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Lunch with BS: Jawahar Goel

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Jawahar Goel is on the phone when I enter his office in Noida. He motions me to one of the seating areas of the massive room. The 56-year-old managing director of Dish TV always reminds me of Nirma founder Karsanbhai Patel. Just like Patel, the first impression you get is of an unsophisticated chap. But if, like Patel, you get Goel talking in a language in which he is comfortable (Hindi), you can have a conversation sparkling with insights. And the first one comes the moment we settle down, writes Vanita Kohli-Khandekar.
“Working for Dish has taught me to combine the entrepreneurial approach with professionals. My job is to help the professionals perform. I insulate them from the legal and regulatory bit and also do the shareholder management. So the CEO gets all his time for running the business,” he says. Many CEOs, not just in media, would give an arm and a leg for such a breather.
The Rs 1,437-crore Dish TV is part of the Rs 5,028-crore Zee Group, which is India’s largest media company. Zee, in turn, is part of the estimated Rs 10,000- crore Essel Group. And Goel is one of the four brothers – the others are Subhash Chandra, Ashok Goel and Laxmi Goel – who started the group.

JG, as Goel is popularly called, kick-started Essel World, Essel Propack, Siticable (now WWIL), Zee News and Dish TV. While elder brother and chairman Subhash Chandra is credited with the vision, it is Goel who implements the stuff that the big brother dreams up. “He is the growth-oriented guy. I enjoy project management,” Goel says as we move towards the conference room for lunch.

To save time we had agreed to meet in his office. Goel, a vegetarian, eats only once a day at lunch. So he craves ghar ka khaana or food from his house, which is what we are about to eat. As I help myself to baigan ka bharta and chole, I ask him if he misses not having received formal education. Goel matriculated in Hindi before dropping out of school when the family business needed him. “Formal education gives you confidence. But somehow it also stops you from learning. When you are not educated you are always in learning mode,” he says.

What, then, does he make of the media industry today? “As a media owner I can safely say there is zero interference from the government and political parties (some state politics apart). But there is also zero interaction,” says he. This, he thinks, is bad especially when the government wants the media to play a constructive role and be a bridge to communicate with people. This could help in emergency situations like the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai or while using the soft power of media to spread the message of, say, communal harmony, hygiene or traffic sense.


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