Ramoji Rao: What he means for the printing industry

Media baron and business tycoon Cherukuri Ramoji Rao passed away in Hyderabad on 8 June 2024 at the age of 87. In this exclusive writeup, D Nagarjuna, retired HOD, Government Institute of Printing Technology, Secunderabad, elucidates his contribution to the printing industry.

10 Jun 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

Ramoji Rao

A doyen cutting across various fields, Sri Cherukuri Ramoji Rao is no more. Hundreds of pages would not suffice to pay rich tributes to this departed soul. Obituaries covering his history are pouring in for his contributions to many areas but in my tribute I would confine to what he means or rather meant for the printing industry. 

When this writer was just 20 years old and joined a three-and-a-half-year diploma course in printing technology in the then Madras, Ramoji Rao at 40 was already known as a business baron covering so many areas difficult to list out. We, as students, were excited about his setting up presses giving a boost to the printing industry. We were certain of getting jobs there if the government did not fill up the vacant posts. 

Normally, in those days if anyone started a newspaper, he would create ripples but in the case of Ramoji Rao, who pioneered Eenadu, he created a tsunami in the 1970s. 

After starting his first printing press in Visakhapatnam, there was no looking back. He was a sure hope of employment for many students who came out of the Government Institute of Printing Technology, Secunderabad, where I worked and headed the college for over three decades.  

Ramoji Rao's marketing skills can be a lesson for IIM graduates because he believed in results and no rhetoric. His urge to see that no subscriber of Eenadu was neglected can be gauged by the fact that even if one reader in a remote village wanted to read his paper, he ensured that it reached him. He knew the multiplier effect of his newspaper among millions of readers whom he embraced. He knew the art and science of hiring the right man for the right job.

No Telugu journalist could feel the accomplishment in his or her career without working in Eenadu. All the top Telugu journalists worth the name worked in Eenadu and if anyone left, he/she retained all the respect for this great man. Eenadu, with its quality journalism and rich content, could catch up with die-hard readers which was a privy to only The Hindu in those days. He hired all the top journalists to write and edit his papers. His paper had an impact on toppling governments and bringing in fresh blood to form new governments. NTR owed his meteoric rise to Ramoji Rao. There may be no CM or PM who has not visited him merely out of sheer respect rather than fear of his being a newspaper tycoon and media moghul or an industrialist or an owner of Asia's biggest Film City in Hyderabad. 

Ramoji Rao never rested and never allowed any employee to remain idle even for a minute. He was a tough taskmaster but anyone with work experience in Eenadu was hired instantly with no questions asked. 

He started Sitara, a cine magazine, for which he set up a sophisticated printing press exclusively in Begumpet in the heart of Hyderabad. In almost all important places of the undivided AP, he set up printing presses; you name a town, Eenadu press is there. Though he started Margadarsi Chit funds. He was, in fact, a guiding light for the printing industry spending hundreds of crores of rupees in buying newspaper printing machines and employing hundreds of trained persons. 

He ensured that more than the salary he could pay, the experience gained by the employees fetched them excellent career growth in the printing industry as they went up the ladder. 

In the beginning, Ramoji was popular for Margadarsi Chit Funds, pickles which he named Priya, fertilisers, Kiron Ads, but once he started Eenadu, all these things got relegated and his printing venture itself became a lesson for students to know the history of vernacular press. 

Eenadu was the only Telugu paper which gave tough competition to the Hindi press, among all vernacular papers. He did not stop at that. For a brief period, he ventured into an English newspaper called Newstime, which had a good design and page layout and elegant look. But somehow, it didn't take off despite having some good content compared to what we are seeing in the present era. 

But, the ETV channels became a hit. Plus, Annadata in Telugu, an agriculture journal, was the Bible for a farmer. 

His foresight on technology was amazing. When all leading newspapers went through the hand composing, mechanical composing and the photo setting, Eenadu is perhaps the only newspaper in India which bypassed mechanical composing and went straight to photosetting from hand setting duly replacing the letterpress with offset printing presses.

Ramoji Rao earned the reputation of being a person with Midas touch. Whatever he touched, became gold. Luck was only one of the factors for this person who believed in the basic principle of ‘ishtanga kashta padatam', meaning he enjoyed hard work which became infectious to everyone associated with him.

He leaves behind not just sweet memories but many lessons that can be emulated by people of all generations. Ramoji Rao has become a part of unerasable history for journalism in general and the printing industry in particular. 

May his soul rest in peace.

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