The Times of India picks former Walmart executive as new CEO

Quartz india
Quartz india

Former Walmart executive Raj Jain has been picked to lead Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL), the powerful media company that publishes the Times of India and the Economic Times, among others.

He will join the company in December or early January and replace Ravi Dhariwal, who has served as CEO since 2006 and has worked at the publisher and served on its board since 2001.

Jain is currently CEO at Bharti Retail, a role he took up in January this year. In June last year, he quit as MD and CEO of Bharti-Walmart, the American retailer’s ill-fated joint venture with India’s Bharti group. A year prior to that, Walmart had launched an investigation into whether its India unit had indulged in corrupt practices. Jain’s departure was reported to be a fallout of the investigations.

In picking Jain, BCCL passed up two high-profile internal candidates—COO Shrijeet Mishra and president (response) Arunabh Das Sharma. Mishra was tipped to succeed Dhariwal but the company eventually looked outside.

During Dhariwal’s stint at the top, the company’s turnover grew from about Rs1,000 crore to about Rs7,000 crore ($1.14 billion) now. Profits has grown about 30 times even as the company launched new properties in print, television and radio, and expanded its language footprint.

 BCCL’s management rungs are filled with executives from FMCG companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Whirlpool and Pepsi. 

“I will retire next year and it is now time for a new leadership to take over,” Dhariwal told Quartz. He said the company has been hunting for a CEO since May this year and both internal and external candidates were considered. Dhariwal will step down in March 2015. He headed Pepsi’s South East Asian business prior to joining BCCL.

“The core skills you need in this role are an understanding of the consumer, the advertiser and people skills because it is a company populated by a lot of creative professionals. Raj has experience and a good track record in all three areas as he was a great fit,” 62-year-old Dhariwal said.

Jain has worked at Walmart and Whirlpool in India and China. BCCL’s management rungs are filled with executives from FMCG companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Whirlpool and Pepsi. Over at rival Hindustan Times, CEO Rajiv Verma is also a Whirlpool veteran. TOI and HT are locked in a battle for domination that is threatening to turn ugly.

Apart from the shadow of Dhariwal’s formidable track record, Jain will have to deal with forging a working relationship with BCCL’s famously maverick promoter Samir Jain and his brother Vineet Jain (no relation to the incoming CEO), who together run the media giant. Samir Jain’s son-in-law Satyan Gajwani, who currently runs the group’s internet business, will likely take an increasingly active role at the publishing business. He joined the board of BCCL earlier this year.

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