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JLF: From Rs 17 to Rs 17,000 crore, the inspiring story of Subhash Chandra

Subhash Chandra talks about stand offs with Ambanis and Jindals

Subhash Chandra

Subhash Chandra speaking at the JLF 2016

The inspiring life of Subhash Chandra, chairman of ESSEL Group and ZEE, is a perfect example of how perseverance and belief can lead you to achieve big ambitions. Chandra started working as a young man with a measly Rs 17 in his pocket. Today he proudly boasts an empire of over Rs 17,000 crore. All the important facets of Chandra’s life have been captured candidly in his memoir The Z Factor,which was launched today at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival.

Chandra threw fascinating light on how he developed his business acumen, and grew an empire from such small beginnings, facing enormous challenges along the way: ‘I was driven by my passion to do something different which never existed before in India. I was committed to my vision and in the process, surpassed many obstructions pertaining to finances, expertise and industry challenges.’Vallabh Bhansali, Chairman of Enam Securities and a close associate of Chandra, recalled how the ESSEL group were the first to launch an entertainment satellite TV channel, despite being a small fish in a large industry at the time: ‘We had to go to a lot of investors to get money for this. But when it happened, I could see Chandra blossoming from a humble man from the village Hisar (in Haryana) to a big businessmen talking to global players in their language.’

Subhash Chandra

Subhash Chandra, Vallabh Bhansali,MJ Akbar and Krishna Chopra

As expected, veteran investigative journalist MJ Akbar discussed the more sensational parts of the book, quipping that it was ‘explosive, much bigger than a nuclear bomb.’ Akbar explored Chandra’s legendary confrontations with iconic business and political figures, such as ZEE’s legal battle against the Jindal group (owned by Naveen Jindal) that shocked the entire country: ‘Our channel exposed India’s biggest scam in the coal industry which involved the Jindals. They tried to bribe us and used political influence to pressurise us. But we are honest and stand by our news reports.’

Chandra also shared how he has given up many lucrative deals over the years, in order to protect his principles and ideals: ‘A friend offered me to become an agent for the famous Bofors Gun Deal (early 90s) and make hundreds of crores. But I followed my instinct and denied the opportunity. Today Bofors is the most controversial scam in the Indian political history.’ He recalled his showdown with eminent businessman Dhirubhai Ambani,which caused him to lose Rs 3 billion: ‘I had a friend Mukesh Patel, who was running a school in Mumbai. One of the daughters-in-law of the Ambanis wanted to take over that school at any cost. In the tussle, my friend recorded some of Ambanis’ illegal activities and requested me to air on Zee News. After initial resistance, I obliged to my friendship and broadcast the controversy. In return, our shares crashed at the stock market.’

Subhash Chandra’s life has clearly been full of ups and downs. The charismatic entrepreneur held the audience in thrall as he described his rags to riches story. Chandra credited the practice of Vipassana meditation for keeping him grounded: ‘I practise it for an hour everyday. It helped me in recognising problems which made things easier for me.’

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