Ramnath Goenka

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Ramnath Goenka
Ramnath Goenka 1942.jpg
Ramnath Goenka in 1942
Born (1904-04-22)22 April 1904
Darbhanga, Bihar, British India
Died 5 October 1991(1991-10-05) (aged 87)
Mumbai, Maharastra, India
Occupation Media businessman
Spouse(s) Moongibai Goenka

Ramnath Goenka (1904–1991) was an Indian newspaper publisher. He launched The Indian Express and created the Indian Express Group with various English and regional language publications. In 2000, India Today magazine, named him amongst their list of "100 People Who Shaped India".[1]

Early life[edit]

Ramnath Goenka was born on 22 April 1904,[2] in Dildar Nagar village, in the Darbhanga district of Bihar, India.[citation needed] His mother died when he was six months old and he was adopted by his aunt who was widow of Basant Lal Goenka who had died in 1901 leaving a large business and several estates.[citation needed]

Career prior to newspapers[edit]

He joined the business of his maternal uncles, Babu Prahlad Rai Dalmia and Babu Sagarmal Dalmia, in Calcutta and was sent to the firm of Sukhdevdoss Ramprasad, the largest Indian business dealing in yarn and piece goods.[citation needed] In 1922, he moved to Madras as the agent for Sukhdevdoss Ramprasad.[citation needed]on a salary of Rs. 30/- and took shelter with a family named Chaudhry which hailed from a village near to his native Mandawa, at 23 Peria Naicker Street.[3]

Subsequently, in 1925, Goenka entered into a business partnership with Murliprasad Mohanprasad of Hyderabad, India. Their business was as piecegoods merchants in Madras and it continued until around 1932–1933.[citation needed] In 1926, Goenka was also nominated as member of the Madras Legislative Council by the Governor.[who?][citation needed]

Goenka joined the Bombay Co. Ltd. as chief salesman,[when?] a post he held till the end of 1936.[citation needed] A keen racing[clarification needed] enthusiast in his younger days, he gave up the pastime in 1935–36 and took to journalism in earnest.

Career in newspapers[edit]

In 1932, he had took over the loss-making Madras edition of The Free Press Journal, driving the delivery van himself to dispatch the papers.[citation needed] He founded The Indian Express in 1936,[citation needed] and in 1941, he was elected President of the National Newspaper Editors' Conference.[citation needed] Following this, both The Indian Express and Goenka himself openly challenged the British Raj.[citation needed]

In 1936: Goenka gave Promossory Note of Rs. 500,000 ( Rs.Five Lakhs ) on 1 September 1936 in favour of Raja Mohan Prasad of Hyderabad his Financing Partner. The Promissory note still remains unpaid even after 75 years. Goenka also gave a declaration in 1936 that he was a trustee of all the properties purchased in his name including the debentures of Free Press of India (Madras) Ltd. and were purchased out of the monies of Raja Mohan Prasad Murliprasad Mohanprasad of Hyderabad,India.[1]

In 1948, Daily Tej[clarification needed] partnered with Goenka to publish Indian News Chronicle, an English daily, from New Delhi. After the death of Lala Deshbandhu Gupta, Goenka converted it to The Indian Express.[clarification needed] Upon independence he was nominated as a member to the Constituent Assembly of India.[citation needed]

Goenka played a significant role during the "Emergency" in India and challenged Indira Gandhi.[citation needed] His battle with the business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani is still remembered.[citation needed] His critics believe that his passion for politics was the fire that led the newspapers from Indian Express Group on a blazing trail.[citation needed]

In the first post-independence elections, held in 1952, Goenka contested from Tindivanam seat (Madras Province) as Congress candidate, but he was defeated by a candidate who favoured Tamil nationalism and who was supported by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.


He was married to Moongibai.[citation needed] The couple had a son, B. D. Goenka, who was slated to take over Indian Express, but died as a result of a cardiac arrest.

Until his untimely death in 1979, B.D. Goenka was the managing director of Indian Express directly under his father, Ramnath Goenka's chairmanship.

B. D. Goenka's wife, Saroj Goenka, assumed her late husband's position as managing director and thereupon ran the newspaper successfully for the next 12 years, until her father-in-law's death in 1991.

Ramnath Goenka's death triggered a bitter legal dispute that lasted for years until it was ultimately settled out of court.

Goenka's daughter, Krishna, who was married to A. M. Khaithan of the Calcutta Khaithans, the world's largest tea producers and battery manufacturers through the ownership of Williamson Magor. Another heir was Vivek Khaitan, who was adopted in 1990 and changed his name to Viveck Goenka, and is presently[when?] the chairman and managing director of the Indian Express Limited. Another of Goenka's daughter married into the Sonthalia family in Chennai. Her son Manoj Kumar Sonthalia runs The New Indian Express Group based in Chennai.

Relations with the Ambani family[edit]

At one point in time, Goenka was close to both Dhirubhai Ambani and Nusli Wadia. On many occasions, Goenka tried to intervene between these two warring factions and bring an end to their enmity.[citation needed]

The Indian Express carried a series of articles against Reliance Industries and Ambani in which they claimed that Ambani was using unfair trade practices to maximise the profits. Rather than use his staff at The Indian Express to investigate the matter, Goenka assigned the task to his confidant and advisor, S. Gurumurthy. Stories were also contributed by journalist Maneck Davar, who was also independent of the newspaper.[citation needed]

The dispute ended when Ambani suffered a stroke. While he was recovering in San Diego, his sons, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani, managed his affairs. The Indian Express had turned the guns against Reliance and was blaming the government for not doing enough to penalise Reliance Industries. The battle between Wadia, Goenka and the Ambanis took a new direction and became a national crisis.[citation needed]

Relations with RSS, Jana Sangh and the BJP[edit]

Goenka was alleged to have been close to Hindu Nationalist organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and its daughter political parties the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party. He was said to be friendly to RSS activist Nanaji Deshmukh and the Rajmata of Gwalior Vijayaraje Scindia, both members of the RSS and the BJS. He was also close to Jayprakash Narayan and supported the latter to become PM in 1975. His aides S. Gurumurthy and J. K. Jain were also known to be RSS members. His most famous editor was Arun Shourie, who later became a BJP minister. Arun Jaitley, who represented Goenka in some legal cases, later served V. P. Singh's government in a legal capacity was later a minister when the BJP came to power.


Goenka died in Mumbai on 5 October 1991.[citation needed]


He was portrayed as the ageing press baron, Manik Dasgupta, by Hindi film actor, Mithun Chakraborty in the 2007 Hindi movie, Guru.


  1. ^ Naqvi, Saeed (2000). "THOUGHT & ACTION: The Baron". Indian Today. 
  2. ^ "Glowing tributes to Ramnath Goenka". The Hindu. 23 April 2004. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  3. ^ warrior of the Fourth Estate page 15 and 16

Further reading[edit]

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