Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ambani's dream comes true

I almost wanted to laugh out aloud. I mean, you have to admire the perseverance of someone who wants to see his father's dream come true. Laugh because the media has got it so wrong, as usual. Reports say that RIL is involved in a convoluted deal that includes control of Network 18 and the Eenadu group. Reports also say that the original promoter of TV 18, Raghav Bahl and his associates will hold a controlling stake in the new entity. Just in case you forgot, TV 18, or the many nomenclatures that it is known under, also controls two very powerful business channels CNBC and CNBC Awaaz and the Eenadu group is one that nursed ambitions of replicating the models of both the Times of India Group and the Sun Network. So, now Mukesh Ambani will be a minority shareholder in a company controlled by Raghav Bahl.

Don't you think that is laughable? Can you imagine a scenario where Raghav Bahl tells Mukesh Ambanis that I am overriding you? It is inevitable for corporate houses to try and take control of media if they can. In our democracy and our kind of capitalism, we have allowed that. So I would laugh at people who will crib about Mukesh Ambani taking cont RIL of such a powerful media vehicle. Mukesh Ambani is only doing what the law allows him to do.

But why is Mukesh Ambani doing this? Since I don't respect virtually any journalist who covers business-most of them are either paid off, or ignorant. I address this to the ones who are young and ignorant. Way back in 1986, the Indian Express did a lot of stories that almost felled the emerging Ambani Empire. I was a young journalist then wondering why people are targeting a man who is actually trying to do something. And then when Dhirubhai Ambani suffered a stroke, many wrote epitaphs about his dream. That man recovered and vowed to ensure that the media doesn't target him again like that. Of course, Arun Shourie, the man who tried his best to make Dhirubhai a villain became his fan after the death of the great entrepreneur.

And then V.P Singh became the Prime Minister of India and it looked as if the Raja's wrath would descend. So Dhirubhai started a newspaper called Business and Political Observer to at least answer the questions that other hostile media houses were asking. By that time, the elder Ambani had already drawn up his vision for Reliance to be a conglomerate that goes back from polyester to crude oil and has. By that time, people like me in the media had become pests who could only irritate his vision....psst...there were also a lot of journalists who received thank you notes. The most important of that is the way Vinod Mehta and his paper wrote about the venerable Girilal Jain getting some Reliance shares. Reliance shares were so lovable back those days that even journalists couldn't help falling in love with them.

But like most media enterprises started by corporate houses, the paper launched by Ambani flopped and the big people involved with the project like R.K Mishra (now deceased), Tony Jesudasan and someone every journalist knows as Balu lived to tell many tales. Of course, R.K Mishra even did back channel diplomacy between India and Pakistan after Kargil.

For India, the wheel seems to have turned full circle. What Dhirubhai Ambani had dreamt back in the 1980s when people like Arun Shourie were hounding him has finally come true. I will laugh at people who will rave and rant about Mukesh Ambani and Reliance. I will them them: this is Indian democracy and take it. And I would raise a toast for the son.

Hats off Mukesh Ambani for achieving what your father had always dreamed of.

Psst...I know Raghav Bahl is smiling


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