Rajat Sharma’s journey from a very humble beginning to one of the most successful journalist-entrepreneurs is nothing short of spectacular. He spent his childhood in a 10×10 room in Old Delhi, which was devoid of even basic amenities; forget about a TV set, which was considered a luxury then. Only privileged few used to own a TV set. A house owning a TV set being invaded by the entire neighbours was quite normal in those days.
In one of the less fortunate days, he returned home disappointed, just because he was not allowed to get a glimpse of his favourite TV programme by his neighbour. When he talked about this to his father, his father said, “You should do something to ensure you appear on television and people watch you.”
He not only started appearing on television, he did something more than that. He launched India’s first private news channel India TV in 1995. Before this he has had a long stint in print journalism.
Upon completing M Com from Delhi’s Lady Si Ram College, he started looking for summer jobs. Soon he got an opportunity to work with Onlooker magazine as a trainee reporter. By 1984, he was promoted to the post of Bureau Chief. Within a year he got the top job at Onlooker: he was appointed as the editor of the magazine at the age of 28 year old. After spending three years at Onlooker, he moved to Sunday Observer as an editor, and then to The Daily, again as editor.
Opportunities kept coming his ways, and he grabbed all the opportunities with both hands. 1990s was a period when satellite TV slowly and steadily started making its way to Indian households. Subhash Chandra’s Zee TV was the leader of this fledgling industry. Zee TV provided him a launching pad for a successful career in broadcast journalism. In his own words, his show Aap Ki Adalat made him ‘somebody’. At Zee he was assigned the task of setting up the news and current affairs division. Under his leadership, the division started India’s first private new bulletin, Zee News, in 1995. Aap ki Adalat which has set the benchmarks for TV interview, later moved to Star Plus, and finally to India TV.
In 2004, he decided to take a plunge into business with the launch of India TV. India TV started off as serious news channel. The channel hired Tarun Tejpal for investigative reporting, Maneka Gandhi for animal welfare, and Madhu Kishwar for women welfare. The business had almost finished him as the financial losses kept piling up.
Two years later, in 2006, he decided to change the course. He moved away from serious journalism to popular news. Sensational items propelled the channel to No 1 Position in Hindi new channel segment. India TV’s news items are criticised by many people for being too sensational and baseless. However, he seems to be unfazed by all these criticisms. He is in no mood to pay attention to adverse remarks by selected few as long as the strategy is helping him win the TRP war.
2009: Received ‘INBA Entrepreneur Of The Year’ award by Exchange4media