CNBC-TV18 just turned 20. While corporate India and the markets will see this number as 20 years of leadership, growth in key indices and a platform to showcase the wealth retail investors have created thanks to authentic, credible voices that appear on the channel, for me -- the story is all about creating personal and professional wealth.
In number-play, 20 is iconic for me. I was 20 when I first joined TV18 as a News Trainee in July 2004. We worked out of the 9
th floor in Videocon Towers in Jhandewalan, New Delhi. The newsroom was my training ground, and playground too. That’s where friendships were forged – some to live a few days, many to last a lifetime.
We were a team of four. Bani Jain, Kripa Koshy and self – part of a very nimble, surefooted structure that Shereen Bhan led from the front. We would all wear many hats – researchers, producers, guest coordinators, rundown writers, production assistants, desk resources and PCR crew. And boy, did we deliver!
This cult team was responsible for one show to begin with – Tonight@10. Alternating between Karan Thapar and Shereen Bhan as anchors, this was the only political debate on the business news channel. Two debates per episode, recorded deferred live at 7 pm as that was the only slot available in the studio in Delhi as the channel would be on-air with a Hindi show from Mumbai.
Tonight@10 was shot in a green-screen studio with a lit-up
Rashtrapati Bhawan evening shot superimposed for the viewers. Almost every day, with emerging political stories, the debate subjects would change a few hours before recording – putting the whole operation into a downward spiral. Shereen, our friend, philosopher and guide, also the markets anchor, could only be found in the studio. She would start her day at 6 am and never end before 10 pm. We would run to the PCR to speak to her in her ear-piece (yes, she wore one those days) during breaks to seek inputs on guests and research.
By the time she would exit the studio after the stock markets closed, we would have a file of research printed for her quick consumption and a status of guests on the show. Every day, Shereen and her team would do a “crash course” in a new subject. While the rest of us would quickly delete the course from our memories, Shereen had the ability to file it into a compartment in her brain for future use.
And then, it was showtime!
“Make the lead-in more provocative,” Shereen would often tell me. I saw an improvement in my writing skills. I was perhaps the only employee who was still pursuing college and juggling a fulltime newsroom job alongside. I was paid a four-figure salary that Shereen fought hard to push to five figures within a few weeks of my joining.
Did we make our mistakes – yes, we all did. I once spelt “lose” as “loose” on a graphic and all hell broke “loose.” And once I gifted Kapil Sibal an extra ‘b’ in his last name and had a bee up my a**. Lesson learnt, internalised and we were good to start a new day.
And then came Young Turks. We restarted the series on September 2, 2004 with an envious lineup of young entrepreneurs who became ardent brand ambassadors of the show and the channel. Every other day, I would walk up to Shereen with a list of names to consider for subsequent Young Turks shoots and they would all be shot down. “They are missing the oomph,” I would be told. She was right, but I would push my luck because we had to get the shoots going, and soon.
Some of the folks I worked with became best friends too. Kunal Chawla had joined the team, followed by Gautam Shaw soon thereafter. Santanu De (oh, our road trip to Agra on my dad’s 250 cc Yezdi Classic) and Subha Chatterjee – the two seniors I hit it off well with over conversations about life!
Nimisha Tiwari became a mentor on feature shoots; Kullu sir would sit me down and question every shot rolled on tape, got me to log every line of the interview and cross-check every graphic plate well before our permanent night shift for edit would start. Karma and Raju were cameramen I shot with most often and picked up sequencing and shot compositions from.
What Young Turks has become today is nothing short of entrepreneurship itself. We were all
intrapreneurs in our rights. We owned the show, the channel and the process to make it work with shared resources and intense internal competition.
Between college, Tonight@10 and Young Turks – I would see the sunrise in the morning, set in the evening and rise again the next morning over cups of machine coffee and nicotine from the 9
th floor balcony of Videocon Towers.
We worked with the resources of a production house, the efficiency of a military unit and the agility of a news channel.
Four years at CNBC-TV18 gave me the experience and confidence of leading a team of 20 at the age of 24. I could take a stand on content, production, guests and processes without batting an eyelid.
Over the years, CNBC-TV18 has created many leaders. This would be among the only organisations where video editors have gone on to become creative directors; drivers have aced videography and sons and daughters of support staff have led PCR operations. CNBC-TV18 has been a story of professionalism, empathy, inclusion, meritocracy and unlimited ambition.
This is for Shereen and all the leaders at CNBC-TV18 who have nurtured the brand like their own child and many more leaders emerging in the next 20 years!
Happy B’day, Alma Mater!
Kartik Malhotra is Senior Executive Producer and Editor, Special Projects, at Network 18. He is an alumnus of IIM Lucknow and, when not behind the camera, indulges in armchair analysis of strategy, technology and economy.