Shortly after you sit down in his elegant and roomy corner office for an afternoon interview, it’s evident that Shekhar Gupta takes pride in, and greatly enjoys, editing The Indian Express–the feisty, usually anti-establishment and irreverent newspaper that shares at least some personality traits with its editor-in-chief. He’s more in his element when he’s talking about the paper’s journalism than its business, even though for a while he was both the editor-in-chief and group CEO at the storied 77-year-old publishing house. He says he gave up the latter title “due to a general aversion to long designations”. For this interview, however, he spoke for both the paper and the company.
The Indian Express Ltd publishes, apart from the eponymous flagship daily, The Financial Express, Loksatta and Screen. A B2B division also brings out a number of trade magazines across several industry segments. In a recent mail to employees, Gupta, an influential commentator on politics and public affairs, outlined the difficulties in the business but said there would be no pay cuts except those given to himself and chairman Viveck Goenka.
This interview will run in two parts. In the first part, which follows below, Gupta talks about what the paper will (or won’t) do to cope with the economic slowdown, and, for the first time, discusses the details of the separation of the “real estate and fourth estate businesses” of the group. Following the January move, the publishing company is now nearly debt-free, he says. In part two, Gupta offers some significant news about upcoming changes to the paper, and responds to questions ranging from the company’s stand on FDI to cover prices and the thorny issue of bolstering the Express brand.
The biggest of print players are facing difficulties in the current economic environment. How is Express coping, and what measures are you taking to face the situation?
I think it