Business Standard

NEWSMAKER: Abhijit Pawar

Looking beyond Maharashtra

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It's hard to believe but true. Within a day of the launch of his brand new English daily Sakaal Times, Abhijit Pawar, managing director of the Rs 350-crore Pune-based Sakal Media Group, was taking a flight to Disneyland (Orlando) for a month-long vacation with his family "" wife and two children, aged eight and six years.

"We will be mostly in the US," says the 36-year-old nephew of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who returned from Munich to take charge of his father's newspaper business barely four years ago. In Germany, the Pawar family scion had set up and later sold his successful IT software company.

Pawar is guilt-free about taking time off at the start of a new project, thanks to his management philosophy. One, he believes in work-life balance. Two, he believes in his team. "I've put professionals in place and I pay them to manage things. I am not here to manage them," he says.

People who have seen Pawar at work say that he is ambitious and very good at ideation. Having been restricted to Maharashtra, where Sakal Media sells over a million copies of its Marathi daily Sakal, he has clearly set his sights on a national footprint through his English newspaper.

For a start, he's determined to take on The Times of India (ToI) in Pune, where it is the number one English paper. "The overwhelming response to the paper with hawkers clamouring for more copies gives me hope that we will be able to take on ToI. Of course, it will take time and we have to further improve the paper and offer better and more content," he says.

Critics say that Sakal Media is being aggressive without a clear strategy. But Pawar believes expansion is the only way to grow. "I am more aggressive than my father but that's because I have inherited a strong base from him," he says.

Could the aggression also stem from the fact that he has the backing of Sharad Pawar? "Really? I better call him, tell him his net worth and ask him to adopt me," he chortles. He's clearly learnt to live with the jibes.

Publishing is a serious business and Sakal Media would be going public soon. KPMG is likely to be hired as its auditor. The balance sheets need to be squeaky clean and the business plan logical, he says.

Competent editors, marketing people and even readers do not stay with a politically-backed paper, he insists. "Besides, would I be struggling to launch 125,000 copies if I had any such backing? I would have dumped 400,000 copies in the market," he adds.

Of course, there will be many more editions of but Pawar's television channel plans are also under way. To be launched under a separate company, the infotainment TV channel will be up by August. He's open to partnerships "" strategic or otherwise, Indian or foreign "" in his media businesses. "I am not closed to anything if I see value," he says.

Media observers say that the only roadblock in his plans could, ironically, be his speed. "He moves very fast and that too in an organisation which is not used to such speed. It's like adding a bullet train engine to old coaches," says a print media executive.

He may be a man in a hurry, but Pawar keeps his cool through meditation and yoga. He hates gyms. The fussy vegetarian loves reading and watching Hindi films. Television and films are banned for his children, though. Maybe when they are back from Orlando, they could make do with reading his English paper.

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