The positive impact of the current crisis would be a push towards Atma-Nirbharta, something that Mahatma Gandhi had stressed on so many years ago: President, Jagran Prakashan Limited

Apurva Purohit

For many organizations, the covid19 pandemic is a crisis unlike any they have experienced, and the urgency to respond has forced us all to reconsider how we live and work in order to navigate these new challenges.

Leaders must move quickly to minimize the risk to their employees, communities and business operations, as well as looking forward, beyond the crisis, to ensure that their organization has invested in the right capabilities to adapt to the new normal.

In an exclusive conversation with CPO Innovation, Apurva Purohit, President, Jagran Prakashan Limited talks about the challenges that the pandemic and nation-wide lockdown brought on the business, the shift towards work from home and the impact on the culture of the company.

CPO Innovation: As a leader, what are some of the roadblocks that you are navigating amidst the crisis?

Apurva Purohit: The set of organizations I handle, moved to operate from Work From Home with alacrity and agility and despite the fact that we run live radio stations from around 40 cities and print several editions of our various newspapers, we did not miss even a single day of live broadcast or publication.

While our business and products continued to be available and indeed improved their reach and coverage in these trying times, the biggest challenges I am dealing with are grappling with the slowing economy and its impact on our business, and the fear which has become an integral part of the team’s psyche leading to anxiety and stress. 

CPO Innovation: According to you how has the nationwide lockdown impacted the culture of the company?

Apurva Purohit: All our organizations are well known for their focus on being a Great Place To Work and especially, Radio City has been consistently featured for the 7th time in ‘India’s Best Companies to Work For’ study conducted by Great Place to Work Institute. Radio City has also been recognized in ‘India’s Best Workplaces for Women – 2019’ and has ranked amongst the Top 75 organizations on the list. In 2020, Radio City ranked 4th in ‘Best Large Workplaces in Asia’, according to the GPTW survey. I was very happy to see that communication and collaboration continued to be extremely effective despite such a wide-scale disruption and with everyone Working From Home. This was also a result of the fact that most teams have been working together for several years and there is already a strong sense of trust and bonhomie amongst them.

So, while culturally I don’t think there was an adverse impact on the teams, I certainly believe that anxiety about the future and about health is at an all-time high. With doomsday scenarios being painted everywhere regarding businesses collapsing and the health scare, people are worried. It is our job as leaders to maintain calm and help people stay focussed on the fundamentals while being empathetic about their concerns. As in any other time, I believe managing teams with a healthy dose of tough love is the right approach to take while making sure that all communication is clear and humane.

CPO Innovation: Many organizations are seeing opportunities emerging in addition to challenges, whether it be in addressing new client needs or opportunities to improve organization’s effectiveness. What opportunities are you seeing?

Apurva Purohit: On 25th March, with the lockdown situation all around, coronavirus emerged as print industry’s greatest threat. Lockdown in the city meant 100% breakdown of physical newspaper distribution network. Mumbai being the worst hit, vendor network was completely immobilized. While the entire world was grappling with the pandemic, getting newspapers at home became one of the biggest concerns. Thus, mid-day faced the challenge of putting newspapers in the hands of people. 

Overnight mid-day’s strategy changed from “print-only” to “digital-first”. The objective was to make sure that people kept receiving credible news from their favorite tabloid, mid-day, on their phones if not at their doorsteps. 

The mid-day team rose to the challenge and overnight ramped up alternate modes like ePaper & newspaper PDF to ensure our readers got their daily dose of credible news & city updates. By exploring various distribution platforms like Whatsapp, SMS, eMailers and Telegram with our existing readers and partnering with 800+ large entities, mid-day ensured readers were updated and received a replica of the mid-day newspaper on their phones through the new distribution network which was completely digital.

The result as of 1st June:

  • Mid-day notched up a reach of 12.9 Crore (more than 5 times the print reach). 
  • Transitioned from a city-based to a national newspaper.
  • Went from being a print player to a digital player.
  • Mid-day’s social media handles have seen a rise in the page views by 285%.
  • Great response and testimonials from readers thanking mid-day for sharing PDFs regularly through WhatsApp and Telegram during these trying times.

CPO Innovation: What are your thoughts on how the world will be different after Covid-19, and how are you moving to address that new world?

Apurva Purohit: I think the world will change in many underlying ways and not necessarily the obvious ways that most people are currently alluding to. So while social distancing, Work From Home, decreased consumption, managing anxiety, lowered incomes and thus demand are some of the immediate and obvious ways things are going to change, I also believe these issues will disappear over a period of time. However, two things that are definitely going to remain long term in nature are: 

1) An increased push by governments, societies and ecosystems to be more self-reliant and local. So, whether as a country, a state or a locality, people are going to trust and want to interact with a smaller set of humans. The negative impact is zenophobia and the positive impact of this will be a push towards Atma-Nirbharta, something that Mahatma Gandhi had stressed on so many years ago.

2) The second big change that is here to stay is our increased realization of human vulnerability. Climate change experts have been screaming themselves hoarse on the problems we as a race are facing and economists have been talking of the dangerous impact of increasing inequality on the social fabric. We have taken neither seriously. With this pandemic we will become more cautious as a race and start looking at sustainability of lifestyles, society and the planet more seriously.

CPO Innovation: What are your top priorities at the moment? What would be the one piece of advice for leaders and the workforce at large as they learn to adapt to the new normal?  

Apurva Purohit: My top priority currently is to help our employees and the businesses I run, navigate themselves back to a more normal lifestyle, help them transition back to work, keeping their safety as my prime concern. 

My advice to everyone is that we have been deeply impacted by this unprecedented crisis and our lives have been turned upside down in the last few months. After this we can say that we learnt one thing that improved our health, one thing that taught us to help someone else and one thing that made us better custodians of the planet and we implement these 3 learnings, this crisis would have been of value to us.

Apurva Purohit is the President of the Jagran Group, one of India’s largest multi-media conglomerates. With over three decades of experience in the media and entertainment industry, she leads digital, print, radio and outdoor in the group.

She was responsible for creating Lodestar, which is today one of the largest media buying agencies in the country, and envisioning Times of India’s entry strategy into television, and has also worked on famed turnarounds like Zee TV.