In conversations with R Jagannathan, Editor- Swarajya magazine
As part of the India Economic Seminar 2016, several eminent speakers debated and discussed pressing public policy issues. The Student Media Cell, IIM Bangalore, interviewed R Jagannathan, editor of Swarajya magazine, and former editor of FirstPost. Here are some excerpts of the interview.
Q: You have always been associated with media houses like Business Standard, Financial express and so on. What was the inspiration to switch to an online media like FirstPost and subsequently to Swarajya?
A: I’ve always believed that online is the way to go. It is a better business model, and I believe its reach is far larger than the traditional model. I had already tried digital once back in 2001, but that was the wrong-time to go digital. If you recall, the dot-com-bubble was back then
Q: What do you believe then, is the future of print media?
A: I believe that print media houses should also go digital. There is no question regarding that. But, digital media has the option of whether it still wants to be in print. The problem with print is that its business model is fast-changing. It might not be sustainable at all, it’s very risky. A paper like Times of India takes INR 16 to make, but is priced at less than INR 5. The content is all the same, you can get it online. Now, more or less digital has it all.
Q: So you mean to say that the quality has been standardized even in digital?
A: I wouldn’t say that yet, but you get all sorts of content on digital. You can search and find the right content, but a level of filtering is missing in digital media which is still existing in print media. Some websites still have quality issues with writers writing poor content, but if users spend time searching, then they will get the top quality articles. Now, people are definitely accepting online content on their smartphones, and are willing to tolerate this issue.
Q: Coming to the tagline of Swarajya- “Read India Right”. How important do you think it is for a media house to be upfront about its ideologies?
A: Sometimes, being upfront is better than publishing and hiding your motives. I think Indian mainstream media is largely left. I think transparency is essential while because you are upfront with the angle from which you are writing. While right & left are two ideologies, it’s not as if, those who are right-wing oriented do not care about welfare.
Q: What would be your message to the students of IIMs, with regards to their role in the entire process of information dissemination in public policy matters?
A: I think far more lateral entrants from intellectuals and well-educated professionals into the Government offices, which is something that is absent. Currently everyone moves towards a private sector job, or probably pursue an entrepreneurial venture. IIMB was conceived as a place to foster individuals who would eventually join the public sector. So, I think we need new thinking on how we could get these people into the Government. IIM students get into a “system” powered by the private sector and entrepreneurship, and Government does not factor into this. I think you need to make a case to the Government that IIMs can provide the intellectual ballast for changes in public policy. At the implementation level, policies fail, and this is where thought must be put in.
Q: What would be your final message for the students of IIM-B, who are interested in public policy, and want to contribute in some way or the other?
A: I would say entrepreneurship is what ultimately creates value. In big companies, you will simply be a cog in the wheel. I don’t think big achievements are made at MNCs. So entrepreneurship is the primary message that you should focus on, and this is the time- with venture capital abundant. And while you are being a successful entrepreneur, one should see how to contribute to public policy. Ideally, the Government should provide that impetus. However, entrepreneurs can really help with the implementation of policies, which are currently lacking.