I am happy to have contributed to ABP's growth: Dipankar Das Purkayastha

The former CEO & MD of ABP opens up about his long association with the network, views about increasing digital footprint and plans to travel the world

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Apr 26, 2021 11:24 AM
Dipankar Das Purkayastha

Dipankar Das Purkayastha who recently stepped down as the CEO & Managing Director of ABP spoke to e4m about his long stint at the network, his fondest memories and plans for his journey ahead. 


You have been associated with ABP for over four decades. Share some of your best memories of this long stint.

I have endless memories at ABP, having worked there for more than four decades meant very less technology at hand. The approach to business was not very stringent and the masses were inclined towards reading newspapers a lot, advertisements were widely floated and television was not very common.

As the days passed, everything changed, competition increased, modes of media developed greatly, digital and mobile technology came into being and I have witnessed all of it in these four decades and the company has grown from a small regional newspaper to a large national conglomerate of television, magazine, newspaper and very strongly into the digital arena. I am happy that as I step down, ABP has grown to become a formidable news media group in the country.

Twenty or thirty years ago, covering developments in politics was an entirely different ballgame. What do you feel has changed in that context?

The masses have become a bit restless. The job of the media is to find out the pros and cons in the society, but people wish to see the good part. In this scenario, presenting facts as they are has become a dilemma. But ABP has a bold approach and publishes what it feels is right for the society.

What are your reflections when you look back as to how ABP News Network has been able to take the venerable ABP brand and build something around it?

ABP News was formerly called STAR News and before we bought it completely, it had been a good learning experience. Overnight, STAR News became ABP News but there was a huge campaign initiated for it because it is not easy to change the image in people’s minds and for a very long time it was called STAR News. The nuances of technology we learnt from STAR Group, and the content preparation is ABP’s forte, thus we know what it is.

This collaboration turned out to be successful and since the very start our approach was very clear, we wanted to have a premium positioning. We knew what we wanted to broadcast; serious news and serious journalism for our readers and viewers. ABP News started the channel in the Bengali language and it became tremendously successful, followed by channels in Marathi and Gujarati.

ABP Majha became the number 1 news channel in Maharashtra. Recently, ABP Ganga was launched to cover Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and it performed well within the first year only. ABP seeks to become the number 1 pan-India regional news media. We’re planning to have a Pan India presence and would be foraying in the southern region of the country hopefully soon and would strive to become the number 1 regional newspaper player in the country.

How were the last 12 months different for you personally and professionally? What did ABP do to weather the storm and prepare for the future?

Everything in the last 12 months was very uncertain and it became challenging to even procure necessities like food and medicine. The fact that newspaper distribution fell to zero, advertising stopped and as a media company, it became difficult for us. We formed a team of individuals who had to build strategies for survival.

A campaign for raising awareness about newspapers being safe to read was started, wherein we tried to communicate to the masses that it is safe to read the newspaper because all precautions were being taken at all levels of production. Gradually sales and revenues improved. The ad revenue went up. I am happy to have contributed to the growth of the company even in the most uncertain times.

How has your experience of working with both Mr Aveek Sarkar and Mr Arup Sarkar been and what are their respective professional approaches?

Both of them are opposites. They complement one another in numerous ways. As personalities, they’re quite different. Mr Aveek is an extrovert and likes meeting people, on the other hand, Mr Arup is an introvert but both of them are very intellectual and have done their best. They give a sense of professional freedom to employees and I value the trust we share with each other and it has been a great journey. 

Mr Atideb Sarkar is fulfilling his role as the Executive Director. What would like to say about this philosophy of creating leaders from within?

Capable individuals are very much within the organization and ABP believes in giving them the opportunity to exhibit their prowess. Mr Atideb could have been promoted to the position of CEO but that was not done because a member of the family should not assume that role. The chosen CEO shall report to Mr Atideb who would oversee all the operations as he himself is a very capable journalist. Family can be present as a shareholder but the CEO should ideally be an independent individual who has no direct ties with the family.

In Australia, a recent judgment has got social media giants to pay the newspapers and if something similar in India, how does it affect the newspaper owners?

Australia has legalized this and I believe it will have far-reaching effects in the media industry even in other countries and hopefully, India and Brazil will follow suit. Google and Facebook would not ignore these economies. Google has created Google Showcase and it pays newspaper companies a lump sum amount per annum. This kind of decision shall result in publishers getting a fair share of their hard work unlike what they receive now.

As a content company, ABP has witnessed the digital base expanding so how is it working on its digital footprint and what are the successes?

Digital is the future and especially after the pandemic, things have changed tremendously. At ABP we have two divisions; the first one is ABP Live and it is doing really well. ABP Digital is doing great too with several themes coming up. Technology is an amazing facilitator and it’s high time that we acknowledge that it is the future.

What do you think Indian media owners and newspaper owners should do to stay relevant?

Credibility should never be compromised. Editorial is the real strength and having the right people is the game-changer. Also, the new generation like that of millennials wants to know more.

In the social media whirlpool, a lot of facts lose their truth and it is the leading brand of newspapers who stand out given their courage to present credible information. Relevant and personalized experience is possible only through digital platforms. Digital and Print Media complement one another and I feel these should not be treated separately. As for staying relevant, it is important to come up with new themes.

New York Times sent one of its journalists to stay with the mountaineers who had to climb Mount Everest to get an idea about their daily routine and the motivational factors that make them climb peaks. The story drew great public interest, hence it is important that India media houses also keep that perspective.

After having come this far, do you still feel there is a bucket list of tasks you wish to complete?

It is my ardent desire to travel around the world. During the pandemic, I learnt Spanish and completed several levels of learning from the University of Valencia. I can now speak elementary Spanish and understand it. It is my heartiest wish to visit Latin America and throughout the next two years, I wish to travel extensively once everything opens up. I also want to try out different cuisines. I would love to write a book in the near future.

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