Author Vanita Kohli-Khandekar's book about India's leading broadcast network was launched this week.
From Channel V's launch, which got India its first local music channel or 'Kaun Banega Crorepati', the show that changed the way we watched TV - there have been many milestones which led to Star India emerging as a behemoth in the country. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, whom Prannoy Roy, co-founder, NDTV recognises as "one of the finest writers on Indian media", documents the journey of the media organisation in India.
Published by Portfolio Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 'The Making of Star India' was officially launched in Mumbai on August 2, and August 6, 2019 in Delhi.
Several executives from the media, advertising, and marketing fraternity attended the launch event in Mumbai and got the book autographed by the author herself. Sameer Nair, chief executive officer, Applause Entertainment, Raj Nayak, former chief operation officer of Viacom18 and Vanita Kohli-Khandekar joined in a panel discussion moderated by Ashwini Gangal, executive editor of afaqs!.
Nair and Nayak, both played a vital role in the success of Star India and are mentioned several times in the book. While they shared their first impressions about Star India, Gangal asked Khandekar to shed some light on the challenging parts of writing the book for which she interviewed more than 100 people.
"The research part where you are meeting many people is something I really enjoyed. The tough part is putting it all together. You have five to six writing pads full of information and you don't know how to begin. It took me four months of full-day work, including the weekends, to put it all together," she replied.
Gangal then asked Raj Nayak to share what he thought were the moments that defined Star India. A veteran in the television business and the fourth employee to be appointed by Star India, Nayak answered, "The defining moments for Star India, at least during my tenure at the organisation were, one - the split with MTV and the launch of Channel V that opened the door for us to add a local flavour to what we did. Another defining moment was the joint venture between Star Sports and ESPN, I think that changed the trajectory of the company to a certain extent. The third defining moment was the launch of 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'."
Khandekar intervened to ask Raj Nayak why he did not include the launch of Star News, that he himself orchestrated, as one of the defining moments. Nayak replied, "I don't think it is a defining moment for Star as it happened much later and it was more of a business extension. It was one of the highest revenue earners for Star Plus. I believe it was a defining moment for news broadcasting in India but not for Star India."
Gangal then proceeded to ask Sameer Nair to share the story behind 'Kaun Banega Crorepati', the show that changed the way India watched television, according to Khandekar's book.
Recollecting the time, Nair responded, "I was given a tape of the show just after I became the programming head and I had watched 'KBC'. 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' was already a big show in the UK and the US, but back then, it was not the time when channels did adaptations or got licenses. The tape was locked in my drawer and I said, "You've got to be crazy, you cannot do this kind of show during prime time." Six months later, we split from Zee and became Hindi. The first thing we picked up was 'KBC' and said let us do this show. That is how it happened..."
The discussion went on with all three speakers sharing several anecdotes from Star's journey which are part of the book. The event ended with Raj Nayak, Sameer Nair unveiling 'The Making of Star India'.
Vanita Kohli-Khandekar is an India-based media specialist and writer. She has been tracking the Indian media and entertainment business for over 15 years. Four editions of her academic book, 'The Indian Media Business' have sold over 14,000 copies. Currently, she is a columnist and writer for financial daily Business Standard. In the beginning of the book, she alerts readers that this book was not commissioned by Fox or Star India nor was it the broadcaster's idea. She also mentions that this book is not a comprehensive history of Star as she believes "that would require volumes."
"Star has shaped the Indian media and entertainment ecosystem as much as it has been shaped by it," and that is one of the reasons why she says the book interested her, she says.