In its first year journey, Ziraat Times embraced what we called “lean and mean” business model. We started with a small team, kept our expenses to the minimum and focused on upward growth. We knew starting big could be a trap and maintaining a growth momentum in economically turbulent times would have been difficult. We consciously made it a principle to make our finances transparent – both to our team members and the Advisory Committee.
By: Arjimand Hussain Talib
In 2009, when Zimbabwe was in the midst of a tumultuous land reform process, I got an opportunity to walk through its breath-taking orchards in the once-Rhodesia highlands. My work there was part of a research assignment to learn the impact of climate change and currency devaluation on the country’s farm sector. Nursing the usual our-apples-are-the-best sort of bias, I had, honestly, never imagined apple orchards of that quality in that part of the world. A few months later, similar work took me to the sprawling farms of the neighbouring South Africa, where I was astonished to see raw biological material being produced for some of the world’s most popular cosmetics and health products. Then came the big learning in the farms of China. My job there took me to the fascinating swathes of its countryside, where I happened to learn the socio-economic utility of high-value farming.
Subsequently, while writing the thesis for my World Bank studies, a deeper study of comparative farm productivity, the intersection of technology and income spikes and the dynamics of primary economy in the overall macro-economy, the idea of Ziraat Times as a start-up was born.
Today, Ziraat Times is one year old. It is time to thank to all those who saw meaning in this initiative and rendered moral and intellectual support. A big thanks to the Advisory Committee as well, that has been always there to contribute ideas. Gratitude is due to those individuals as well who were sceptical and critical, but helped us to correct mistakes, reflect on the shortcomings and try to do better.
Ziraat Times was a small attempt to create a new dynamic in the status quo of production and productivity in our primary economy. The dynamic was meant to galvanise new thinking around bigger and sustainable wealth and job creation in Jammu & Kashmir.
Publishing Ziraat Times at a time when print media, globally, was going through some of its toughest times was like sailing against a nasty headwind. But what made us hold on to the dream were the innumerable success stories in print media in Kashmir. The last 30 years have seen emergence of a vibrant media in J&K. People have toiled and set benchmarks, despite big odds. At Ziraat Times we looked up to all those media institutions to learn and get inspired.
There has been one question of paramount importance faced by us throughout 2018: how to make Ziraat Times financially viable and survive. The biggest challenge was the J&K government policy that bars advertisements for new publications for their first three years. Internet and social media have jolted the financial models of media organisations. They have changed the conventional ways of producing news, analysis and presentation. We embraced what we called “lean and mean” business model. We started with a small team, kept our expenses to the minimum and focused on upward growth. We knew starting big could be a trap and maintaining a growth momentum in economically turbulent times would have been difficult. We consciously made it a principle to make our finances transparent – both to our team members and the Advisory Committee. We were lucky to have a team that was simply fantastic. I personally have been touched by their talent and dedication.
From content point of view, inspite being a relatively new field, we didn’t struggle for ideas. Too soon we realised there are a million useful things to report, analyse and present to J&K’s readers in the areas of business and economy. However, I must admit, generating sound and readable material in Urdu happened to be not-so-easy a task. There wasn’t a single Urdu newspaper in the region one could look to for guidance in producing good quality material on economy and development. In a way, Ziraat Times is pioneering a new brand of Urdu journalism in business and economy in the region.
From the outset, we were aware that revenue generation for this startup would be an interesting task, considering that a business newspaper isn’t known to attract mass readership and attention, especially in a place like J&K, which is reeling under much more serious day-to-day survival issues.
With a focus on private sector revenue, Ziraat Time managed to sail rather smoothly for the first year of its publication. One of the brightest feathers in the team cap is the brand of J&K Economic Conclave. Although the event, so unfortunately, had to be postponed for now, the preparation phase has been a great learning process. The biggest learning has been the enthusiasm of the private sector in J&K to support this idea and make it happen. I am simply amazed the manner our small and young team worked to make this event become a reality.
Today, we are looking at the future with a bigger vision of growth and innovation. Our first year journey has been full of big learnings. One learning being that J&K’s economic eco-system deserves a full-fledged business newspaper. Our private sector has the appetite to see that happen. We have very talented people here to run the wheels of that dream. At operational level, we wish to increase the number of pages of Ziraat Times, expand its coverage to larger issues of business and economy and make improvements in its quality and overall content.
Transforming Ziraat Times into a Financial Express/The Hindu Business Line-type of institution, primarily, needs more financial resources. Institutions of excellence, I believe, are usually created through team work. Moreover, it can’t be over-emphasised that economic wellbeing, is critical, if not everything, in human wellbeing. This area requires our collective attention to improve our collective wellbeing in these very turbulent times.
Guided by this vision, we at Ziraat Times have decided to transform this start-up into a limited company, and enlarge its shareholding. In other words, we invite business entities/state subject individuals of J&K, interested in becoming a part of the growth story of Ziraat Times, as business partners in this company.
Let us get started and strengthen the catalyst of Ziraat Times towards enhanced growth, wellbeing and prosperity of Jammu & Kashmir. Specific details of the offer will be available on our website soon.
Thank you very much.
(The writer is Founding Editor of Ziraat Times)