacious Story of a Start-up That Became A Media Empire
Author: Indira Kannan
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
This book is the story of harnessing of brilliant ideas, severe setbacks, naked aggression, spectacular victories and fatal flaws in the arena of modern super high-tech business. It is also the story of entry of India into modern satellite channel communications and entertainment business. Above all, it is the story of Raghav Bahl, a first generation entrepreneur, son of an IAS officer, and a reform – oriented mother as a home-maker.
As Indians got their first taste of satellite television during the First Gulf War, Raghav Bahl saw his own future in the small screen. Just out of college (where he was an activist) burning with ambition, a keen (untested) business sense, he assembled a talented group of professionals and rank beginners ,and, starting from a one room office in New Delhi, NETWORK 18 was one of India’s earliest success stories in TV Media circles, in less than two decades.
After two decades of excitement, adventure and massive build up of assets in TV, print, property, internet ,films, news and entertainment, all free of encumbrances and despite severe regulatory constraints and resources challenges, Network 18 prospered and came to be recognized as an important player.
Even before the Media Moghul Rupert Murdoch had purchased a 64 percent stake of STAR to demonstrate his confidence in the Indian market, Raghav had already won contract for INDIA SHOW, the first locally produced programmes on channel Star Plus in India 9 (no mean achievement ). Kapil Dev, Shahrukh Khan and Nikki Bedi and her husband Kabir Bedi and other high profile personalities were presented in the episodes and the channel celebrated the success to no end.
This ended the lurking fear in Raghav’s mind and heart about the relationship between the episode maker (software) and the broadcaster who could pull the plug out any time. But the maker of the episode had to learn to make his interventions in a timely manner, if, there was a grave provocation or material change in the assumptions, partiesiestions , parties do not break faith.
Raghav innocently asks the readers, did he succeed in life? He started business with Rs.50,000/ which grew to Rs. 100 crores in12 years and from here in less than ten years the group revenue totaled Rs.5,000/ crores. In this spectacular growth never once the group attracted regulatory strictures. Readers would be sensible to read the complete book to get the full picture.
Later on, the business was taken over by the Reliance’—but that is another story. After you have read this book ,you can decide upon your verdict and may write for additional information or input to Raghav (who has not offered to entertain any communication from the readers in this matter). Sting diversion from the text of the episode , Nikki was persuaded to interview Kabir.
She was from among many candidates grilled in by long chats and in-depth assessment over several evenings .What Raghav was looking for was a female who had sharp responses, was good at repartee and a personality capable of creating on the stage an aura of romanticizing . Nikki was half-British and half-Indian and free enough to walk thru the episode if there was a disagreement . Nikki was a good thing that happened to NETWORk 18 at the right time.
When it was proposed to write this book ,her performance and association with Raghav was what made history. Raghav grilled all the participants in the venture .The book is an extremely important documentation of emergence of a new discipline and new kinds of interpersonal relationships among people under one roof .Financial hubris , Raghav’s uncontrolled ambitions , his overreaching faith in his super power and, no doubt, external factors no less led to a free fall for NETWORK 18, with blue chip brands like CNBC ,CNN etc.
According to Pritish Nandy Bahl is the first journalist who became an iconic entrepreneur, an empire builder. He did it without compromising on his integrity, without being manipulated by big business or by politics, There is magic in his story. It is the story of how the Indian media grew to such a remarkable and spectacular business heights in a couple of decades through the enterprise, imagination and sheer passion of its frontiersman. Raghav Bahl led this pack. Indira Kannan has done an excellent job as a writer and compiler