“Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ is a lovely mix of pragmatic realism, optimism & adventure – as has been my life” – KVL Narayan Rao


Behind that number crunching mind is a heart that is poetic. That’s KVL Narayan Rao for you. Donning various hats during his 20 years stint in NDTV, Rao - the now executive vice chairperson of the Prannoy Roy led media entity - admits that he enjoys reading, going to the gym, hanging out with family and friends. What’s more, he has even taken to playing golf again.

In conversation with Indiantelevision.com’s RITWIKA GUPTA, Rao provides a rare insight into the man behind the suit as he talks shop and also gives us a glimpse into his personal journey through the years.


Tell us about your journey as a professional in the industry.

I joined NDTV in 1995 as general manager and have just completed 20 years in the organization. Back in the 90s, the industry was a very small playground with very few players in it. NDTV was producing the famous weekly show, The World This Week and had just signed a contract to produce India’s first private news bulletin, The News Tonight. I came onto the Board of NDTV in 1998 and was formally appointed the Group CEO early in 2007.

Towards the end of 2011, I became the executive vice chairperson of the Group. I have been a director of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the president for four terms. I have been on the board of the IBF for over 12 years and have also been the vice president of that body. I was the vice president of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association some years back. It has been quite a journey!

What kind of changes have you seen in media industry over the past decade or so?

In a single word, HUGE. NDTV launched and ran India’s first 24 hour news channel, Star News from 1998 to 2003. Now, there are over 800 television channels in the country of which 125 are 24-hour news channels. Digitisation has been partially implemented and will be completed in the next couple of years. There has been enormous growth in the regional space. Technological changes have been massive. HD has come in and equipment is now fantastic and general quality has moved several notches up. The young are consuming television differently and it is important to understand that and keep pace. Self and independent regulation has come to stay. BARC is going to happen.

Which part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?

Well, that answer will be different for different phases of my career in the industry. For the first few years, I loved the rush of setting up the organization, creating bureaus and hiring staff; many of them have been with us for as long as I have. I loved getting the infrastructure into place and setting up our systems. Later in my career, as group CEO and executive director, I loved the process of expansion - first the IPO, and then the new businesses in areas beyond news. Later, it was doing things at the industry level, contributing to policy and the future that I really enjoyed.

What is that one valuable lesson you have learnt throughout the years?

I have learnt that ethics, high standards and credibility are always vital and should remain paramount at all times. Also that everyone deserves respect.

Who is your inspiration?

At my age, it does become a bit of a long list! I look up to Prannoy and Radhika Roy. They created this wonderful organization with amazingly high standards and have set the benchmark for ethics and credibility. People watch us because they trust us. Gandhiji, the Indian soldier and my father also inspire me to a great extent.

When you are not working, how do you relax?

These days with the smart phone and 24 hour mailing, one is kind of working quite a lot. However, I enjoy reading, watching television and movies, going to the gym, hanging out with family and friends and recently I just got back to playing golf.

What kind of books do you like to read?

Various kinds. I was a student of English Literature. I love reading thrillers, history and the classics. My favourite authors are Forsyth, Le Carre, Dickens, Hardy, Romilla Thapar, Chetan Bhagat, Ramesh Menon, Arjun Rao.

 Are you a movie buff?

I do enjoy cinema – both English and Hindi. The last film I watched was American Sniper. It is a fantastic film!

How do you spend time with family?

Well, my children are grown up and have flown the nest. My wife and I enjoy doing a number of things mentioned earlier, together.

What are your favourite holiday destinations?

In India, it is Goa, Kerala and the mountains, not necessarily in that order. I also love going to Paris, a truly beautiful city, and London which so vibrant and has so much to do.

What is your favourite cuisine?

I enjoy Chinese and Italian cuisines a lot. I love Indian food and it is difficult to name a single cuisine or restaurant but I enjoy eating a lot of coastal food.


At this stage, if you had to describe your life in one word, what would it be & why?

I cannot think of a single word that would describe my life at this stage. But there is this poem, “Ulysses” by Tennyson that is a lovely mix of pragmatic realism, optimism and adventure. Incidentally, I also had a dog called Ulysses, who was a wonderful friend in his short life.

 The following lines from the poem are inspirational:

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.




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