“All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced upon them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.”
Almost seventy years after Henry Louis Mencken paid that left-handed compliment to scribes in his First Series of ‘Prejudices,’ the newspaper industry struggles to cope with itself, relentlessly pursuing commercial and professional objectives, trying to prove him wrong.
Call it freedom of expression, liberty of speech or the right to know, newspapers the world over have been platforms for reflecting public opinion, setting the stage for transparent exposure of ideas as well. Which is how and why, newspapers have always been the eyes and ears of people.
On such a score, Indian Newslink could perhaps seek justification in its pride as a true servant of its people, who have extended their patronage since its first appearance twenty years ago, on November 15, 1999. In its anxiety to perform its tasks, maintaining avowed principles of class journalism, this newspaper has had the privilege of support and guidance of advertisers, the officialdom and of course readers, without all of which, it could not have moved on.
Its success and sustenance truly belong to one man-its founder, owner and managing director Ravin Lal, a one-man army that has kept up the onward march with an unremitting commitment towards corporate and social goals.
Experience gained in the media industry in his native Fiji and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s fortified his ambitions as he returned to Auckland in 1996. An assignment as the marketing executive at a forest industry magazine fueled his ambition to edit and publish a newspaper.
“The Indian community was growing and there was no channel of communication to convey the issues and developments affecting its members. A number of implications had to be considered before the first step,” he said, as I met him following his call to me at the National Business Review in September 1999.
Polling his meager savings, Mr Lal launched a ‘Diwali Special’ in September 1999. A modest run of 3000 copies went out to the public through a small network of retail outlets. “It was corker of an issue,” says an old and avid reader, “at last a newspaper for the community had arrived.” And with it Mr Lal. Indian Newslink debuted two months later (in November) but its continuity depended on a variety of factors, managing each of which, he demonstrated his mastery over men and matters.
A charming salesman
“An Indian newspaper was a novelty even in 1999-but there were many failures in the print medium (the closure of ‘Auckland Star’ a few years earlier had sent a chill through the spine of the industry) which were deterrent. Nonetheless, you and I are confident. Let us go for it Bosso,” he told me.
Marketing personnel are charmers, the evidence of which abounded in him. From advertising, marketing special features to copy writing, photography and distribution, he went about his job with a passion that should have been seen to be believed. The single most important attribute of the man behind the paper was his ceaseless energy and ability to sense the market needs, a quality that has kept him and his enterprise ticking.
Be it for advertisement placement or editorial coverage, it is not uncommon for people to consider Mr Lal as the one-stop authority.
It is often said, ‘Nothing succeeds like success,’ which is true of this newspaper. The initial months of struggle were rewarded by enthusiastic market response, which encouraged innovation. Indian Newslink became a source of endearment.
“Together, we will make this newspaper one of its kind, Bosso,” he said. “You go out and dig for truth and come back to expose it. There is none we have to fear. Write about even me if ever I do something wrong,” he would say.
The only time I wrote about him was when he passed away on Thursday, November 28, 2019 after losing his battle with life.
Instantly humorous and intensely hard-working, he created the Business Directory and the Sports Awards, the latter being expanded to include community segments.
Despite all those arguments, disagreements and shouting matches, we never parted as friends. He chose to sell the publication in May 2015, purchased by another long-time friend Jacob Mannothra.
All of us in Indian Newslink will forever be grateful to Ravin Lal for creating a quality publication. The world has never seen a person like Ravin Lal.
It never will.
(Pictures by Narendra Bedekar)