Uncertainty and change loom large over Network18, with both its CEO B. Saikumar and COO Ajay Chacko leaving the company, and there being speculation about Rajdeep Sardesai also leaving the group. There is speculation that this change is being driven by Reliance Industries, which has an indirect stake in the company through Independent Media Trust (IMT), controlled by the Network18 promoter group. Given the circumstances, it’s worth noting that Reliance Industries has recently hired a few senior media industry executives, both in Editorial and Business:
Alok Agrawal (joined ~ May 14th, 2014): was previously the CEO at Zee News and a director at in Zee Media, for about one and a half years. Oddly enough, in Agrawal’s LinkedIn profile, as a description of his role at RIL, rather cheekily says “Watch this space…”. We are watching, Alok. Hurry up and update already.
Agrawal was previously the COO of Cheil Worldwide, heading the South West Asia operations for the agency for around 4 years, before which he was EVP at Bates, heading North India operations. He has also worked at Grey Worldwide (India), and EURO RSCG.
Umesh Upadhayay (joined ~ March 2014): A senior TV journalist, he has joined RIL as its Media Director. He has previously worked at Janmat TV (Channel Head), Zee News (Executive Producer and Editor, Output), Doordarshan (Correspondent) and PTI (Sub Editor). Prior to joining RIL, he was a Director at Disha Institute of Management of Technology, Raipur, prior to which he was a Director at Rockland Hospitals.
Gautam Chikermane (joined ~ April 18th, 2014): is the New Media Director at Reliance Industries. At the time of joining, he said that he will be involved with RIL’s 4G business. Chikermane was the columnist at Inc for about an year and a half. Before that, he was the Executive Editor (Business) for Hindustan Times for about five years, prior to which he was the Editor (Special Projects) at Indian Express for about three years. He has also served as executive editor for the Financial Express and Outlook Money and has 21 years of experience in the media industry.
He has also been a director at the non-profit organizations Financial Planning Standards Board and CARE India, and the co-author of The Disrupter which interestingly is about the rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party in India.
BV Rao (joined ~ April 22nd, 2014): the former Sahara News group editor joined RIL as its News & Communications Director. Rao had previously served as the Editor of Governance Now. He has also had stints at Mid-Day Delhi, Indian Express Bangalore, Free Press Journal, The Times of India, India Today Group and DNA Mumbai among others.
Rohit Bansal (joined ~ April 2014): He works “at the intersect of media, regulation and strategy at RIL”. He was the Managing Editor at India TV and has previously worked at The Times of India as Senior Business Correspondent, Zee News as Business Editor and resident editor at Financial Express. He’s also previously worked at TV18 as special correspondent and has been a columnist at The Pioneer, Governance Now, DNA and IANS.
Shivendra Singh Chauhan (joined ~ May 2014): He previously led the online strategy for India Against Corruption (IAC), and joined Reliance Industries as its New Media strategist. Chauhan is quite the activist: he has also been the director of mobilization at Greenpeace India, and a consultant with Awaaz.org. He was Deputy News Editor at Times Internet Limited, and has previously worked at CNBC-TV18, as Associate Producer, from December 2002 to March 2005.
Did we miss anyone from this list? Let us know, and we’ll update.
Interestingly, it’s worth noting that some of these media execs have been pitching an idea for a global-level Indian media setup on the lines of BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera.
Note that Reliance Industries had previously divested a part of its stake in ETV channels to TV18 Broadcast, to secure preferential access to Network18′s content from all its media and web properties and TV18′s programming and digital content of all its broadcasting channels. Mukesh Ambani has also reportedly invested in the niche entertainment TV channel Epic TV.