The recession may have slowed him down but management guru Arindam Chaudhuri is still preaching, says Gaurav Jain
AFTER OVER a decade of hectic entrepreneurship and proselytising, Arindam Chaudhuri has become a lightning rod in Indian management circles. He is Honorary Dean at the Centre for Economic Research and Advanced Studies at the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), the business school founded by his professor father. He is also the founder of the Planman Group, which maintains interests in management consulting, media and IT services. He has authored bestsellers like Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch and The Great Indian Dream. There have been several controversies about IIPM’s advertising claims of university affiliations, rankings and placements. Chaudhuri’s team has mastered the art of overwhelming detractors with publicity and lawsuits.
In the recessionary lull where he says he’s halted most new projects and is concentrating on consolidating media activities, Chaudhuri is on a mammoth 16-city tour to promote his latest book on strategies for success, Discover the Diamond in You (with a front cover endorsement from Amitabh Bachchan and a foreword by Shah Rukh Khan).
Chaudhuri spends his week lecturing at IIPM campuses, writing the editorial for and overseeing the cover story of The Sunday Indian, (the news weekly with 14 language editions of which he is the editor- in-chief) writing his books and reading potential scripts for films. He gets his news primarily from print. He doesn’t watch television except for the odd spurt of breaking news. The 38-year-old is frank about his fear of addictions, particularly of the Internet. A staffer operates his blog since he doesn’t know how to upload content. He occasionally uses Facebook to interact with students but barely touches email. Instead, he claims to write mostly on SMS, including all of his latest book.
Contrary to his smoothened media image, Chaudhuri speaks in the halting, rough-hewn accents of a lifelong Dilliwalla. He likes the sound of his voice and talks in rambling loops during which he often catches and modulates his voice. With the professional declaimer’s habit of speaking slightly louder than necessary in conversation, he is also prone to a performer’s approximations of thought. TEHELKA caught him in a candid mood about his book, the media and his burgeoning political ambitions. During the conversation at his Delhi home, he often gave in to a tic of opening and shutting the clasp of his large metal watch. Excerpts from the conversation:
Why did you diversify into magazines?
I found Indian business magazines to be quite rubbish. It’s a kick for the Tata group when 20 of their folks are featured in a cover story with quotes, but a common man has nothing to read and understand in it. I thought Business and Economy and 4Ps would show people how India should grow and take care of its people below the poverty line. Then frustration set in. I realised business readers are the ones who’re least involved, the least wanting to make any change and the least inspired. So I thought of starting a news magazine. This time I didn’t make the same mistake of making it only in English and reaching an elite few. The Sunday Indian was launched in 14 languages from day one.
How is The Sunday Indian different?
I can easily distinguish it from India Today, Outlook and TEHELKA. Other mags have got stuck into a rut. Nobody is interested in a 120-page magazine with a 17-page cover story. I find it completely ridiculous. I’ve grown up reading The Economist which has a onepage cover story! I hate stories which are full of quotes. Stories should be done by journalists with a viewpoint rather than by quoting others. That’s the only way magazines can survive. For example, this man who TEHELKA put on the cover, the Naxalite who was arrested – not a Naxalite but a sympathiser…