Supreme Being

How Samir Jain created the modern Indian newspaper industry

01 December 2012
Samir Jain in 1988, soon after becoming vice-chairman of Bennett, Coleman & Co.
PRAMOD PUSHKARNA / THE INDIA TODAY GROUP / GETTY IMAGES
Samir Jain in 1988, soon after becoming vice-chairman of Bennett, Coleman & Co.
PRAMOD PUSHKARNA / THE INDIA TODAY GROUP / GETTY IMAGES

ONE

IN THE COLLECTIVE MEMORY of Times of India journalists, the notebooks loom large; no conversation about Samir Jain can be complete without mentioning them. If Jain, the vice-chairman of Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited and publisher of the Times of India, invites you into his office for a chat, you’re expected to carry a notebook, and you’re expected to take notes. “We all had our Samir Jain notebooks, and anxious managers outside his cabin would hand us new ones in case we’d forgotten ours,” said an editor who worked at the newspaper during the 1990s. “I even remember the type: Ajanta No. 3 notebooks, spiral-bound, in different colours.”

New initiates into Jain’s meetings have made the mistake of decorating the pages of their notebooks with aimless doodles; old hands learn at least to scrawl down key words, lest they be quizzed the next day or the week after. It can be a chore; it can also be downright galling. After a cordial conversation in 1986, when Jain was still finding his feet around the paper, he pointedly told one editor, decades his senior: “It’s so nice discussing these matters with you. But when others come to see me, they bring a notebook. Maybe you should too.” In response, the editor told me, his voice still bearing embers of anger, “I said: ‘You may own the paper, but this is not tolerable.’ Then I came downstairs and wrote out my resignation letter.”

Samanth Subramaniam is a contributing editor at The Caravan and the India correspondent for The National. He is the author of This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War, and Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast.

Keywords: Times of India journalism Samanth Subramanian newspaper Samir Jain
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