“Back then, look at the conditions a Marwari grew in, with no water, tough climate, and lack of any education. He couldn’t have got a job; trading or starting a business was the only option. Gradually he excelled in finance through sheer practice. This was through a daily routine of adding the numbers at the end of a business day (the parta system). When the Marwari left his hometown, any work was never too big or small. Also, in the new region, no one knew him. There was no societal pressure and he could pick up any task that helped him earn a living. The Marwari took advantage of that and earned. He picked up the smallest task to earn… and gradually he met with success and made money.”
– Gulab Kothari, editor-in-chief, Rajasthan Patrika
It is no coincidence that a majority of the newspapers published today started during India’s independence struggle. Back then, Indians needed a platform, a voice that could be free, open and intense, and this led to the launch of newspapers like the Indian Express and Hindustan Times. As Shobhana Bhartia points out, her father KK Birla did not perceive their newspaper to be a business proposition or a profit-making venture.
On the other hand, even though the intent behind starting a publication was not commerce, ironically, it required someone with deep pockets. “Obviously most money back then was with Marwari businessmen and industrialists. Only they had the required capital. It was for a cause, especially in case of Hindustan Times,” says Bhartia. “One had to be ready to lose money in this business for a purpose, and that’s how I believe a majority of Marwaris got into the media business. They wanted to support the cause of our nation’s independence struggle.” Other experts also echo her perspective on the predominance of prominent Marwari owners in Indian media.
No surprise then that the country’s leading newspaper groups are run by Marwari families. Be it the world’s most read newspaper Dainik Jagran from the stable of Mahendra Mohan Gupta’s Jagran Prakashan, or the world’s most-read English newspaper, The Times of India, published by Bennett Coleman, headed by Indu Jain. Then there is the venerable Indian Express headed by Viveck Goenka, TV media mogul Subhash Chandra who also publishes English daily DNA, and the nation’s second-most read newspapers in Hindi and English (Hindustan and Hindustan Times) published by HT Media’s Bhartia. Some of India’s top Marwari media companies:
• The Times Group
• HT Media
• The Express Group
• Jagran Prakashan
• DB Corp
• The Essel Group
• Rajasthan Patrika
• Lokmat Media
Note: Forbes India reached out to The Times Group, DB Corp as well as Jagran Prakashan, three of the biggest media companies in India, but they did not agree to participate in the story or were not available.
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(This story appears in the 21 March, 2014 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)