So how does Sandeep Goyal find time to write so much?

16 May,2019


To the Indian advertising and media fraternity, Sandeep Goyal is well-known name. As someone who led a very successful run at Rediffusion Y&R, as Group CEO of Zee and JV partner of Dentsu in India who finally sold his stake to his Japanese principals. But, in recent years, he has turned one of India’s most prolific business columnists.

Goyal now prefixes his name with a Dr, not earned with an honorary doctorate degree please note, after some serious hard work and a thesis earned from FMS, New Delhi. He is also an MBA from FMS and an English literature honours degree from Panjab University.

 After selling his stake in Dentsu India, Goyal  pioneered mobile advertising in India, building his company Mogae Media into a market leader. He co-owns the 24×7 food TV channel FoodFood with celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Over the last few years, Sandeep Goyal has turned a prolific writer. He writes a fortnightly column for Business India called ‘Honest to God!’; writes a weekly ad review column, ‘Here’s the Pitch’ for the New Indian Express; writes a fortnightly column, ‘Yes, but…’ for Business Standard. Goyal used to write a weekly column for exchange4media, ‘Ask the Doctor’. In the past Goyal also used to write columns, ‘Perfect 10’ for Financial Express and ‘Horse Sense’ for Business Standard. Phew.

A compilation of 50 of his Campaign India columns from mid-2017 to mid-2018 on a host of marketing, branding and advertising subjects appears in the book BlogBuster that releases today (May 16)in Mumbai. The book is being released by former Viacom18 COO Raj Nayak and CampaignIndia editor Prasad Sangameshwaran. MxMIndia did a quick interview with Dr Sandeep Goyal on the book, on how he finds time to do all his writing and more. Read on… 


You are possibly the most prolific industry biggie writing in the A&M and business media? And perhaps across all industries. How do you manage to do it?

My late mother used to say that the pursuit of Goddess Lakshmi should never be at the cost of venerating Goddess Saraswati. I was always a very good student (I am a gold medallist in English Honours), but once I started working, career obviously became life’s top priority. So after running after business and profits for well over 25 years, after I sold my stake in Dentsu, I decided to go back to academics and to a life more cerebral.


I enrolled for a PhD at FMS Delhi. That got done last year. So I am now Dr Goyal!


In 2012, I co-authored You’re Hired! with my daughter, Carol. In 2014, I wrote Konjo – The Fighting Spirit on my entrepreneurial stint with the Dentsu JV through Harper Collins. I had earlier published The DumDum Bullet way back in 2004 through Penguin.


Today, besides my regular blogs in Campaign, I write columns for Business India, Business Standard and The New Indian Express. I used to write an Agony Aunt piece every week for Exchange4media but have now stopped that for a while. There have been past columns in the Catalyst (Hindu Business Line) and in Brand Wagon (Financial Express). So, yes I do write a lot. Thank you for terming it ‘prolific’.


I find peace and solace in writing. Actually, to write on a broad canvas of subjects, I need to read a lot. The simplest formula is 10x … You read at least 10 times of what you write. So, the combination of reading and writing is actually a perfect mix for me. I average at least three-four hours of active reading everyday … any kind of reading. And I spend at least two-htree hours writing almost every day.


The day usually begins at 6:45 am and I continue to read, research and write till I am just pooped out!



What about your other work? Do you manage time for that?

Since Diwali of 2017, I have slowed down considerably on the work front. I don’t operationally run any of our businesses any longer. So, ‘work’ now is really about looking at our various investee companies. Which is not so time-demanding.


But I still do keep aside sufficient time for a passion that my wife Tanya and I share for art, especially collecting studio pottery and ceramics. We are setting up a private museum in Gurugram. So, I try to make as much time as is required everyday for this new project. I am now a regular at art openings, art shows, auctions and even travel quite a bit in pursuit of art we would like to acquire. We were at Art Dubai last month. Art Basel in Switzerland is now next on the agenda.


I think time is a stretchable asset. Work expands to fill available time. Earlier my life was just work, work and more work. Now, with a little effort and a bit of planning I do work, I find the time for art, I plan time for travel and of course I read and write. Actually utilization and maximization of time is all in your mind. If you want to do it, you can.


A compilation of your columns in the form of a book is a bit of a shortcut, right? Commentary by way of columns in the media do not count as a considered, well-discussed appraisal of issues. So in a sense it can be considered a ‘fatafat’ read, not to be taken very seriously?

Haha! I think you are being judgmental. My blogs in Campaign and my pieces for Business Standard online average 1400 to 1600 words, sometimes even more. I have written pieces of length 4200 words too when the subject so warranted (the piece had to be split over four blogs). So, the pieces I write are well-researched and well-detailed. No shortcuts.


In press, for example, in my long-running column in Business India an average piece is 800 words. Since I normally take one subject per column, and I think the content is reasonably well fleshed out.


The compendium, yes, will be a relatively easy read.  Whether ‘fatafat’, I don’t know. At least, the content is not flimsy or superficial certainly.


Which of these comment columns would you say is your favourite? Any column that you regret writing or has put you into a spot with a former/current associate? (please specify the column/issue)

I enjoy everything I write. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it.


I derive an ‘instant’ high when I write online because most times the piece is up in a matter of minutes after I have finished writing. That is instant gratification!


But, yes, the joy of a piece appearing in print is a very different kind of satisfaction. My first ever piece that I wrote was when I was perhaps in Class 3 as an eight-year old for my school magazine, The Soaring Eagle. The untold joy in seeing my name in print is something I cannot forget even today 50 years later. Ever since, seeing my published piece gives me immense happiness. Almost the same child-like joy of when I was a school boy back then.


Not as much the columns, but yes when I wrote Konjo, and it was a first person account with real names and real people, I ruffled a lot of feathers. There was especially this piece on an ex-client interface at HDFC Life about whom I did some plain-speak. The media asked me a lot of questions, some even wrote that it was all very one-sided, and just my version, but I stood my ground. No rejoinders ever came.


In the columns, I frequently receive negative feedback. PR agencies of the entities I have covered many times reach out to me to soften my stand. I just tell them to send in their narrative to the publication and ask them to also carry the contra-viewpoint. One particular ex-client who is currently at war with his own father too created a ruckus when I wrote about his misleading posturing on a dispute involving his company and his family, but all that really doesn’t affect me. I am no longer in active ‘business’ and don’t really have to worry about repercussions!


Have there been issues that you wanted to write, but not as they would impact your interests?

Not really. But I steer clear of some domains. Telecom and telcos is one such example. For years now I have worked very closely with the likes of Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, and earlier Aircel and Reliance. I therefore have been privy to a lot of inside gossip, insider news, and lots more many times much in advance of the market. But in all these many years, I have never written about anything to do with this domain except an occasional ad review or such. I feel writing on stuff you know because of your advantaged position tantamounts to tattling. I strictly avoid that.


You’ve been writing a lot, lot more than your Campaign column. Where are the other books? 🙂

Well, there will be two more books this year, maybe three.


I am really proud of Japan Made Easy, being published by Harper Collins, and slated for an autumn-winter launch later this year. I have spent 5 years researching and writing this book. It has 101essays of about 500 words each on a range of topics covering business, cuisine, culture, philosophy, creativity, spirituality, customs and rituals … 25 years of my experiences in Japan and with Japan are condensed into this tome.


And then there is my first novel, Witches of Worli, which is about half-done. I am planning a 2020 release. It should be a good fun read.


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