Viacom India Partner Network18 Group Appoints B Saikumar as New CEO

The new chief will take over from outgoing boss Haresh Chawla.

NEW DELHI – One of India's largest media groups, Network18, announced the appointment of B Saikumar, 37, as its Group CEO, replacing Haresh Chawla, 43, who has been with the company for over a decade.

With an estimated worth of about $296 million, Network18 runs a diversified group of companies spanning broadcasting, film, digital and publishing ventures which include partnerships such as Viacom18 (Viacom18 Motion Pictures, MTV India, VH1 India, Nickelodeon and Hindi entertainment channel Colors), news outlet CNN-IBN, business channel CNBC-TV18, AETN18 (History channel) and Forbes India magazine.

Network18 was founded in 1993 in Delhi by co-promoter Raghav Bahl which produced TV content for various broadcasters such as Star India and BBC before the company diversified into broadcasting starting with CNBC-TV18.

Since he joined the group in 1999, Chawla was instrumental in steering the group's diversification plans and expanding its activities to various genres, especially entertainment with the Viacom18 joint venture which successfully launched the Colors channel in 2008 that challenged veteran market leaders such as StarPlus and Sony Entertainment Television in the fiercely competitive Hindi entertainment space. Recently, Network18 consolidiated its film unit under one division, Viacom18 Motion Pictures which also distributes Paramount films in India.

Saikumar, who was earlier Group COO, will be responsible for the strategic and operational management of the Network18 Group and shortly join the boards of Viacom18 and the group's home shopping network HomeShop18.

A company statement added that Raghav Bahl “is expected to step up engagement with the management teams of Viacom18 and HomeShop18” and Saikumar will be reporting to him while working closely on both of these businesses.

 “Haresh has led Network18 with extraordinary distinction in the first phase of our growth and identity. Now, as we gear up for our most ambitious phase yet, I am convinced that he has the inclusive skills and mature leadership that are needed to get us there - he has our best wishes and our wholehearted support,” said Bahl.

“I am absolutely delighted to handover the mantle to Sai, who has worked very closely with me for over a decade, as we built the Network18 franchise. He has seen the network grow from its very early days across various businesses, which has given him a width of experience that is tough to find in the media business. He is an accomplished leader and a true people's person and I have no doubt that he'll take the legacy forward to even greater heights. I will always be available to him as a friend and mentor and wish him success,” said Chawla.

“The next phase of growth promises to be exciting and I look forward to it. Building upon the inspiring legacy left behind by Haresh, we have some very ambitious dreams for the future and we intend to see each one of them fulfilled,” added Saikumar.