Reader’s Digest India: Legacy and Mission

While some copies of the US edition of Reader’s Digest, launched in 1922, had for long been available in India right from early days, it was in January 1954 that the Indian edition was first launched by the Digest’s British company. Forty thousand copies a month were specially edited and printed in England for shipment to India, with a cover price of Rs 1.50 per copy. London sold advertising space and managed the business with executives visiting India periodically.

Soon, as demand grew, it was evident that a remote-control operation from London was impractical and that a permanent representative in India was required. That man was Tharoor Parameshwaran (“Param”, as he was known), who was asked to open a Reader’s Digest office in Bombay in January 1955. The circulation of the magazine was now 60,000. Param later became Reader’s Digest India’s first Managing Director.

For the first 15 months, his office was his home in Worli, Bombay, and his only equipment a typewriter, a telephone, and a filing cabinet in the dining room. Being the only employee, he typed all the correspondence himself and was out on the road most of the day, cajoling companies to buy advertising space, inspecting the newsstands and supervising subscription promotion.

“Every evening,” Param said of those early days, “either my wife, Lily, or I used to go to the post office with all the mail to get them stamped or franked.”

April 1963 was the next major milestone in the history of the Indian edition. An Indian company, The Reader’s Digest Association Private Ltd, a subsidiary of the British company, was registered with the magazine entirely printed in India. By then the circulation had risen to 100,000 at offices at Bombay’s Gunbow Street and a branch at Calcutta had been opened (branches in Madras and Delhi were to follow). Shortly afterwards, production, accounts, and marketing departments were added. Finally, the Indian Reader’s Digest became a full-fledged operation with the appointment in June 1969 of Rahul Singh as Resident Associate Editor. Then 28, Rahul he had already served five years as an Assistant Editor with The Times of India.

Like Param, Rahul Singh also started modestly: with only a secretary, he ran the editorial office under the guidance of the British edition of Reader’s Digest. It was during this period that local Indian articles were first developed by the Indian edition. (Earlier, writers from UK came to India to write some of the local articles.) Among the first locally developed stories were those on Field Marshal Maneckshaw, Jayaprakash Narayanan, the Indian film industry, and the Grant Trunk Road. The best articles were also condensed from some leading Indian publications. In January 1975, Rahul was made Editor-in-Chief and soon had an editorial staff of about 10 persons.

Indian readers have since early days also been major contributors to the humour in the magazine. A number of their funny and thought-provoking anecdotes have figured in the magazine’s humour sections, including Life’s Like That, All in a Day’s Work, and Humour in Uniform. Jokes and articles from India are often seen in the Digest’s many foreign edition as well.

In January 1979, The Digest’s Indian edition observed its 25th anniversary. Shortly after that, the magazine started to be published by a wholly owned Indian company, named RDI Print & Publishing Ltd, in conformity with a new government policy that required all multinational companies in India to dilute their equity. After that the Tata Group managed The Digest’s Indian business while editorial control remained with the magazine’s US parent company. In 2003, the business was taken over by Living Media India Ltd., India’s largest publishing company. Under the new management the magazine sold over 6,00,000 copies in 2008. The development of local editorial material was further encouraged without sacrificing the magazine’s international flavour, which comes from membership in the most cosmopolitan family in publishing history.

Today The Digest is published in 46 editions and 17 languages and for many decades has remained the world’s largest-selling magazine. The Indian edition is also the largest-selling English magazine in the country.

A LITTLE FACT

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru must have had a special place in his heart for this magazine and you, our readers. Back in 1955, a cabinet committee he headed debarred all foreign investment in the print media, with the solitary exception of Reader’s Digest! The rule stayed until the mid-1990s, after India accepted the path of economic liberalization.

READER’S DIGEST EDITORIAL MISSION

To inform, enrich, educate and inspire the world’s largest magazine audience by creating every month a publication that so excites and satisfies their curiosity, so encourages them with advice, compassion and humour, and so stirs them with the courage and enterprise of others, that it becomes an indispensable part of their lives.

All articles in Reader’s Digest are thoroughly fact-checked and verified for their accuracy and authenticity, including editorials, jokes and fillers.

Know the Editors

Sanghamitra Chakraborty, Editor

In a career spanning nearly 29 years, Sanghamitra Chakraborty has worked with Sunday magazine, The Statesman, The Times of India, Outlook and went on to launch Prevention and Women’s Health, both health magazines, for the India Today Group. As a journalist she has covered a wide breadth of topics―politics, people and issues. An editor for the past 14 years, her heart still lies in ground reporting with a focus on health, environment and human rights. Her twitter bio once said, ‘Fears death by proofreading’.

