Who can forget Operation West End that brought into light the extent of corruption happening in the Indian defence arena and lead to resignation of our Defence Minister? Or the Match fixing scam that disappointed millions of Indian cricket fans yet not able to regain the faith and trust they once had in their favourite game.
The man behind all these breathtaking stories, Tarun Tejpal, in conversation with Deepika Bhardwaj for Yourstory.
The face of Indian Investigative Journalism, a person who undauntedly broke stories that could cost his life, a man who never feared getting the truth out, Tarun Tejpal is a journalist, publisher, novelist and an entrepreneur. In his 26-year long career, he has been Editor with India Today and Indian Express groups, and the managing editor of Outlook, India’s premier newsmagazine. He started Tehelka in March 2000, a news organisation that has earned a global reputation for its aggressive public interest journalism. He has been listed as one of Asia’s 50 most powerful communicators by Asiaweek and The Guardian named him among the 20 who constitute India's new elite. In 2009 BusinessWeek has named Tarun one of India’s 50 most powerful people.
Tarun always wanted to be a journalist and a writer. Even after being associated with the biggest newspapers of India like Indian Express, Telegraph, he felt he was not doing what he always wanted to. Entrepreneurship happened due to this realization “After all these years, I reached a point where I had to understand that I would not be able to do what I wish to do unless I have my levers on the commercial ends of the organizations. And it is a fact that becoming an entrepreneur gave me an elbow room. I wanted to be safer in my life and my own work and that was possible only when I partly owned the organization and have a commercial say in the kind of journalism I did”
An entrepreneur’s journey is never a bed of roses. So was Taruns. Tehelka was shut down temporarily due to hostile government action following Operation West End. It was launched again in 2003. Tarun reminisces how they started it all over again “I rented a small room from my friend in a village near South Ex in New Delhi back in 2002. We were just four at that time. And from that one room, with the determination to do the kind of work we had been doing, we started building the business of Tehelka. I had by then become obsessed with something very simple, I knew if Tehelka did not survive, if Tehelka did not come back, it would be a blow to Investigative Journalism in India. I just had one thing in mind, if I bring Tehelka back somehow, it would send a message out to people that if you are doing the right thing, even if you pay a heavy price for it, you will succeed.
Tehelka was shrouded with controversies after Operation West End and there were various allegations of false play by parties. How easy was it to fund the project and start it again? “It was not easy for us. I went and begged in front of industrialists, venture capitalists for funding. Everyone praised us, everyone thought we have done a fantastic job, but you would be astonished to know, no body was willing to get formally associated with us because they were terrified what Indian government would do, what state would do. Then I started a one man campaign. I went around India. I addressed gathering of 10, 20,100, 300 people, wherever I could find a bunch of people to listen to me. I told them “It’s a Bad News that somebody is being punished for doing the right thing.” And if you think we are doing the right thing, back us,support us, be a good citizen and take an advanced subscription. I went around India for about 9 months. And it was first time in the history of Indian media that a set up was formed purely, purely on basis of advanced subscription. That was Eureka moment for us.
Tehelka has been on the brink of closure 300 times in the last 5 years, says tarun.
But it’s his passion for what he does that has kept him going. He takes inspiration from Hindu philosophy of Karma and Dharma. "I believe in the philosophy of karma and Dharma. Karma means action and Dharma means the right conduct. The idea of karma is that you must act and dharma is enjoying the feeling of doing good. Each of one in all circumstances should understand the importance of doing right conduct.”
Albert Einstein once said “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
Tarun shares the same idea. He says “In countries like America, entrepreneurship is associated with social responsibility, but India lacks in terms of Entrepreneurs catering to public services. The higher platform you are in your life, the higher responsibility you have towards the society. Each one of us is in a sense leader in our own world of influence, and we should make use of that to make a better world. Our great leaders were all privileged, and they gave all of theirs to the society. They built an India which we are proud of today. So bring a difference to the world around you.”
He has few tips for the budding entrepreneurs.
“Do not fear. Never fear from anything in your life. Get rid of all the fears, fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of being snubbed. The more afraid you are, lesser is the scope of possibilities in your life. Fear cripples our life from all the good things. And those who take risk are the most successful people in life. So go out, just do it. Face the world. You just have to believe it to do it. Be perseverant, have tolerance and never let Love and laughter go out of your life.”
Yourstory hopes to hear many more breaking stories from Tehelka, and wishes Tarun a very successful life.