Shyam Goenka: Institutionalizing free press and democracy
Founder of first Nepali broadsheets in the non-government sector
Born on 7 March 1963 in Dhanusha
Went to Birla Higher Secondary School, Rajasthan, India
Graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh, Post-grad, Utkal University, Odisha
Founded Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post in 1993
Husband of Sunita Goenka
Father to Aditya Goenka and Shreya Goenka
Commemorating the Democracy Day in 1993, after the promulgation of the ‘Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990’ that enshrined free press, we established ‘Kantipur’ and ‘The Kathmandu Post.’ This marked the beginning of a new era in Nepali independent and private media sector.
We were a close-knit team of 200-odd youngsters committed to institutionalizing democracy and its critical tenets—freedom of expression, social justice, civil liberties, human rights, rule of law, and good governance. At the same time, we also aspired to build a strong foundation for social infrastructure to provide quality education, healthcare, shelter, means of livelihood, and a sustainable and inclusive development of the nation.
Each member of our intrepid team deserves all the kudos and compliments for their contributions. This communication is on the premise of ‘We’ and not ‘I’—the essence of our glorious journey of solidarity, camaraderie, rare goodwill and bonhomie!
Most of our colleagues are today leading the media spectrum in Nepal across all platforms and are credible bylines, and many are bringing pride to the nation with their contributions in the global arena as well.
We had embarked upon the journey with limited resources, but we had an unlimited zeal. When just about everybody dismissed our efforts to set up a media house as a bad business move, Kantipur, the vernacular version more particularly, went on to not only create history, but it went on to serve as an unofficial ‘Ombudsman’ against the ills in the nation. It defied all naysayers.
Not only did it become the national leader, it in fact, went on to become the daily with maximum readership share anywhere in the world. With more than 50 percent of the national market share, it has always been leading the chart with no parallels in the world. Following statistics in this context makes interesting reading:
The world’s largest read vernacular daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, of Japan reportedly has a much lesser national readership share than that of Kantipur in Nepal. Similar is the poise of the globally largest read English daily, The Times of India in India.
Senior journalist Dhruba Hari Adhikari calls our team a ‘trailblazer’ of Nepali media. He concurs that we played a leading role by taking a risk at a time when there was no certainty whether or not investment could be made good or whether or not profit could be made. The trail or call it the track, opened by the then ‘Team Kantipur’ has now converged into a broad highway.
“As a result, it has a large formal advertising market of more than Rs 12bn, more than 200 dailies published regularly, more than 1,000 radios, more than 100 televisions, and more than 2,700 online portals, use of new media based on internet and its influence, the picture is different today!”
One important aspect which Adhikari would have loved to touch upon, but it probably skipped his mind, is reproduced here below:
This initiative has been sensitive to ensuring creation of tens of thousands of organized sector jobs of dignity for our youngsters.
“It’s a new leap forward in terms of investment, infrastructure and influence,” says Kundan Aryal, professor at the Central Department of Mass Media and Journalism in Tribhuvan University. “There was an urgent need for an entity to operate media on an institutional basis.” Kantipur was a new leap forward taken from the non-government arena in the development of media.”
Tirtha Koirala, an affable member of this team, admits: “There was a situation to hesitate for anyone to set up a media establishment with large investment. There were no industries, the advertising market was in its infancy and there was no clear basis for profit. With whatever institutional arrangements this team went by, it brought out epoch-making changes.”
Evolution of a relatively healthier media in Nepal (with a long way yet, to go, though!) having come up more than 60 notches up in the ladder when compared to the pre-Kantipur times (before 1993) is amply vindicated by its standing in the much-credible, ‘Press Freedom Index’ wherein Nepal is credited with the 95th rank and is way ahead of the following nations, which is like an irony to many of us. In fact, it had climbed to the 76th rank in 2022 which we consider as its potential today, while 2023 appears to have been impacted by some aberrations and is not a reflection of the true poise.
Importantly, in this index which constitutes a weighted average of critical components defining a nation’s status in the areas of democratic values, freedom in all forms, human rights, social justice, rule of law, civic liberties, Nepal is way ahead of some of the much-wowed nations such as Singapore (129th), China (179th), Hong Kong (140th), India (161st), Russia (164th), Saudi Arabia (169th), in terms of development with whom Nepal engages pretty much on trade and investments. As an epilogue one wishes to say the following. This initiative was passionately made to help make corrections across arenas mentioned in this piece and to see our beloved nation march ahead with pride, peace and prosperity for its lovely people. We have tried to put in place a forum in the form of this media initiative to be able to achieve sustainable, inclusive and holistic development for our egalitarian society and its constituents—our beloved milieu.
Aditya Goenka (Son)
My father is a huge source of inspiration for me. He is my role model. An epitome of humility, he detests talking about himself, which is why you don’t find the word “I” in his enunciation on the media initiative, here above. For him, it is all about “Teamwork” and “Camaraderie”.
As an enlightened soul himself who at a tender age of 29 went on to establish Nepal’s first independent broadsheet dailies, he was proactively involved in my academic journey as well. In fact, it is largely due to his spending time with me on my curriculum that I could top the honors at the Richmond American University in London in my Undergrad Economics program converging into my receiving offers for the master’s program from two most cherished abodes in the UK—the London School of Economics and Cambridge University.
Adhiraj Agrawal (Son-in-law)
Shyam ji is a rare visionary and an innovator to the core. He is a pioneer in quite a few arenas. Media is one major initiative, though. His path-breaking work where we are working together, in areas as diverse as soil and water conservation, sustainable agriculture, disaster mitigation, wasteland reclamation, phytoremediation, and bioengineering with a grass called Vetiver, is currently under intense discussion as an optimum tool to solve a slew of problems confronting the nation. Landslides and floods are major disasters which are immaculately addressed by Vetiver with amazing competitiveness.
He is essentially a social entrepreneur. Each project that he undertakes he first weighs its value in social and national context. He does not engage in anything no matter what be the fiscal reward, if it does not add value for the nation and for the people at large.
Pawan Bhimsaria (Brother-in-law)
Shyam has been responsible for opening up tens of thousands of organized sector jobs in the media industry today by virtue of his pioneering initiative. He works to “contribute” and does not look at the “achievement” quotient in any measure. After all that he has contributed, his personal achievement in terms of material consolidation for himself is actually miniscule. He works as a catalyst to steer others and takes pride in this rather than promoting himself. That is Shyam Goenka for you—a rare epitome of renunciation and sacrifice. The words of Dhruba Hari Adhikari here above, succinctly sums it up. “The track opened by Shyam has now converged into a broad highway. As a result, it has a large formal advertising market of more than Rs 12bn, more than 200 dailies published regularly, more than 1,000 radios, more than 100 televisions, and more than 2,700 online portals.”
Dec. 11, 2023, 2:15 p.m.
Dec. 11, 2023, 12:50 p.m.
Dec. 11, 2023, 10:53 a.m.
Dec. 10, 2023, 5:42 p.m.
Dec. 9, 2023, 9:20 p.m.
Dec. 8, 2023, 2:14 p.m.
Dec. 8, 2023, 6:22 a.m.
Dec. 8, 2023, 6:19 a.m.