Indian entrepreneurs and investors think business journalists are a lazy, ignorant and impressionable lot

Not impressed
Not impressed
Image: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee
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Flipkart co-founder and executive chairman, Sachin Bansal, thinks Indian technology reporters have “low standards” and should be ignored.

On March 16, Bansal took to Twitter against a source-based report published in The Economic Times newspaper. The report said that American e-commerce giant Amazon had made an $8-billion offer to acquire Flipkart in late 2015. The deal had not worked out and the acquisition was not likely to happen, it added.

This is the second time in less than a month that Bansal has publicly voiced his displeasure of the Indian media.

On Feb. 24, at a technology conference in Bengaluru, he was asked to share the first word that comes to his mind when someone mentions “media.” Bansal had just one word: “Ignore.”

“Sorry, media people are sitting in the front. I didn’t realise that. It’s pretty hot, I can’t think properly,” he quickly added after noticing familiar faces in the crowd.

But Bansal is not alone. Several others in the startup community hold negative views about Indian journalists, accusing them of being lazy, easily impressed, and often ignorant.

Here’s a peek into what the Indian startup community thinks about the fourth estate:

Ritesh Banglani, partner at India-focused venture capital firm, Stellaris Venture Partners

Investors are not as fickle as the media portrays them to be. We understand how startups work and don’t keep changing our minds according to the direction of the wind.

For example, I don’t think that in 2014-15 all investors asked startups to ignore profitability and focus on growth only—as reported in the media. To a very large extent, the narrative around investors pushing for growth over profits was created by the media. And similarly, it’s not like now suddenly all investors are asking companies to give up on growth for profits.

It doesn’t work like that. Good investors understand that growth and profitability go hand in hand.

Vani Kola, managing director at Kalaari Capital

From the point of view of how startups are benchmarked—and this is one of my pet peeves—the media and the entrepreneurs focus relentlessly on how much money has been raised and at what valuation. That’s absolutely irrelevant. The benchmark for each company ought to be in what they are working on, what impact and value did they drive, how many lives did they change, and how much time did they help people save.

(Kola’s comments are from technology conference Surge 2016 that was held in Bengaluru last month.)

Siddharth Talwar, co-founder and partner, venture capital firm Lightbox

To some extent, the visibility that Indian startups have received globally is because of the media reports. The media has helped the industry get noticed by the government and foreign investors.

The bad part is that the Indian media has not evolved with the industry. The Indian media has gamified an entire industry. They’ve made a video game out of startups—who is up and who is down, who’s hiring and firing, who’s valuation is rising and who’s is falling, etc. Half the time, nobody even knows what those things mean.

I think most journalists have no idea what the word ‘valuation’ actually means and where it comes from. And that’s not because they can’t find that out, they just don’t want to. It’s laziness. This focus on valuations and funding is messing with Indian entrepreneurs because they are getting carried away with the hype.

Have you seen Spotlight? That’s the kind of force, verification and investigation that we expect, especially from business journalists. Anyone can tell you a valuation and funding amount, and they would love for you to write it. But business journalists are writing for a niche audience so they should go that extra mile and verify everything that’s told to them.

Akash Gehani, co-founder at payments startup Instamojo

A lot of news reporting in India is very PR-centric. There has to be at least one source who is identified in a story and then there can be a narrative around that with voices from people who don’t want to be named. There are stories in the Indian media that have no statistical backing and just state things from unidentified people.

Devaki Sahasrabudhe, angel investor and vice-president at fund-raising platform, GREX

Indian media does not really capture the right essence of startups. At times they just hype everything.

Recently, I spoke to a reporter and gave him the exact figures on the number of startups that are coming on the GREX platform. But in his report, he increased it by about 20%. It was really unpleasant for us because we were talking to many media outlets at that time and it seemed like we were telling everyone different things.

Vipul Mishra, co-founder and CEO, mobile apps testing startup CanvasFlip

Several Indian media outlets tell us clearly that they will carry our news only if we give it to them exclusively and ahead of others. But if we do that, we end up facing flak from the rest of the media community. At the same time, if we share an important piece of information with everyone at the same time, nobody carries it. So we are in a complete fix when we are deciding our PR strategy.

Nikhil Jois, co-founder, event services marketplace Eventosaur

While Indian journalists should write positive stories about first-generation entrepreneurs, they must lay off blind worship.

Clickbaity gossip and blatantly PR-filled pieces about funding may please usual readers, that is not what a startup founder wants to read. We want to read about how companies are making money, what mistakes to avoid, which incubators to apply to and how to make the most of what the government promises to give us.

We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.