In a markedly different approach from other media companies we have written about this week, Indian Express Newspapers Ltd, publisher of The Indian Express, has decided to confine salary cuts to the very top. Editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, one of India’s most influential columnists who is also Group CEO of the company he part-owns, as well as chairman Viveck Goenka, will take “substantial cuts and deferrals” in their compensation. In an email to employees today afternoon, Gupta wrote “…we do not believe in negative measures and will avoid them to our utmost ability”, indicating that widespread salary cuts at the paper were unlikely.
In a memo that lays down the gravity of the current economic slowdown for the publishing operation in no uncertain terms, Gupta said profitability has disappeared for the entire media industry in the past six months. “What matters is … 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,” he wrote.
Express’ ad sales team brought in record revenues in October 08 and February 09, despite the “near-impossible” market conditions. New efficiencies in printing operations will bring in savings of Rs7 crore in the coming year, while cost control measures mostly in “travel, transport, power, rents, wastage of copies, syndication and news agency services” will save another Rs8 crore this year. There will be no across the board increments this year, but “we will ensure that our fundamental commitment that merit must be acknowledged and rewarded, and that performers must grow with the company, is strengthened”.
Gupta emphasised the need for optimism and shared his favourite line of recession 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