Apr 27, 2008

Network 18 vs The Times of India

It seems to be a good time to be a business journalist in India. With Network 18 getting ready to launch Indian editions of Forbes magazine and the Financial Times.

So good that it's making the big bosses at the Times of India jittery. They apparently approached network 18 for a no-poaching agreement that was rejected, according to media blog Sans Serif:

With ToI executive editor Jaideep Bose, aka JoJo, being mentioned as a possible editor of FT, the Times group is understandably apprehensive of a newsroom exodus and an exponential increase in costs to retain talented staff.

(Senior staff at ET have received hefty hikes as high as 50 per cent in recent weeks but it is not proving to be enough for the privately-held Times group despite its deep pockets to keep its flock together. Network 18 is a listed company.)

ToI brand director Rahul Kansal is reported to have sought a meeting with Bahl and Network 18 CEO Haresh Chawla last week to enter into a no-poaching agreement after the exit-JoJo rumours surfaced. With the Times group planning a business television channel to exploit the Economic Times brand image (which could see reverse traffic from CNBC-TV1 8) Kansal thought he had it all firmly sewn up.

But Network 18, whose print ambitions against the might of the Times group hinges on attracting top-flight business journalism talent, is believed to have nipped the proposal in the bud.

The Times group had entered into a tribal no-poaching pact with the Hindustan Times in an earlier skirmish for the Delhi market. The logic was that both groups would benefit by not trying to poach staff from the other, thus keeping journalists’ salaries in check. The two companies even set up a joint venture to bring out the tabloid Metro Now. But the only winner in the bargain has been the Times group.

Aware of that precedent, the Bahl-Chawla rejected ToI’s no-poaching overture outright.

Personally I feel that no-poaching agreements are regressive and show a lack of imagination on the part of the management. It's against the freedom of people to choose which employers to work for and against an employer's right to choose potential employees from the most eligible candidates.

In fact when an employer or employee wants to get around a no-poaching agreement they can resort to a lot of different permutations and combinations. For example, a friend of mine was a Resource Manager working for a MNC technology and consulting firm. She was working for a client which was one of the world's leading technology product companies. The client wanted to hire her but couldn't since they had signed a no-poaching agreement with the consulting firm. So the client manager suggested to her that she could resign from her role, work for any company for 6 months (or even stay at home) and then they would hire her! Yeah, a no-poaching agreement does not come into play when another employer is there in between.
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