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HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Shobhana Bhartia

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Suhel Seth

Why she matters: The heart and soul of the Hindustan Times, hers is a story of admirable exactitude and a love for the arts that sets her apart as a media baroness. Not to mention her seat in our parliament’s Upper House. Suhel Seth delves into their decades-old friendship, outlining the many facets that make her ‘the quintessential 2am friend’.

I was introduced to Shobhana Bhartia at a dinner nearly 25 years ago by the late Arun Jaitley. I remember him saying, “You will love her because she, too, is from Calcutta.” But over the years, Shobhana has given me (and the world) many more reasons to be loved and admired…

In my book, Get to the Top, I called her the quintessential 2am friend. Someone you can call at 2am if you need any help, and no questions will be asked. She’s also someone with long-standing friends. Friends who remain friends no matter what their station in life. I’ve never seen her guest list change, and that’s because she doesn’t have courtiers but genuine friends. Those whom she values, and those who value her.

I’ve often said Shobhana’s perhaps one media baroness who has the greatest empathy and an enormous love for her country. And when the President of India nominated her to the Rajya Sabha, she took her job ever so seriously — because that’s who she is.

From her frightening attention to detail to her love for the arts, there’s nothing she does without certain exactitude. But then there are many facets to Shobhana: born into unimaginable wealth, she turned the Hindustan Times into a world-class media brand on her own. Hiring some of the best minds who, in turn, respected her not for what she owned but equally for her involvement in every aspect of the daily. I don’t think there’s any edition of the newspaper that goes to bed without her seeing what’s on the front page.

And what’s even more admirable is that she wears her laurels lightly. Few would know she’s on the board of Columbia University, flying the Indian flag with aplomb, or the fact that she is an indulgent grandmother today, not to mention a tough boss.

For me, personally, Shobhana was the first caller when I lost my parents, the first to wish me on my birthday every year, and the first to be sent videos of our daughter, Gayatri.

Because in Shobhana, you don’t have just a friend. You have someone who cares deeply. About almost everything and, more so, about her friends. Her power emanates from her humanism, and not from what she owns.

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