Aroon Purie Founder and Editor-in-Chief, India Today

Aroon Purie is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of India Today and is the Chief of India Today Group. He is regarded as one of the most successful entrepreneurs of Post-independence India. He is credited with changing the landscape of Indian journalism with his brand of fearless and unbiased reporting.

Early Days

Aroon Purie was educated at the Doon School. He procured his B.Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics. His father was from the film business and had set up a printing plant in collaboration where Aroon was working as production planner. Quickly, he realized that they would have to create their own work to keep the printing plant working. His vision of creating children's books for Indian children with Indian themes got him into publishing children's books. They had to move to magazines as children's books were not commercially viable. Moreover, the high price of paper in India left them with no choice but to give up on publishing children's books. The magazines became much bigger than the press. Recently, he has handed over the reins to his son Ankoor Purie. But, he is still the guide and mentor.
Aroon Purie is married to Rekha Purie, a former model and they have three children - Kalli, Koel and Ankoor.

Birth of the Spark

Aroon started out at Thomson Press in 1970 as Production Controller and has been the guiding force. The Thomson Press is the largest commercial printer in South Asia and has a national presence with five facilities across India. Initially, the Press was involved in distribution of overseas publications and printing children's books for export. He then set up Living Media to publish India Today in 1975 to keep the printing press busy. He realized that it was very tough marketing to Indians living overseas and distribution was very expensive. As an experiment they let out some copies in the local markets. They found that there was good acceptability locally and soon they started building on the domestic market. The biggest lesson Mr. Purie has learnt from this was to build a strong domestic market before going to international markets. This is applicable to all products.

The India Today magazine really took off in the time of emergency. In 1977, elections were held after the lifting of the Emergency. Voices and opinions were gagged and news was suppressed during the Emergency. Indira Gandhi lost and a non-Congress party had come to power. With the lifting of the Emergency, a lot of news stories that had been suppressed were waiting to be broadcast and spread. According to Aroon Purie, they were very interesting times with a lot happening in Indian politics. The most interesting was the fall of Indira Gandhi and the Janata party coming to power under Morarji Desai. Then in 1980, the Janata party fell and Indira Gandhi returned to power. Then there was the Sanjay Gandhi aura, which though short-lived, was fodder for the media. The tragic, yet dramatic death of Sanjay Gandhi was followed by the induction of Rajiv Gandhi into the political mainstream. All these events were a plethora of news stories and India Today did not let the opportunity go waste. It was the ideal phase and the magazine reported the events with clarity and credibility. This was the main reason why India Today gained its leadership in media. Its never before seen brand of journalism without fear or favour transformed the landscape of Indian journalism and Mr. Purie was the beacon guiding its progress.

India Today magazine has grown to become the most read publication with editions in five languages. The India Today Group publishes several other magazines to cater to various segments of society and also different fields. They include: India Today Spice; India Today Home; Business Today; India Today Travel Plus; Design Today; G&G (Gadgets and Gizmos); Money Today; Directories Today and Mail Today (a joint venture with the Daily Mail). The group also brings out the Indian editions of Golf Digest; Cosmopolitan; Men's Health and Harvard Business Review. Mr.Purie has steered India Today into a tie-up with AOL TIME Warner group for exclusive marketing and distribution of Time and Fortune magazines. The varied and rich product mix of magazines reflects his understanding of media space.

The group's success in the print medium led Purie to diversify into TV, music and other related businesses. Music Today is the best online store for finest Indian music. OYE 104.8 FM is the radio channel started by the group. India Today Book Club was launched in 1999 to provide the Indian book lovers access to high quality Indian and international books at affordable prices and the additional option of home delivery. It provides books on various sections catering to all ages and fields. It also gives exclusive offers on every purchase. Harper Collins India is a joint venture with Harper Collins. In December 2000, he launched the 24-hour news and current affairs Hindi news channel, Aaj Tak, which has established itself as a brand delivering what people want and expect it to deliver. The group TV Today which controls Aaj Tak also has an English news channel Headlines Today. The India Today Group launched India Today Woman magazine to celebrate the achievements of professional Indian women not just in the workplace but as mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, even best friends. It's a magazine that highlights their leadership skills, their ability to multitask and yet get a job done. The India Today Woman Summit and Awards was started in 2009 as an annual affair. The Summit not only acknowledges the contribution of modern Indian women in top managerial cadres but also provides interaction between highly qualified and successful women and women who are striving to make it to the top.

According to Mr.Purie, "The key thing in this business is to maintain your leadership position because in media it is an established fact that the leader corners most of the revenue. Your market share may come down as the universe expands, but as long as you maintain your numero uno position, revenues would keep coming." Both India and the magazine India Today have grown almost simultaneously. This is one of the reasons for the magazine's success. The country has gone through a lot of change and has created a situation where there is a greater hunger to understand the events and happenings. India Today has been able to satisfy the need for awareness and enlightenment among the public. It has been able to do it honestly and fearlessly over the years. This has been the reason for the India Today Group sustaining inspite of increasing competition in various media.

