Anurag Batra- a media mogul, is the Chairman & Editor in Chief of BUSINESSWORLD, the leading business magazine of India. Mr. Batra also founded the exchange4media group and serves as the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the group which is India’s leading media industry website, PITCH – India’s only Advertising, Marketing and Media Magazine, IMPACT – The Marketing Weekly, Franchisee Plus – Business Opportunity Magazine, Realty Plus – India’s leading monthly real estate magazine and samachar4media.com/ – leading media industry website in Hindi. He is has his presence in 15 sectors in the content industry.
Q.You have been in the media content industry for more then two decades. What drove you to plan your entire career in this industry?
Let me tell you I am not a usual media person, am also not a usual entrepreneur. I am an accidental media person, an accidental entrepreneur. I went to an engineering college, did what most Indians do before they do anything. I went to a top notch business school MDI and then, worked for 4 years. I use to work for J Walter Thomson and that is where I got the idea of Exchange4media. I wanted to build a commerce platform for the media or a market place, but then, market place was ahead of its time, so we started a news-letter, which has now become the homepage for everybody- marketing, advertising, media called exchange4media.com, then we started with IMPACT, PITCH, so we became a content company, we became a media company. After that, we acquired BUSINESSWORLD magazine and then we launched various verticals. I did not plan to become a media company, it was God’s wish and was completely accidental.
Q.How has been your journey?
It has been a fantastic journey, indeed. I love consuming content. As an eight year old, I would read 8 to 10 magazines and 4 to 5 newspapers. So content consumption is the key for me. As a 20 year old, I would buy magazines Forbes, Fortune, Business week and so on. I think someway God has made my hobby as my profession and it is what I do now.
Q.During your college days, you must have read various business magazines including BUSINESSWORLD. Did you ever think, that you will acquire it one day?
Honestly, I come from a middle class family and it was not even in my wildest dream. God sent it to me and I acquired it in a single meeting and we are working towards making it happen. Today business world is not just a magazine it is also a daily website www.businessworld.in. It is a set of 15 communities and we shall continue to build communities.
Q.How do you see the consumer are taking the content industry, which is evolving from text based to audio to visuals and more?
Twelve years back, I wrote this piece that media companies will be acquired by telecom companies. I said the convergence of telecom with media content, with retail will happen. Now look at what Jio is doing with its retail play ,Jio play , with its content play and you know in media business there are 3 things that matter 1st is the brand, 2nd is the content and 3rd is the data.
Today what is your daily average user, how must time he/she is spending, do you have his/her personal details. Data is the new oil. So, it is about the brand, about the content, and is about how much the consumer data you have? What is the consumer acquisition cost? How much time consumer visits you?
Q.In this technology era, how do you see the credibility of print media?
There is tremendous credibility. Look at the balance sheets of media companies, they are very healthy- Bhaskar is very profitable, Jagran is very profitable. There market caps are not doing very well because they have not seen the new age digital players, they have not seen a data company. So, the fact is, the print has more credibility and rightly so HT and other media companies are using their brands, legacy business to build their digital business and at some stage, the digital businesses will be big. Currently the digital business in India is dominated by Google and Facebook and they have 70% of the revenue share, but I think, the Indian players are catching up, Indian language media is catching up.
Q.Do you think vernacular is going to stay?
I do not use the word vernacular. I use the word Indian language. The Indian language generally does well because the consumption of content happens in your own language. How would the language of business in India is English? unless you are investing in stocks. If you are a Gujarati, because Gujarat is a large invested stock market, the most of the business consumption happens in English. But, if you’re going to Tier II or Tier III cities, it will happen in local language. So, maybe you have to stay in the game long enough.
Q.There is good journalism and bad journalism. Also, there is fake journalism which is prevailing world over. What you have to say about it? How it can be countered?
What has happened is – Journalism has started to take sides, has become very polarized. If there is a X point of view, there is a diametrically opposite Y point of view, so, there is a base for all kind of view. What we expect from the media is, not being the judge and the jury, not being articulative, not taking sides, doing more detailed work and not being judgmental in spur of the movement, but in 24×7 news cycle, these things happen. The other biggest danger to democracy and to us in media is – fake news. Fake news are not spread by media companies, but thanks to social media, messenger apps- it multiplies. So, one has to be very careful. You can say by and large media is timid, but media does work in a very tough domain.
Q.So suppose somebody tracks down a fake news you mean to say, the transparency related to news, which use to be there , it is not there.
I think today there are influencers and authentic voices so the fake news gets shot down, but an alternative view point also spreads very fast. God has a beautiful way of balancing things.
Q.How do you see the Indian content industry is evolving?
It is a beautiful thing because today the consumption is increasing, growing and people are spending more and more time on their devices – people are watching movies, OTTs on their phones, reading new on the phone. So, phone has become the biggest single screen for all type of content and content consumption has gone up. I have this theory that supply creates demand and now the supply has gone up and so the demand.
Q.In the content industry, you have presence in 15 domains/sectors. Now you are planning to enter into films & entertainment sector.
There are big platforms, but I believe, if we bring quality journalism and our understanding on how to build the community, we can partner with a domain expert to build India’s Hollywood Reporter, build India’s Variety, build a 360° community- which will be into print, digital, events and more.
Q.You can easily have started this long back.
I tried In 2010, hired a senior journalist, but somebody scared me and I did not do it. So, this will be my second try. 2019 has been a great year for movies. There have been 8 movies in the world that have crossed 1 billion dollars out of which 7 were from Disney and 1 from the other studio.is studio India also companies have professionalized movie making. we’ve come to a point where movie making is an industry. If we release more number of movies, more movie consumption happens in mainstream and other Indian languages. But, I think there’s a requirement for a world class publication, world class community and I think I can do it.
Q.You nurture/mentor lot of budding entrepreneurs. What you generally advise them?
Nurturing and mentoring are very strong word, but, I do spent time and get to learn from them. I don’t know what they learn from me but I believe in reverse mentoring, which means I learn from them – about new technologies, new ideas, as I am 48 and sometimes, I can be little old fashioned and look at things from certain prism, and if you see them, they are not bound by past and think fresh and believe in sky thinking – anything is possible. So, I learn from them. I can tell you that most of them are following their passion and they’re trying to make a difference for the society and for the country.
Q.What has been your learning ?
One is be curious, second is do not let your success or failure get to your head. Every day is a new day, you can remake your life the next day and that’s what I believe in. Gratitude is very important and I also believe that if you help others, God helps you out. And see every failure as an experience because the project can fail, Idea can fail but the person can never fail.
Q.You work round the clock, how you manage professional and personal life?
I don’t work 24/7 but I do work 14/15 hours a day. My wife, my kids, my family is very supportive.
Q.Any message for our reader for the year 2020?
I hope this hear brings the country together, it doesn’t divide the country. I hope the economy is good. Would say the three important things are – Learn to accept what you are, Embrace your family and Don’t be afraid of failure. 2020 will be a great year for making your dreams come true. The harder you work the luckier you get.