Lokmanya Cooperative Credit Society Ltd. was founded in 1995, by Kiran Thakur, the well known social worker, editor-in-chief of Tarun Bharat (which has just completed 100 years of its existence), and the son of a great visionary, journalist, educationist, and freedom fighter Shri Baburaoji Thakur. Lokmanya Cooperative Credit Society has changed the lives of many ambitious yet needy people by empowering them with financial support. In just two and a half decades, it has 217 branches across 4 states. Here Shri Kiran Thakur delves into the journey of a great institution, the motto of Lokmanya, and shares some unknown facets of his life with the Indian Economy & Market.
You took over the reins of Tarun Bharat as the Editor-in-chief in 1978. What were your plans for the paper at the time?
Well, Tarun Bharat was established in 1919 by my father Baburaoji Thakur when he was just 20 with an aim to involve youth in the freedom movement. Fight against injustice and educating the masses was the motto. (Incidentally, Tarun Bharat has just completed 100 years.) First, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and then Mahatma Gandhi were his role models. Tarun Bharat started as a magazine then, eventually, became a Weekly, Bi-weekly, and then a Daily newspaper. Still, it was small in size – a tabloid. However, it created a lot of influence in the region because of its involvement in the Freedom struggle, Goa Liberation, and Sanyukt Maharashtra Movement. Even British authorities used to take note of Tarun Bharat even though it was a biweekly at that time. It was more of a social initiative rather than a profession.
My father passed away in 1979. I had to shoulder the responsibility and took over as the Editor and started working in the footsteps of my father. I decided that we must go in for Broadsheet and in 1980 Tarun Bharat started coming out in Broadsheet form. We could start Tarun Bharat’s Sindhudurg Edition in 1983 after combing the entire district. That was a great success and we got huge support from the Tal-Konkan. I had a special affection for the area as my mother came from Malvan in Sindhudurg District. This success inspired me to explore the Goa State and I jumped in the fray (in 1984). After that, we never looked back.
You have been credited for bringing in the much-needed wave of modernization to the newspaper. How did you go about it?
In 1992 we started our Kolhapur and Sangli Editions. Satara and Ratnagiri editions were started in 1995. Now we have 8 editions including that of Sholapur. Technological development was taking place side by side. The old processes were time-consuming. We were the first to bring in offset Rotary Printing Machine, Computerised typesetting, colour scanners, and Laser Printers in the area. This could change the way the newspaper was published. ‘Fast and First’ with the news was our Mantra. My brother-in-law Mr. P.N. Dhond and his two sons helped me a lot in taking Tarun Bharat places. It has the distinction of being the first Marathi newspaper to launch its own website way back in 1999. Now we have our own YouTube Channel also.
Do you think the print media will overcome the digital challenge?
We are already there in the Digital form through our Website and Internet Edition, Facebook page, Twitter, and YouTube Channel. Recently we have started our Instagram and Telegram Channels. At least, for now, the print media is growing in India unlike most of the European countries and the US. Despite the competition from Digital media, the Print will survive as along as newsprint is available at a reasonable rate. The media expands with the level of education and economic progress. The future, for sure, is of Digital Media.
What led you to start the Lokmanya Multipurpose Co-op Society considering you had no financial background?
With the kind of expansion that we had taken up, we always felt the paucity of funds. Borrowing was the only way and banks were not so co-operative. Besides I had started many social activities which always needed funds. I had floated an NBFC by the name Bharat Finance Pvt. Ltd. to fulfil the needs of Tarun Bharat.
Luckily with the help of a huge circle of friends, I was able to undertake many social projects by raising funds through charitable contributions. This gave me an idea of forming a co-operative endeavour in the form of Lokmanya Co-op. Society. Lokmanya Tilak’s Paisa Fund was my idea. Society was started with a social angle to help people get jobs. The aim was to provide credit to those who are needy but have no creditworthiness – the segment which was not catered to. The society grew from strength to strength in the last 25 years. The credibility gained through the newspaper proved a big advantage to quickly establish and expand. Now we have 213 branches in four states – Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Delhi – with a turnover of over 8000 crores. We could give direct employment to more than 2000 families and indirectly to nearly 30 thousand people. The society is now dealing with Real Estate, Tourism, Education, and Hospitality besides its core business of lending.
Portraying so many roles, how do you manage your time with family and work? What is your success mantra?
Delegation! Delegation is my success mantra. I believe in people. Once I delegate I don’t interfere in their work. You have to just encourage them. Delegation makes me free of routine hassles and I can devote my energy and think of new ventures. I meet a lot of people. Talk to them. PR, I believe, is my strength. I visit places, draw inspiration and go forward. Once decided I never look back. Detractors can not deter me. As I have seen success in my life, I have also faced failures. But I never get discouraged. You should always have a positive attitude.
Who do you draw inspiration from in terms of having a balanced work and personal life?
My parents are my role models. My father was a versatile person. He was a freedom fighter, a journalist, social worker, educationist and what not. Outwardly he was very strict but he was kind at heart. My mother, who was also a freedom fighter and a social worker, is my inspiration, guide, friend and philosopher. Together, they had a successful life. I had the privilege of meeting many stalwarts in Journalism, business and social arena. All of them inspire me to walk the extra mile.
What keeps you going during a difficult situation at work?
As I told you earlier, I never get discouraged. Success and failures are part of life. I always look forward. I convince myself that this (bad) phase is also going. One should always keep his fighting spirit intact. Multi-tasking and working in different areas always keep my mind fresh. I can give more time to my extended family. Looking at the happiness of the people around me gives me immense pleasure.
Your idea of a relaxed weekend?
There is no weekend for a journalist or for anyone who is always on the move for that matter. If you ask me I am always busy and always relaxed. Every day is a weekend for me. Weeks, months and years are made only for our convenience. As long as you enjoy every day, every day is a weekend.