Sunil Jain, Managing Editor of The Financial Express, passed away on May 15 in Delhi due to post Covid-19 complications. He took over the reins of the financial daily from MK Venu in 2013, and under his leadership, the newspaper scaled new heights.
People remember him for being a reporter’s editor, often commissioning stories based on data. His views and opinions in the paper often drew the attention of policymakers. In the several obits written for him, many recall his unparalleled understanding of the infrastructure sector and the economy as a whole.
After his demise, tributes poured in for him from the President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal, and business leaders such as Uday Kotak, Nandan Nilekani, and Sunil Bharti Mittal.
In an interview with BestMediaInfo.com, Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group, shares his memories of Sunil Jain.
How would you like to remember Sunil Jain, the Managing Editor of The Financial Express?
He's somebody who loved an argument, he absolutely loved it. Although he liked to win an argument, his objective was always to learn and understand. He treated everybody he interacted with the exact same amount of respect, affection, and love. There were people he very vehemently disagreed with. And he always had this habit of getting extremely combative. But it was always with a passion for finding out more, it was the passion of knowledge. It was never an accusatory combativeness that you saw in him, which was so beautiful and so rare. It's one of the things we absolutely loved about him.
We've had some really tough times together in the company and we have had some great times, and in both instances, he's always kept a solid commitment to his job and to the institution. I really admire and respect that so much. I think professionally, the kind of insights he would find, studying the macro economy or anything to do with infrastructure, very few people really understood authoritatively—he was brilliant.
I know how closely his writing in Financial Express was followed, right from the offices of many world leaders down. I am very well aware of how often his writing and his insights have actually made a significant impact on policy or on the execution. And he did it in a way that anybody would understand what he was saying. Whatever he wrote on, it was just so easy to understand. He broke it all down very well. He always asked tough questions. But he really wore his heart on his sleeve. He was not one to waste too much time on diplomacy. Just a very pleasant guy who really was just so honest, honest to himself and honest to the world.
What would you say would be his greatest contribution to FE?
I think his contribution to FE is that he spent a lot of time. He's one of the few editors who I have heard very frankly and openly say, I disagree, but you should write that piece or you should write an opinion on it. He never let personal views come in the way of the wholesomeness of the paper. I think that is a very big skill of an editor and a very big contribution of Sunil Jain.
I have heard people who worked with him say that he was an old-school editor. How important is that in today's time?
I think it's hugely important because today we are all saying the news is commoditised. And really going down this path of saying that in this world of social media, nothing is exclusive anymore. But if you look at FE's growth, and FE has grown significantly in the last eight to nine years, especially on the digital platform, a lot of it has been because of those three or four articles that nobody else has invested the time, effort and skill to create.
For instance, the Cairn dispute with the Government of India is something which everybody reported, but the amount of analysis that Sunil and FE did was a lot. So anybody in infrastructure really respected and appreciated that. For instance, FE got a huge brand recall value in the policy guys. I estimate he would read several hundred pages for every 500 words that he wrote. Everything had research and numbers backing it. He proved his points in detail. He argued his case and every time he wrote an opinion piece, he would call the opposite side and ask them their views.