Subhash Chandra Goenka

August 16, 2020

Subhash Chandra Goenka (Born 30 November 1950) is an Indian billionaire media baron. He is the chairman of the Essel Group, an Indian media conglomerate, and founded Zee TV in 1992. He was also the chairman of Zee Media, but resigned as Director and Non-Executive Chairman of the company on 24 May 2016.

History of Success Journey 

Somewhere in the sixties on a bus ride from Hissar to Delhi, 18-year-old Subhash Chandra struck a friendship with Aman Singh, an assistant manager with the Food Corporation of India (FCI). Under intense stress and with no capital, Chandra had just turned around the family business of polishing rice and dal. He got chatting with Singh. The FCI was the main buyer of food grains in India then. The Indian army bought grain through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, which floated the tenders on its behalf. 

Chandra asked Singh why the army did not buy directly from the FCI that was a part of the ministry? Because the FCI procured raw grains and these had to be processed to meet the army’s requirement said Singh. Chandra offered to process FCI’s grain so that it could supply to the army directly removing three levels of intermediaries and pushing down costs. Singh was sceptical about Chandra’s ability but liked the idea. He made a proposal, which was approved by the food ministry. Chandra got into the business and shifted base to Delhi. 

It was the defining moment of his life. “It gave me confidence and the belief that jahan chah wahan raah (where there is a will there is way),” Chandra told Business Standard once. That confidence is what allowed him to bludgeon his way into one new business after another — packaging, publishing, leisure parks, broadcasting, cable, DTH, electronic lotteries, and so on.

The big epiphany was probably in Hong Kong in December 1991. Chandra and adman Ashok Kurien (co-founder of Zee) had been talking to David Manion, president of the Star TV to lease a transponder on AsiaSat1. It was owned by a consortium, which included Hong Kong-based billionaire Li Ka Shing. His son Richard Li had launched Star TV on it. The satellite that covered 38 countries across Asia was the only one broadcasting into China and India then. Chandra had seen CNN and Star TV when they began airing in India. He knew that the floodgates would open soon in a market that only knew Doordarshan. He wanted to be on that satellite with a Hindi channel before anyone else. Manion invited them for talks on a 50:50 joint venture. The transponder lease cost was billed at $1.2 million a year, just over Rs 3 crore then.

However, Li refused to do a joint venture. He also refused to lease the transponder for less than $5 million a year or about Rs 13 crore, over four times the price agreed upon. A furious Chandra threw caution to the winds and agreed to pay $5 million. He simply wanted to be on that satellite and launch a TV channel. It took another five months before Li agreed in May 1992. By October that year, Chandra had launched Zee TV.

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