Ajay Goyal (born 12 July 1965) is the founder, owner, and president of Zening Resorts Ltd. Goyal was Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Russia Journal newspaper group from 1998 until 2005. He is a philanthropist, public speaker, and serial entrepreneur.
Early life and education
Goyal was born in Kurukshetra, India in a family of esteemed academics. His father J.B. Goyal, Ph.D., authored 28 published books on Hindi literature and Sikh culture and was the Dean of faculty of the arts and languages at Kurukshetra University in India. His mother, a doctorate in literature, was a university professor.
Goyal graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering from National Institute of Technology in Kurukshetra, India in 1986.
In 1987, Goyal began his career on the Indian national television network Doordarshan, where he was a quiz show host and an anchor for youth and cultural programs. He made his first visit to Russia that same year. He worked simultaneously at Fortune International Ltd. and then Mekaster India as an export executive to Eastern European markets.
In 1989, after three years at Doordarshan, Goyal left for Russia and soon became a partner in (and later sole owner of) counter-trade company Norasco Ltd. with 240 employees and offices in six countries. Norasco Ltd. was a private equity and counter-trade firm. Goyal founded 8 ventures in Russia, Ukraine, India and Europe during these years.
Goyal lived in Russia amidst political turmoil and took an active part in politics. In 1991, he spent two nights in human chains outside the Russian White House where Boris Yeltsin and his comrades had held themselves up after the failed coup that ousted Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1997, Goyal wound up or sold his business interests, citing high corruption, crime, and western investors’ irrational exuberance over Russia, and took a sabbatical at the Harvard Institute of International Development (HIID). In 1998, the Russian economy collapsed in default, and the 1998 Russian financial crisis ensued.
Goyal did not complete his program at Harvard and demanded his money back after disagreements with program director Jeffrey Sachs over its Russia aid programs. HIID was dissolved in 1999 after scandals and the Russian Aid Controversy rocked Harvard’s Russia programs. Goyal returned to Russia to launch new ventures.
In 1998, Goyal founded The Russia Journal, a weekly newspaper published from Moscow, Russia and Washington D.C., United States that was sold and distributed throughout Europe. He served as Publisher and Chief Editor until the journal’s last publication in 2005. The Russia Journal investigated Russian oligarchs and businesses. The newspaper was known for its bold, uncompromising coverage of Russia, representative of Goyal’s initiatives in Russia where he filed anti-monopoly complaints against the largest print media company. The investigative and hard-hitting journalism of Goyal’s newspaper in Russia made him a target for many threats and lawsuits from Russian oligarchs. He was an early supporter of President Vladimir Putin and a staunch critic of "Russia's Robber Barons," including Boris Berezovsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Goyal spoke out against the hypocrisies of certain western press organizations and businesses in a documentary titled Cold Politics that was broadcast on Russia's state-owned television channel ORT in the run up to the 2012 Presidential elections. During his years as publisher of The Russia Journal, Goyal was the target of provocations and insults from The eXile’s Matt Taibbi. Goyal ended up hiring Taibbi as a columnist for The Russia Journal, and allowed Taibbi to publish his own criticism in the journal. Goyal praised Taibbi for his bold and truthful reporting from Russia when he left The eXile and Russia to work in the United States, and later became lead reporter at Rolling Stone magazine. Goyal and the newspaper were also a target for Mike McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and former professor at Stanford, who, after a slew of angry emails, threatened to sue The Russia Journal. During his time in Russia, Goyal went on to create additional market-leading internet companies in news, classifieds, entertainment, and jobs. In 1999, he launched Loot.ru, a Russian classifieds site. In 2005, he launched Russian career and jobs portal TheLeader.ru, and later launched Russian mortgage magazine Kakaya Ipoteka. In 2000, Goyal became the founding director of the Russian Digital Alliance, a club of Russian software companies. By 2005, sensing a change in political environment and enhanced risks for foreign investors, Goyal started to sell off his media assets and exited Russia once again. He then developed a slate of films, writing scripts and acquiring rights through Norasco Films Ltd. Goyal has been vocal in his support of Putin and the Crimean Referendum to merge with the Russian Federation.
In 2011, Goyal began the development of Zening Resorts, a spiritual holiday destination in Cyprus after extensive research, traveling to 12 countries over the span of five years. The eco-friendly resort is a sustainable and holistic holiday resort located across from the Latchi Harbour in Chrysochous Bay in Latchi, Paphos, Cyprus. Zening has 145 luxury cottages and offers yoga, meditation, detox, spa treatments, and a variety of workshops. Zening is Europe’s first resort dedicated to yoga, meditation, and wellness, and was named one of Europe’s leading wellness resorts by Condé Nast Traveller. ZENING’s launch in July 2013 was considered a major triumph in the resort’s early history as Goyal dealt with years of bureaucratic obstacles as a foreign investor. Goyal faced many unfounded allegations that delayed the opening of the resort, and was eventually granted a meeting at the Presidential Palace to speak on issues facing foreign investors in Cyprus. Goyal has created many ventures in Cyprus including a successful restaurant in Limassol and the first all-natural and herbal beauty spa in Limassol in partnership with Shahnaz Husain of India.
