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The years of consolidation, second bomb, and hope This foray into economic journalism... Where a co-operative paid bonus; helped eradicate caste bias... He took public sector to commanding heights... When fertilizer production shifted to North and West... Budgets through the years… When Eicher bites the Bullet... When cooperatives pushed out private dairies... The unreal estate Rise and fall of PVN... The sea change The white trigger at Erode Travails and thrills... Birth of IE When comes such another! Music, music everywhere… Mrs Gandhi storms back, MGR unshaken in his fortress The rise and fall of the Madras Press Club Power progress From the very beginning The slippery story of crude Hanuman jumps in auto, electronic technologies How Chennai missed the bus? (rail!) Remembering SV Editorially reinforced and redesigned MY LOVE FOR AGRICULTURE Major storms during the explosive years Takeover tycoons... Kurien visits Erode... When feedstock change worked havoc... A culture of R&D... Hand composing to desk top publishing… Green Jubilee for agricultural research The rise, fall and rise of India Cements Salem steel waiting for its sheen The green years
 
Travails and thrills...
How things fell into place for celebrating this magazine’s Silver Jubilee

In just 500 days, IE would have completed 50 years. We commenced publication on 15 March 1968 and our golden jubilee will fall on 15 March 2018. I reminisce in this column on the launch of the publication and its silver jubilee celebrations.

1968 was not the best of times to launch an economic journal. A new prime minister was struggling to find her feet. Particularly daunting for her was tackling the old guards of the grand old party.  The economy was in a bad shape: a steep devaluation of the rupee a couple of years earlier, two successive years of drought that resulted in a steep drop in food production necessitating import of foodgrains on a massive scale, poor state of foreign reserves, the concept of planning for five years given a holiday…. 

Yet we decided to build on our experience of running successfully the transport monthly Mobile for six years and launch IE. There was also a vacuum in the field of economic journals in the south: at that time, there were the old, established magazines Capital published from Calcutta, Commerce from Bombay and Eastern Economist from Delhi. (Sadly all these reputed magazines, owned by large industrial units, ceased publication later). 

IE  pionered economic journalism  in the south...

Tamil Nadu, through the 1950s and 1960s, under  the dynamic leadership of Kamaraj, R Venkatara -man and C Subramaniam, was making phenomenal growth in agriculture and industry. And handsome investments were made in the public sector in all the southern states. We felt the need for an economic journal that focused on the south. 

A new breed of entrepreneurs emerged, entering unchartered fields of industrial activity. They broke from the traditional sectors of textiles and sugar and set up entirely new industries like aluminium, automobiles and auto components, cement, paper, viscose  staple yarn, heavy che-

micals, ceramics, plastics, oil refining, fertilisers…  

We decided to launch IE as a fortnightly on industry and finance at a public function attended by a cross-section of business leaders and executives. V R Nedunchezhiyan, then Minister of Industry, Government of Tamil Nadu, released the inaugural issue. The function was presided over by the doyen of the stock market, Chitra S Narayanaswamy. Renowned economist, Dr P S Lokanathan received the first copy; the veteran economic editor P R Srinivas and the brilliant cartoonist 

N Thanu joined us as contributors. P A Seshan (Leo) of The Hindu also provided us invaluable guidance. A cross-section of business leaders like K Eswaran, N Mahalingam and M K Raju attended the function. 

 

Just 15 days for SJ: but everything fell into place...

25 years later, IE decided to celebrate its silver jubilee. We desired to present a galaxy of leaders who had made rich contributions to the economic development of the country. R Venkataraman, who settled in Delhi after retiring as President and known to us, was our choice as chief guest.  But he could confirm acceptance of our invitation only on 26 February, leaving us with just a couple of weeks for making arrangements. I couldn’t wait to invite personally our other prized guest, C Subramaniam, the Father of the Green Revolution; since I have had opportunities to interact closely with him for over two decades, I took the liberty of telephoning him with a request for his participation. The great and simple Gandhian readily agreed! The next day I met Nedunchezhiyan, then Minister of Finance, Government of Tamil Nadu and got his consent. We followed it up meeting the Governor of Tamil Nadu Bhishma Narain Singh and he agreed to preside over the function. Dr. M S Swaminathan, who was the Chairman of the IE committee for the Business Excellence Award and Dr S Malcolm Adiseshiah, former Deputy Director General of UNESCO and a close admirer of our venture, gave their consent for participation. 

All these were firmed up by 05 March, just ten days ahead of the function. We approached the media baron, the founder of the Tamil weekly Kalki and husband of M S Subbulakshmi, T Sadasivam and invited them for their presence and also for rendering the invocation. The wonderful couple admired our persistence and agreed!

We selected the sprawling Kamaraj Memorial Hall as the venue for the function. We distributed a thousand invitations, reaching out to a vast cross-section of the glitterati of Chennai.

 

The Bombay bomb scare...

Just three days before the function, Bombay was rocked by a series of blasts and suffered widespread loss of lives and property. Still the guests graciously confirmed participation. We were assembling one of the finest set of leaders from business, academe and corporates as guests. We had a taste of what heightened security meant. A strong contingent of police landed on the scene hours ahead and checked every nook and corner of the large hall. Even I had difficulty in accessing the dais with extensive checks on flower bouquets, publicity material, copies of the silver jubilee special issue…

 

The IE Business Excellence Award and special lectures...

As part of the silver jubilee celebrations, we instituted the annual IE Business Excellence Award for a southern corporate, selected based on ten parameters of excellence, half financial and the rest related to social concerns.  The doyens of management movement,  V Narayanan, M K Raju and Ramesh Gelli, helped formulate the criteria assisted by our young team of V Pattabhi Ram, Ganapathy and G Balachandar. The first award was presented to Lakshmi Machine Works and was received by D Jayavarthanavelu. Over 600 guests attended the two-hour long function, including prominent business leaders, A Sivasailam, M K Kumar, M K Raju, M V Arunachalam .... 

The   announcement made of our interest in converting our business into a public incorporated company, was noticed by Enam’s Vallabh Bhansali at Bombay. Within a year, Bhansali helped us achieve our dream: Economist Communications Ltd, attracting  investors from Bombay, was registered as a public limited company.   

The subsequent years from 1993 were even more eventful providing us ample opportunities to interact with policymakers, business leaders, academics.... as also to visit hundreds of projects spread across the country and abroad. This helped expand our knowledge horizons and cover a much vaster range of subjects. 

All through, we have worked on our mission of expanding awareness on economic issues. The IE Business Excellence Awards were presented at our initiative and at our cost. These were presented at public functions along with public lectures by prominent public figures on current and emerging economic issues. The chief guests who delivered special lectures at these functions included C Subramaniam, R Venkataraman, Maurice Strong, Verghese Kurien, Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, Dr. Manmohan Singh, M S Ahluwalia, G V Ramakrishna... The memento designed by the senior artist of O&M, C L Boopaty, was crafted by G R Thanga Maligai over a kilogramme of silver.

We expanded this effort by organising seminars on emerging issues relating to agriculture, housing, insurance, telecom, foreign trade, mutual funds, management education...  

 

Expanding awareness on economic issues...

With our interest in agriculture, we also set up the Agriculture Consultancy Management Foundation (ACMF) to work on improving agricultural productivity by taking recourse to science, technology and management. In this endeavour, we were able to get the involvement of top business leaders, academics and other public men. 

We are conscious that we are not big, but, we have been striving to be distinct and effective. 

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IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
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