Will Vistara live while NDTV dies?

Shivaji Dasgupta
New Update
NDTV Vistara

New Delhi: In a matter of days, death sentences were passed on two very inspirational entities, albeit in rather diverse fields. Both stand for accessible luxury in a very compelling manner - the airline quite obviously for beautiful physical experiences and the news entity for fearless yet sophisticated analysis.


But first, to sort out this matter of life and death. Vistara will systematically be integrated into Air India and while its original soul may still linger, the name will evaporate. NDTV, on the other hand, will surely continue as a brand but with possibly a whole new value system. Their legacies though may remain intact amongst a robust body of fans, no less vehement than the ones we see in Qatar.

NDTV entered middle-class educated households through the conduit of ‘The World this Week’, effusive and classy content that we could proudly flaunt to our NRI kin. It cemented its grasp with the massification of psephology, the Dua-Roy combination as potent as Sachin-Sourav, armed with sci-fi graphics. As an autonomous channel, it invested solidly in a firm point-of-view, famously unshakeable, thus earning a differentiated position.

Vistara was born to bring genuine class to our flying experiences, albeit with sustainable profitability unlike the profligate Kingfisher or the ill-advised Jet 1.0. At a time when the socialist Indigo and its merry clones were showering efficiency but frowning on indulgence, while Air India was still the stoic bureaucrat. We were treated with SQ-class service in an elegant environment, inarguably a hotel in the skies and not a Shatabdi Express compartment.


Both NDTV and Vistara were truthful agents of inclusive liberalisation in their respective points of origin, unshackling us from the compulsions of conformity. Doordarshan, in the mid 1980’s, had us bound and gagged with assembly-line drudgery and the first signs of rescue arrived with this school of programming. The aviation scenario is fresh in our conscious memory and one of the most remarkable aspects of the Tata-SIA combo was genuine democratisation - an entry-level economy product in the same plane, literally, as the freshly brewed cappuccino class, ‘Business’ certainly not as usual. Which is why I honestly feel that they were agents of necessary change at the right time, reducing the gap with the aspirational worlds of perfection, whether BBC or Singapore Airlines.

As the new Air India takes fresh guard, it will need to learn a few premium lessons from the early years of Vistara and its electrifying management. In spite of an impressive wide body fleet, its state-run constitution made the national carrier intrinsically hostile to contemporary luxury, a pattern noticed in the ITDC hotels as well. Perhaps all it needs is a clinical replication of Vistara’s upper-class service culture, including possibly a direct relocation of the skilled staff, as decisive steps to building a fresh credo.

On NDTV, if reports are to be believed, there will be a shift in editorial policy as per media patterns worldwide, the new owners having a clear opinion. But its relevance as a pioneering presenter of well-curated content can well evolve, especially in the bustling digital age with the enigmatic metaverse. There is a mid-1980s kind of transformation earnestly being solicited for the envisioned future, in an India-centric model and not just a standard global replication and the Adanis may just have discovered the appropriate vehicle.

Many would sincerely wish that these institutions live on as endearing beacons, the finest essence of each co-crafting the imminent versions, with the continuity of brand names just a fleeting technicality. When Calcutta became Kolkata or Mumbai and Chennai endured their rebranding dramatics, the intrinsic foundations were protected faithfully by fervent believers, while socio-political development plied on as per policies. The issue quite clearly is the sanity of intent and when that becomes a business necessity as well, abilities get sharpened.

The difference between a visionary and a dreamer is the ability to scalably implement and not just anecdotally envisage. Deepest respect for NDTV and Vistara for showing us newer light at a time when it was sincerely necessary.