Her current passion is Reader’s Digest, keeping its soul alive, nurturing longtime readers while reaching out to newer audiences, with sharp and relevant content. Reader’s Digest is her natural homing ground, given her love for reading and social issues. She is the first woman editor of Reader’s Digest, India.

She lives in Delhi with her husband, son and her dog Tingmo.

Ishani Nandi, Senior Assistant Editor

A postgraduate in English Literature from Calcutta University, Ishani Nandi is an editor and writer with more than a decade working in fields such as standardised test prep, corporate communications and publishing. She spent the last five years creating non-fiction books for children at Dorling Kindersley, a part of Penguin Random House. Since then she moved to Reader’s Digest, where her love of language and storytelling found safe haven.

V. Kumara Swamy, Assistant Editor

Kumar has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years and has reported and analyzed stories across the spectrum—from politics to society to issues related to the economy and, quite often, sports. He loves working on feature stories for RD with focus on inspirational stories of little-known people. He has travelled extensively to various destinations for reportage from the ground while working with The Telegraph and the Press Trust of India in his previous assignments. He spent his childhood in Bengaluru and his teen years in Delhi. He grew up hating maths and physics and completed his Master’s degree in history from Delhi University. He believes that cricket and Seinfeld have answers to most questions that life throws at you.

He loves quizzing and has been a BBC Mastermind India participant.

Naorem Anuja, Consulting Editor

Naorem Anuja is a dog mum with a really cool day job. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in economics, from Cotton University and a Master’s and a MPhil degree in Political Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She was an ICSSR Doctoral Fellow in 2018. You will find her, on her good days, discussing politics, law and gender.

Saptak Choudhury, Consulting Editor

Hailing from a small town in West Bengal, Saptak Choudhury has a Master’s degree in English literature from Jadavpur University. His love for the language bloomed a bit late, but before that, he seemed to be heading straight towards a career in medicine or engineering. His newfound love for English has morphed into a somewhat unhealthy obsession with crime and detective fiction.

His experience in an editing-publishing training course helped him hone his editorial skills, while his stint at Youth Ki Awaaz, a user-driven online platform which champions social issues, exposed him to the world of journalistic editorial work for the first time. And now, as an editor with Reader’s Digest India, his love and dedication for editing and reading has increased by several notches.

Identifying himself as an editor first, Saptak hopes to some day bring to life a few malicious murderous plots which he has been thinking about for a long time. He also wants to translate works of Japanese crime fiction into English. Meanwhile, he considers his current job at Reader’s Digest India to be the best gift he’s received until now.

Khushboo Thakur, Editorial Coordinator

Born and brought up in New Delhi, Khushboo Thakur went to Lady Irwin School. She graduated from the Delhi University and recently, she got her Master’s degree in psychology from IGNOU, with a focus on mental health wellness and clinical psychology.

Khushboo started her career in the development sector eight years ago, working for the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, and the NGO Expressions India, among others. Currently, she is working as an editorial coordinator with Reader’s Digest, providing administrative- and research-support to the team. She is excited about her current profile, as it provides an opportunity for learning and broadens her outlook.

She is a keen observer of people and an enthusiastic traveller. She loves to experiment with her culinary skills and also enjoys photography. She is has recently become a mother to a beautiful daughter.

Sadhana Moolchandani, Senior Art Director

Sadhana Moolchandani has worked in the Indian media for almost three decades now. Starting off her career with The Times of India in 1991, she was the first to design the newspaper’s daily supplement Delhi Times when it launched in the early ’90s. She brought her expertise to the Hindustan Times, where she designed the first issue of HT City in 1999. In 2008, she joined the India Today Group as art director for Prevention and later also Women’s Health. Here, in addition to overseeing the layout of the magazines, she organised and coordinated cover shoots with well-known names in the Indian film industry.

Sadhana is a senior art director with Reader’s Digest, and has been with the team since the editorial and design shifted base from Mumbai to Delhi in late 2015. She brings in a vast and enriching repository of experience to the magazine. Sadhana is a lover of nature and is spiritually inclined.

Keshav Kapil, Assistant Art Director

Energetic, innovative and strategic—all at the same time—Keshav stepped into the professional world almost a decade back. Having kicked off his career in advertising and and moving to join Prevention that was part of the India Today Group, he finally came to be associated with the group once again in 2015 and started working for Reader's Digest in late 2015. Keshav believes that his ability to see and create a world on a black canvas puts him in good stead, along with his excellent designing skills. Keshav has a funny bone that he often uses to lighten up the workplace, and is also an avid gym- and music-enthusiast.