In India’s 2009 General Elections, Goyal ran as an independent candidate for Indian parliament on an anti-corruption platform from Chandigarh. He confronted national media on the use of "paid press." In one of the first live election debates, he faced candidates from three major parties. Goyal was noted for a transparent declaration of his wealth in election filings. His campaign made many headlines for his door-to-door style which was unusual for Indian politics. Goyal lost by a wide margin. However, the winning candidate, Pawan Bansal, who was also appointed Minister by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had to resign in a major bribery scandal. After the elections, Goyal started a grass-root advocacy group called Lokmantra in India. He continues to campaign for greater awareness and participation in the democratic process, and remains actively engaged in philanthropic and social activities.
In 2007, Goyal founded Gandhi’s London social group which launched during the Indian festival of London. The organization provides London visitors a tour of London landmarks linked with Mahatma Gandhi. Goyal actively writes on climate change and green initiatives, and advises a number of senior Indian leaders on development issues. He wrote from the Copenhagen Climate Change summit COP 15 for ABC Live, an online Indian news portal from.
Goyal is the author of the book Uncovering Russia, which includes some of his own articles and analysis from The Russia Journal. He has written over 100 analytical articles and reports on the Russian economic, business, and political conditions over the past several years.
- Browne, Bejay. "Zening A Lifestyle Not A Holiday", Cyprus Mail, Nicosia, 29 September 2013.
- Russia Journal, "Mondo Times, the worldwide media directory 2001-2009", Retrieved on 25 January 2014.
- "Norasco’s Goyal Makes Way For Goel" Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, The Russia Journal, Moscow, 8–14 June 2001.
- Goyal, Ajay. "Introduction." Uncovering Russia. Moscow: Norasco Pub., 2003. 29. Print.
- Fenton, Ben. "£86m Russia Aid Scandal Hits Harvard", Daily Telegraph, Washington, 27 September 2000.
- "The Russia Journal". Archived from the original on 20 February 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
- Kamakin, Andrew "A Small Publishing Company Quarreled with a Media Giant", "Nasledie", Moscow, 2001.
- Verini, James. "Lost Exile", Vanity Fair, United States, 23 February 2010.
- Taibbi, Matt. "The eXile’s Taibbi reviews RJ’s Ajay Goyal" Archived 10 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, The Russia Journal, Moscow, 25–31 May 2001.
- "Letters", The eXile, 22 May 2001.
- Goyal, Ajay. "Free speech soon to be in eternal eXile" Archived 4 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Russia Journal, Moscow, 28 March 2002.
- Taibbi, Matt. "I, Michael McFaul, Writes Good", The eXile, Moscow, 16 May 2002.
- "IT Club Improving Management Structure", "PressRoom!", Moscow, 8 September 2003.
- "About Us" Archived 2014-03-11 at the Wayback Machine, "Norasco Films", London, 30 September 2012.
- Browne, Bejay. "Zening A Lifestyle Not A Holiday", Cyprus Mail, Nicosia, 29 September 2013.
- "Zening.eu", Retrieved on 25 January 2014.
- "Europe’s First Yoga Resort To Open In Cyprus" Archived 2014-06-06 at the Wayback Machine, "TravelBite.co.uk", London, 29 January 2013.
- Cusack, Jenny. "Travel Deals of the Week" Archived 18 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Conde Nast Traveller, 12 July 2013.
- Evripidou, Stefanos. "Harassed Foreign Investor Granted Palace Meeting", Cyprus Mail, Nicosia, 13 June 2013.
- "Ajay Goyal Appeals to EC Against C’garh Press Club", "News Track India", Chandigarh, 12 May 2009.
- Beckett, Paul. "Want Press Coverage? Give Me Some Money", "The Wall Street Journal", New Delhi, 6 May 2009.
- "At Public Debate, Words Are All They Have To Take Your Vote Away", "The Indian Express", Chandigarh, 10 May 2009.
- "Different Strokes", "India Today", 14 May 2009.
- Dasgupta, Debarshi. "The One Who Didn’t Fit", "Outlook India", New Delhi, 11 May 2009.
- "Pawan Bansal Resigns as Railways Minister Over Bribery Charges", "The Indian Express", New Delhi, 10 May 2013.
- "Lokmantra", Retrieved on 25 January 2014.
- "Gandhi’s London", Retrieved on 25 January 2014.
- "Gandhi’s London" Archived 2014-03-22 at the Wayback Machine, "Walks.com", London, 22 May 2010.
- Amity. "Walking With Gandhi", "Londonist", London, 27 June 2007.
- "Rousing Start To India Festival in London", "The Times of India", London, 17 July 2007.
- "Uncovering Russia", "Amazon", Retrieved on 25 January 2014.