Kalli Purie© HelloIndia

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Kalli Purie

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Nayare Ali

Why she matters: After rising through the ranks behind the scenes, she now leads from the front at the India Today Group. A tough boss with a strong nose for news, and a fastidious dad like Aroon Purie, this Oxford graduate has business in her blood, albeit with a soft spot for the editorial side. Kalli welcomes HELLO! into her world.

HELLO!: What kind of an environment did you grow up in, with your family in the business of media?

Kalli Purie: “A very eclectic one. It wasn’t as though the dinner table was bursting with debate, but we always had interesting people around. As teenagers say these days, there was a vibe.”

H!: You graduated from Oxford University. At that stage in your life, did you have a blueprint for your future?

KP: “I’m more of a “go with my instinct” kind of person. I’m not a big planner. I like the last minute — mad deadlines, editing things, finding order in chaos. I was made for news!”

H!: Tell us about your role as the Vice Chairperson of the India Today Group.

KP: “It’s the best job in the world on most days. You see history in the making. Live! And you get to tell it. There is no high like breaking news, not run-of-the-mill news, but the real life changing kind. And no day looks the same. Stories are at the heart of the business and financial resilience is the strength. I spend more time on editorial than business, with the daily news meetings being the highlight of my day. There are only two people in the organisation that straddle both sides of the business — the Chairman and I. It requires an acute understanding of both domains and often deciding in favour of one. The business side complains that the editorial side always wins! Well, if you have no heart, you can’t live to see another day.”

H!: What was the greatest lesson you learnt from your father?

KP: “He’s a demanding boss and ‘throw-in-the-deep- end’ type of mentor. A perfectionist. It comes from being able to oversee every comma in the days of the fortnightly magazine. The current media cycle doesn’t afford us those luxuries. He is fair and doesn’t drive an agenda. He encourages a lot of debates, so our meetings can be very heated because it’s democratic. Newbies find it very disorienting, but I think this leads to the best plan coming forth.”

H!: What’s your leadership style?

KP: “I’m direct and demanding. So I got a lot of flak for that. But over time, I’ve created an elite force of like-minded professionals. I’m just one part of that beautiful machine. I’m partial to my female colleagues because I can give them a task and close my eyes, knowing they will get the job done. But there are things I learnt over the years making it to the male bastion, the boardroom, that I think is my responsibility to impart to the next generation — to do my part in the relay of gender equality. The biggest rockstars in my team are women and I’m very proud of that.”

H!: Given the number of media properties you’ve launched, where does this drive come from?

KP: “I joined the business in 2000, during the digital boom. As far as storytelling goes, there isn’t a better medium because it allows you all the best tools — words, pictures, sound, video, interactivity, comments, polls and sharing. Digital has its own momentum, and if you stand still, you’re already dead. It suits me. I love movement. There’s just been no lull in this space. I guess this made me a serial entrepreneur. Even now, AI is turning everything on its head. We launched ‘Sana’ the world’s first AI anchor, in March. She’s now doing headlines during the 9pm prime- time bulletin in Hindi. We’ve already versioned her a couple of times. I’ve never seen change at such an exponential rate — an endless scroll of possibilities. It’s frightening, fascinating and so addictive.

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!