Monday, March 23, 2009

Take a gun to my head

And pull the trigger. Between the politicisation of the IPL and the cricketisation of politics I feel generally underwhelmed. There is a lot of not so good real news going on across the world, real news other than Jade Goody's death. Flimsy excuses are being used to cut back on staff and salary cuts are really starting to hurt the little guys in the media. Things are getting so bad, that it seems whenever I end up at a gathering of journalists, young and old all talk about how horrible times are. And when things start going wrong, the amount of fingers that start being pointed are not funny - "I'm not useless, he is", or in certain places, "S/he is more useless than me" The sudden acrimony is leading to some fairly interesting plots all over the place. Will keep you posted on more and I promise to be more regular this week.


iamfordemocracy said...

My take on congress's blunder about IPL. Of course many BJP sympathisers also don't like cricket. The american rajeev srinivasan who claims he is a Hindu Nationalist does not like cricket. BJP might not get any advantage because of such approach but congress has blundered.

Anonymous said...

Dear All

I wrote you a mail on the eve of Diwali when the reality and the gravity of the sudden economic downturn was just becoming evident. I had expressed the hope then that the storm would pass soon and the market, and our businesses, would be back to some kind of normalcy.

It’s been almost six months since then and although I know it will be no news to you, it’s my unhappy duty to report to all of you that my optimism of October 08 has been belied. This is a crisis to which there seems to be no end yet. Hence this note.

First, the good news. Despite the near-impossible conditions in the market, our sales teams have done a sterling job, returning two record months of revenues for October 08 and February 09. So please join me in congratulating them on this commendable performance.

But, in business, revenues are only part of the story. What matters is what you get net of your costs, namely, the bottomline. That has disappeared for the entire media industry over these six months, even for the strongest players in the market. Two good months have not been able to square off the setbacks of Nov, Dec and Jan and the overhang of high newsprint prices over the previous six.

Newsprint has come off its peak by nearly 30 per cent, which is again good news. But at the same time the rupee has weakened by almost the same percentage. What's worse, nobody can say with any certainty when this cycle will turn. The only commodity in even shorter supply than money in this market is optimism-- and of course, humour.

There are many cynical lines on this floating in cyberspace and on sms. My favourite is the one that says, that there IS, indeed light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the train coming at you!

It is good for a laugh, and the only way we can face a crisis of these dimensions is by keeping our wits, and optimism. That’s the way we can all sidestep that train. So optimism we must not give up on and therefore, please allow me to share with you some more cause for cheer, internally.

Besides our stellar performance in an impossible market in the two months mentioned above, some of our teams have done a brilliant job in saving costs without any compromise on efficiencies, or even conveniences.

Our production units under Mr R C Malhotra have reduced print waste to levels unprecedented in our history. They have brought about remarkable savings in the consumption of power, ink and other consumables. We have also been able to better use our machines and technologies to reduce cash costs we used to incur on getting some of our publications and supplements printed outside. I believe these new efficiencies will, by themselves, save us nearly Rs 7 crore in the coming 12 months.

We are now looking at some other innovative approaches to printing and newsprint-handling to further add to these savings. At the same time, our corporate cost control centre under Usha Uppal has instituted measures that, at today's calculations save us nearly Rs 8 crore in the year. These are mostly on travel, transport, power, rents, wastage of copies, syndication and news agency services.

The very fact that we have been able to bring about such sizeable savings shows that over time, in spite of everybody's best intentions, slack builds into the functioning of companies and this kind of spring cleaning is something we should have been doing on our own, without waiting for this rude shock from the market. We all need to learn the right lessons from it. The time to control costs and eradicate waste is when the going is good. Let us all remember that when the good times return!

Meanwhile, let us put our heads together to see what else can do to help our company, and ourselves, tide over this once-in-a-lifetime crisis. I look for ideas of both, cost savings, and revenue generation. If you have an idea that saves even five thousand rupees, please send it directly to me and I will personally look at it. I will then also get back to you with the list of best ideas and of names of those of you who came up with them.

Many media companies have laid off large numbers of employees and have also, announced wage freezes, even rollback of last year's increments. But we do not believe in negative measures and will avoid them to our utmost ability. Our chairman Viveck Goenka believes that our teams have the ability to help the company bounce back in the course of time. For, we are not a downsizing company but a growing one -- where prudence and excellence need to power that growth.

But there will have to be some sacrifices, particularlarly at seniormost levels. We will not be looking at increments across the board this year while, at the same time, we will ensure that our fundamental commitment that merit must be acknowledged and rewarded, and that performers must grow with the company, is strengthened. It follows, naturally, that tolerance of under-performance or lack of commitment will also have to be at a zero level.

As an acknowledgement of the gravity of this crisis, and as a gesture, as well as a clear statement that the pain, if any, must be first felt at the top, both the Chairman, and I, have decided to take substantial cuts and deferrals in our respective compensations. So for now any negative measures are confined only to the two of us!

In the coming weeks, you will hear from your team leaders on measures to improve performance and therefore, increase efficiencies, save costs, bring additional revenues, all of which we need to deal with this challenge.

I hope that my next message to you will be one celebrating a revival which we need, which we will work towards and, which, I believe we deserve so thoroughly.

Shekhar Gupta

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I am wrong here please.

There are states that can give security and those that can't. The Home minister specified the names. Other states refused a response on the security capabilities.

So BCCI, being the spoilt brats that they are, did what they did.

These are hard times and the security crunch sometimes results in uncomfortable decisions.