India today turns 30 years old from this issue. It has been an incredible journey for me and the magazine. In many ways, it has been the remarkable journey of India. Just think: in 1975, we had one television channel and that too black and white. Now we have nearly 300 and counting. We had 1.6 million phone connections, now with cell phones we have 116 million and 94,000 cell phones added every day. Then again we had three car models, now we have 50. The peak rate of income tax was 77 per cent, now it is 30 per cent, and so on. I am sure you get the picture. Our population has almost doubled, we have had 12 prime ministers, seven presidents, nine general elections and 182 assembly elections. For all the scandals, scams, disasters, meddlesome bureaucrats and pig-headed politicians, India has survived as a democracy and the economy has thrived by growing four-and-a-half times in the past 30 years.
And India Today, which has been there to record all this, has grown from a circulation of 5,000 copies to over one million copies with five editions and a readership of over 20 million without ever missing an issue. And I being the editor for the past 30 years am probably one of the longest serving editors of one publication in India. Perhaps, because I could not get around to firing myself. I must say it has been fun.
But to be honest, I am not big on nostalgia. My eternal question is: what's next? And one of my favourite car bumper stickers is: "If God wanted you to look back he would have given you eyes at the back of your head." So instead of telling you war stories about India Today which is customary for an anniversary let me indulge in some crystal-gazing about the media for the next 30 years. For the simple reason that probably I won't be around to be told I was wrong and even if I last that long I would be too senile to understand. So, here goes.
The mainstream media as it exists today will almost vanish. People will get news and analyses any time of the day or night at the click of a computer mouse or by tapping a few keys of their cell phones-as text, in voice, on video or in all the three forms. Only those media organisations that can deliver news across mediums, and do so well, will survive.
Yet, the change won't be only in delivery. A bigger change will take place in content. The Next Big Thing will be interactivity. Already today's teens and twenty-somethings don't consider editors and reporters to be god-like figures from above telling them what's important. A growing number of them don't want news presented as gospel. They would like to engage and even question journalists in more extended discussions. News will become a commodity and journalists will have to be masters in their areas of expertise, ready to be held accountable.
These changes will come sooner than we think and the current media can only ignore them at its peril. These are exciting times for the media with the sector growing at a rate of 18 per cent a year. It must, however, prepare for the future, otherwise it risks becoming an endangered species.
There will be enormous change but what will not die is the art of story-telling in whichever form it comes. Compelling, well-told stories will always have a market. We at India Today hope we continue to excel at that for the next 30 years.
This issue is a landmark in our history. At 384 pages, it is the biggest issue we have produced. It has concentrated on the number 30, featuring 30 living legends, 30 people turning 30 and 30 turning points in history, and has guest columns from an array of experts, among them two prime ministers, one current, Manmohan Singh, and one former, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was put together by Executive Editor Kaveree Bamzai, Art Director Sapna Kapoor, Assistant Editor Aasheesh Sharma and sub-editors Sushmita Choudhury and Gaurav Rajkhowa. Reading it reminded me of how much had been packed into these 30 years, though they seemed to have gone by in a flash. Forgive me for saying so myself, but it truly is a collector's item. My advice: Read and keep.