Purie has taken up the editorial role for his magazines as he believes that editorial excellence is vital for such an organization. It has been something he has enjoyed doing since the inception of the magazine. He is very finicky about details and is always improving and changing till the last minute. He keeps changing things as he keeps thinking of better things and better ways to do them. This trait is very vital in journalism as news keep trickling in till the time of publishing or airing on visual media. In his own words, "That's the thing about this profession that you are never happy, you are always going to gun it better. But the good thing is that you get chance to do it against because there is another issue coming up, another broadcast coming up, another newspaper is coming up, so that's the fun." This characteristic of his has given rise to the term "Purification" in the India Today Group referring to the purification process.

Purie is a hands-on person and has many screens at his office and home to let him watch content onscreen. This way, he is sure about the content that is in his media. India Today Group stands for editorial excellence which is very vital for its sustenance. They look at market trends, changes in economy and keep track of events and identify the information gaps and then try to find the right media or the right information to be provided. News must evolve keeping the user in mind.

News journalism has been evolving and news has become a commodity. People have become more interested and are willing to procure news anytime, anyhow and anywhere. News has evolved with more connectivity among the users sometimes leading to user-generated content. News is being more driven by people with opinions, expert opinions and domain expertise. Now it is not just about the news but people are more interested because of their views. Technology has played a very crucial role in the changing face of journalism in various media - print, radio, television and internet. Technology enables filming, broadcasting live and documenting with very small devices. Hence, people other than journalists can generate content and this is taking journalism to an altogether different level.

Mr.Purie is very clear and has a lot of confidence in his group. This is reflected in his response to queries regarding desertion from TV Today. This is one problem any leader faces. He credits his HR policy for recruiting such good persons that others want them and are willing to do anything to lure them away. But, he prefers to look at the brighter side and replies that his group has not suffered due to these desertions as it gives scope for new stars to be born.

Apart from India Today

Regarding the education system, he feels that educational institutions must produce people who will be employable. He rues the lack of vocational training facilities and the mindset that vocational education is not preferred. He criticizes the Government for limiting its role in development to legislation and not following through with execution. Education is the key for nation development, especially India with a huge young population. Learning should be fun and not by rote.

Aroon Purie's views on education led him to set up the Vasant Valley School in 1990 in New Delhi. It is a self-financing day school with a sprawling campus spread over eight acres. It has a fully equipped Science and Computer laboratories. Many activities are organized to inculcate leadership and self-discipline qualities. The school lays emphasis on an individual's intellectual and emotional growth and a spirit of mutual respect between the students and the teachers. The future lies in the inclusion of internet and digital world into education.

Learn Today was initiated to provide simple effective methods for great education. It promotes an educational vision by promoting professional standards and brings about a change from mindless routine towards discovery of possibilities. It has a unique method of developing books, auditing schools and guiding teachers training.

During the Kargil conflict while India Today was reporting the conflict, it was realized that simple reporting was not enough. In August 1999, Care Today was set up as a registered society to act as a link between the readers and viewers and he problems facing the nation. During disasters, the public has always been very forthcoming and generous in its offers for help. In order to use this goodwill properly, Care Today uses financial contributions from the readers of India Today and provides a report on the progress made either through its pages or its websites. Care Today has responded well to earthquakes in Gujarat and Kashmir; droughts in Gujarat and Rajasthan and Supercyclone in Orissa. The contributions have been utilized using the highest standards of openness and transparency through its magazine and TV channels.

Aroon Purie has been able to maintain the supremacy of his group by his flexibility and willingness to adopt to various changes in media as also the changing mindsets of the public. He has been able to deliver what they want, the way they want honestly and fearlessly.

Awards and Honors

*     G.K. Reddy Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism,1993-94

*     B.D. Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism,1988

*     He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2001

*     Hall of Fame Award from the Advertising Club of Kolkata, 2002

*     Apsara Award from the Film and Television Producers Guild of India,2006

*     The ITA Television Icon Award, 2007

*     The NT lifetime achievement Award by the Indian Television Dot Com for the year, 2008

*     Managing India Award by the All India Management Association, 2010

*     Member of Council of Management, Audit Bureau of Circulations (Chairman, 2000-2001)

*     Member of Executive Committee of The Editors' Guild of India, Council of Management All India Management Association (Special Invitee)

*     Chairman, CII National Committee on Media (2001-2002)

*     Chairman of FIPP Federation of International Periodicals and Publications. This is the first time the post has been held by an Indian national

*     Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accounts (England & Wales)

*     The India Today group is not too low-profile to be ineffective or too high-profile to burn cash. We have made a financial investment. Obviously, we'll look at financial returns

*     Well, there are business channels and there are some who appear to be business channels, but are nothing more than being merely a stock market channel

*     We always aspire to be the leader and in most cases are the leader

*     I am genetically tuned to look forward to and always think of what's the next new thing I can do and that's what excites me

*     It's all dynamic, which is the wonderful part of this profession. So, although every kind of media will exist in its own form, but, in the end, the convergence will take place in the digital form