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Radhika Roy: NDTV's heart and soul
Shuchi Bansal | April 21, 2003
As New Delhi Television's managing director, she was conspicuous by her absence at the multi-city press conference held on April 10 to announce the launch of the company's news channels.
Call NDTV's public relations office and it will balk at providing either a photograph or a CV. No photo is available, is the official line. Quotes in the press? You won't find them. Could I talk to her for five minutes? Out of the question.
The story goes that Radhika Roy, NDTV's founder (she set up the company in 1987) and chief executive producer, is so serious about staying out of the limelight that she even refused to be photographed for the company's internal records.
Of course, that does not mean she's not front-stage as far as NDTV is concerned. "She has her finger in every pie -- there is nothing that she does not personally supervise within the set-up," says an NDTV executive.
For the two new channels, one in English and the other in Hindi, Roy is said to have painstakingly worked out all the details -- content, fixed point chart (the programme schedule), set design, and the look and feel of the products on air.
Nor is her role limited to content or channel design. She's virtually the CEO, managing the company's day-to-day affairs as well, say NDTV insiders. All administrative and HR functions (read hiring and firing) come under her purview. "She is a capable manager -- cost conscious but uncompromising on quality," says a senior executive.
Radhika Roy may be popular among NDTV staff, but her biggest admirer in the company is her husband. It may have something to do with their classic school romance, since she studied at Welham Girl's and he at Doon School, the two premier schools in Dehra Doon (and the source of many similar alliances).
In the NDTV context, however, Prannoy Roy unequivocally says that "she is the guiding vision and force behind NDTV." It is Radhika Roy who keeps the organisation glued together, he stated in a recent press release.
However, Radhika Roy has won more admirers for her honesty, integrity and sense of social justice. A senior official recalls how she refused to pay a bribe to get a transformer at the company's Archana cinema office complex fixed.
"It took nine months to fix the transformer through the correct procedure, but she just wouldn't budge," he says.
Another close associate at NDTV offers an anecdote that reflects the human side of an otherwise strict manager. Radhika Roy apparently went against the diktat of Star News bosses and put an anchor back on air after an accident that had distorted his face. Her logic was that he needed to win back his self-confidence.
Inevitably, not everyone who has worked with her is quite so admiring. A former NDTV employee (there aren't too many as the company's employee turnover is insignificant) cautiously points out that she can be autocratic and does not take kindly to criticism.
"There is little decentralisation in the organisation and she likes to control everything," he says.
Knowing Roy's penchant for privacy, she is unlikely to respond to criticism either. Her aversion to publicity may stem from the fact that she has always been on the other side of the table as a journalist with The Indian Express, where she worked on the editing desk, and as a news coordinator with India Today.
New Delhi Television was born after this graduate of Delhi's Miranda House quit her job at India Today and went off to New York's New School to do a course in television.
NDTV's evolution speaks for Roy's abilities. Fifteen years ago, NDTV started out with just one customer, Doordarshan, and one weekly programme, The World This Week.
Later, the company produced the first private news bulletin called News Tonight for Doordarshan. In 1998, the software house bagged a contract to produce a 24-hour news channel for Rupert Murdoch's Star operations in India, the terms of which had the TV world gasping in envy.
A week back, NDTV became a full-fledged broadcaster. The company's reputation for unbiased professionalism is particularly impressive given that its chief executive producer's views veer to the left of the political spectrum.Fielding a query on Radhika Roy's absence at the April 10 press conference, one of NDTV's top executives commented: "If Prannoy Roy is the face of the organisation, Radhika Roy is its heart and soul."