Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra, part-owner of Mumbai-headquartered broadsheet Daily News and Analysis, or DNA, has assumed an “active role” in the day-to-day operations of the paper, a person close to the developments said. Chandra, through an investment arm, controls a 49% stake in DNA’s publisher Diligent Media Corp., with the Dainik Bhaskar group and one of its promoters holding the rest. Chandra is co-chairman on the board of Diligent Media. Thus far, however, the company’s MD, Sudhir Agarwal, was looking into the paper’s day-to-day affairs representing the promoter group. Agarwal belongs to the family that owns Dainik Bhaskar and is the MD of that paper as well.
Chandra, 58, is a pioneer in India’s broadcast industry and had hinted at retirement recently.
According to multiple sources at the company, Chandra has recently been spending time at the Lower Parel, Mumbai, offices of the paper and reviewing operations. One person close to the developments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Chandra is looking at the business closely as a precursor to committing big investments for the next phase of the company’s expansion.
Launched in 2005, DNA now has editions in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Jaipur, Surat and Ahmedabad. The Mumbai edition is expected to break even early part of next year. “There are several plans the company is considering, including expanding the Bangalore edition, raising the print run in Mumbai to 600,000 copies, and even a Delhi edition. Each of these decisions involve several hundred crores of investment. Like any good investor, Mr Chandra is spending some time looking at the business closer before making a commitment,” the source mentioned in the first instance in this story, said.
This person denied any change in the status of the promoter group. “There is no change in shareholding and Mr Agarwal continues to be MD,” this person said. Agarwal has been unable to visit Mumbai regularly for several months now consequent to a close family member being ill.
When asked about the company’s plans for a Delhi edition, Diligent Media CEO K.U. Rao said: “We have always maintained that we want to be a multi-edition daily and we are constantly evaluating opportunities and working towards that objective.” He declined to comment further or go into more specifics.
Another person who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, said the company’s board has decided to fasttrack the Delhi edition. This person, however, is neither a board member nor has directly been briefed by one.
Dainik Bhaskar’s publisher, D.B. Corp., has filed for a public issue of shares with the country’s market regulator.
Editor-at-large Ayaz Memon and national sales head Ishu Bhalla have stepped down from their roles at DNA, it emerged yesterday.