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COMMENTS PRINT
They have built industrial empires in an unlikely place: small-town India.The stories of these self-made entrepreneurs are unique. So are the challenges they face.
TV Mahalingam, Sriram Srinivasan, Ajita Shashidhar, Sudipto Dey
Sriram Srinivasan
TV Mahalingam
Sriram Srinivasan
Sudipto Dey

Indore

  • Vinay Chhajlani: Chief Executive Officer, Nai Dunia Media
  • Area of operation: Media
  • Group Revenues: Rs 500 crore

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Babu Labhchand Chhajlani founded the Hindi newspaper Nai Dunia in 1947. Today, his grandson Vinay Chhajlani, 46, runs the daily. He may have inherited the newspaper business, but the younger Chhajlani is an entrepreneur in his own right. He started Diaspark, a software development company that’s worth Rs 144 crore today. He launched India’s first vernacular portal, WebDunia.com, which generates Rs 19.2 crore in revenue. Recently, he set up a private equity fund, Indimedia, through which he bought out English news channel News X for reportedly Rs 50 crore. In all, his businesses are worth over Rs 500 crore.

Interestingly, Chhajlani entered the family’s media business only in 2006. Until then, software dominated everything. It was a passion from his engineering days in Bits Pilani. “I was involved in several software projects at Bits, so, it was an obvious choice,” he says. Chhajlani set up Suvi Infosystems in 1988, after completing his masters. “We were four people and operated out of the Nai Dunia campus with just two PCs,” he recollects. Chhajlani plans to make Suvi, now Diaspark, a Rs 480-crore entity in two years.

In 1999, he launched WebDunia. It began as a Hindi e-mail service but has now become a full-fledged Internet portal that offers services in nine vernacular languages. Chhajlani roped in angel investors Prakash Bhalerao and Waldon Capital to back him.

 
 
An entrepreneur in his own right, Vinay Chhajlani’s greatest achievement is the way he turned a family business around.
 
 

However, while his entrepreneurial ventures flourished, the family business declined. And it was in turning the fortunes of Nai Dunia around that he showed his mettle. By 2004, Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar had entered Indore and toppled Nai Dunia from its market leader position. Dainik Jagran also announced its intentions to launch an edition in Indore. Nai Dunia was just a two-edition (Indore and Bhopal) publication while the others had multiple editions in MP. Advertisers preferred publications with multiple editions. The daily faced a huge financial crisis.

The family urged him to take over and save the daily. “The Nai Dunia brand had immense appeal, but it lacked modern management thinking.” Chhajlani got several angel investors to invest in the company and get it out of the red.

Next, he expanded into newer markets like Raipur, Jabalpur, Gwalior, Bilaspur and New Delhi. He also made the paper look more contemporary by launching supplements such as Yuva and Glamour Dunia. “The makeover and expansion has taken our circulation to 7 lakh copies from 2 lakh copies in 2004. We have also regained lost ground in Indore,” he says.

Chhajlani proved that he was a worthy successor to his grandfather. Today, he is one of the richest entrepreneurs in Indore. And he has never regretted operating out of this town. In fact, he says, Indore is as good as Mumbai or Delhi in many ways. “If you want to build a conglomerate, it’s about ambition. Ours is to be in the regional space and that is where we are.”

Going forward, Chhajlani wants to expand his presence in the media space. “I will acquire businesses, develop them and take a back-seat after I find a worthy successor.” Would that be son, Abhishek, who is currently studying at Bits? “Not necessarily. I would want him to pursue his interests and not impose this on him.” In the next breath, he drops, what would be a bombshell in most family-run businesses. “My successor could also be a bright employee.” 

COMMENTS PRINT
They have built industrial empires in an unlikely place: small-town India.The stories of these self-made entrepreneurs are unique. So are the challenges they face.
TV Mahalingam, Sriram Srinivasan, Ajita Shashidhar, Sudipto Dey
Sriram Srinivasan
TV Mahalingam
Sriram Srinivasan
Sudipto Dey
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