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Obit: In memory of KVL Narayan Rao

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NDTV group CEO and executive vice chairperson KVL Narayan Rao had been battling cancer grittily for at least a couple of years. And, at times, it looked like he was on the verge of conquering it, of getting the life-threatening ailment out of his system. But on the morning of 20 November 2017, his body, which had been ravaged and weakened by various treatments and the cancer itself, gave up.

A message was sent out to the staff of NDTV by promoters Prannoy and Radhika Roy stating that the 63-year-old Narayan Rao was no more.

Said the husband-wife duo in the message: “Narayan was the most wonderful human being—kindness was in his DNA, consideration for others was in his DNA, leadership was in his DNA, warmth and generosity were in his DNA, humour and fun were in his DNA and most of all, integrity and love was in his DNA.”

“Narayan was our friend for over 30 years and we loved him like a brother. We learnt so much from Narayan and admired how he created a compassionate environment at NDTV and, in fact, everywhere he went, with everyone he met. Just as we loved him, there are hundreds of others like us for whom Narayan was very, very special. Seldom has a person been loved by so many and will be deeply missed by so many.”

“Narayan was one of a kind. A towering personality in every way.”

Indeed, for us at indiantelevision.com, dealing with the six-foot-plus Narayan was always a pleasure. He came across as a gentleman every time one spoke to him or met him. Not once in the many years of knowing him did we see him lose his cool. Whether it was a rookie journalist reaching out to him for his insights or his quotes on an issue or story. Or whether it was an experienced journo who called him, Narayan was always there. And, if not available, he was gracious enough to call back. He would always be open to provide a different perspective on any issue. He had the old English demeanor, the unflappable kind, the kind that saw him break into a smile no matter what the challenge or demand. Probably, his early days as a journalist gave him that empathy for scribes.

He was also there when we invited the NDTV group to participate at our News Television Awards. In the early days of the awards, he would find resources to support our initiative financially as a partner. In the past few years, thanks to NDTV’s financial woes, he had asked to be excused. But he would be there to present awards to the winners who were decided by a jury of almost 100. Like he was there last year at our function in New Delhi when it looked like he had won against the dreaded C and he came back to run NDTV, following the stepping down of the then CEO Vikram Chandra.

He was seen as this statesman-like professional who could lead. And be the voice of the industry despite the long standoff that NDTV was having with the income tax authorities, the enforcement directorate, and, some say, even the government. Hence, he served at least four terms as the News Broadcasters’ Association president and was executive vice-chairperson of the association at the time of his passing away. He was also associated with the IBF, the CII, and several other bodies.

Narayan was always there for the Roys and the team at NDTV, for whom he stood up for with consistency. Appan Menon, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami, Pankaj Pachauri, and Vikram Chandra–they all flowered as Narayan laid the environment, the culture at NDTV that allowed them to. The Roys were busy running the editorial while Narayan ran the company administratively and also helped build the organisation into a rather robust one. Until the empire struck back.

Narayan was also at the forefront of bringing in change in TV viewership monitoring in the country. He took TAM and its parents to court in New York, claiming that their research was not representative of what was really happening in Indian TV homes. That and other actions from other broadcasters led to the shutting down of TAM, the creation of new regulations for TV viewership monitoring, and the setting up of BARC.

Said the Roys in their note on the NDTV website: “We will miss you, Narayan. More than you can imagine. Everyone at NDTV will miss you. More than you can imagine. God bless you, Narayan.”

Indeed, you will be missed Narayan. RIP!

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