National Lampoon, an American humour magazine, was born in 1970, and lived on for another 28 years. A blend of parody and surrealism, it reached its peak of creativity in the first half of the ’70s. That’s when it had some of the most provocative covers—Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara splattered with a cream pie; a replica of the starving child on George Harrison’s charity album ‘The Concert for Bangladesh’, only here the child was in chocolate with a part of its head bitten off; and a dog with a revolver at its head, with the cover screaming: ‘If you Don’t Buy this Magazine, we’ll Kill this Dog’.
National Lampoon was a breeding ground for creativity, although many of its covers would qualify as click-bait of the pre-internet era. It was an old trick of magazines in their heyday, going back to the 1920s—when covers in loud, bold colours with provocative photographs, illustrations and typography were used to draw the attention of potential buyers—and they reeled them in, in millions.
Magazine covers, and indeed magazines in their physical form, don’t matter as much these days. But getting them noticed digitally in the internet age in a smaller format on social media is still critical; so many of the old rules of bold colours and provocative images may still hold true. And the virality of a provoking and pithy cover may even bring in more views than newsstand sales in the ‘…we’ll Kill this Dog’ era.
Forbes India’s first issue was launched 14 years ago, dated June 5, 2009—a time when the world was just beginning to recover from the global financial crisis and when print publishing, at least in India, was mostly still considered the primary pillar.
Magazine covers over a sufficiently longish period tell a story. And, as Forbes India celebrates its 14th anniversary, a journey back to issues of the past 14 years tells an inspirational tale of gutsy entrepreneurship and leadership: Of companies and their helmspersons who endured and persisted with their vision and values; and also of a few that didn’t quite make the long haul.
As we enter our 15th year, the team at Forbes India picked out 15 personalities who featured on our covers and requested them to join the dots from the time they were featured. For instance, Francisco D’Souza first made it to the cover in May 2012, christened ‘Chief Emerging Officer’ for his efforts to reinvent Cognizant and his role (of CEO).
Eleven years later, D’Souza, now co-founder of private equity firm Recognize, writes about another transformation: “Recognize sees an opportunity to work with the next generation of services winners to create new models to deliver technology services and respond to the trends of technology innovation, specialisation, fragmentation, new human capital models and AI-driven business models.” To read the entire essay, turn to ‘The tech services industry is at a unique moment’.
A favourite cover—and I wasn’t editing Forbes India then—is the one with India’s first Grandmaster (GM), Viswanathan Anand, and his lessons for winning. GM at 18, in 1988, and arguably one of India’s first sportspersons with a killer instinct, Anand gave a whole generation of players after him the assurance that they can become GMs. India had 81 GMs as of end-May. Anand writes: “I suspect that absolute acceptance of India’s prowess in chess came in the last 10 years, where more and more Indian youngsters were present in tournaments. And as these kids started to play top players and defeat them, people started to acknowledge India as a powerhouse.” For more on what you can still learn from Anand, turn to ‘Indians no longer want to just play chess, they want to be the best’.
(This story appears in the 16 June, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)