“The media industry is not just a business for India,” revealed Essel group chairman Subhash Chandra at the 9th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival where he unveiled his recently released autobiography. Chandra’s memoir titled The Z Factor: My Journey as the Wrong Man at the Right Time was in focus at the session where he was in conversation with author and politician MJ Akbar on January 21.
The book, which was earlier launched in Delhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, traces Chandra’s journey from working as a rice trader in a small town in Haryana to starting the Essel group and subsequently launching Zee network and becoming a media mogul with a net worth of more than $4 billion.
Calling the memoir a ‘Diwali book’ because every page is “filled with firecrackers”, MJ Akbar said that the people, who had not been mentioned in the book would not have a problem with the exclusion but that it would be hard for those “who have been left in”.
“Who is more arrogant, the politico or the tycoon?’ Akbar asked Chandra. “Both, because they depend on each other,” replied Chandra, who spoke about everything from the Bofors deal to his falling out with Naveen Jindal. In response to a question on the possibility of doing business in India without being corrupt, he laughed, replying that of course it was possible “until you want fast money with short cuts, in which case you would have to share your money”.
Chandra injected some patriotism into the proceedings when he spoke about his partnership with international media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Apparently, when Murdoch wanted to buy out Chandra’s 50% of the deal, the latter had refused with the comment “India is not for sale”.
The highlight of the session, though, was a question from a member of the audience. Referring to Zee’s private league that preceded the Indian Premier League and folded up after only two seasons, Chandra was asked: “Do you think that you gave the BCCI a goldmine when you started the ICL (Indian Cricket League)?”
“Yes, IPL is successful because of ICL,” Chandra replied.
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