By Akrita Reyar
The sad news of Rohinton B Maloo being one of the victims of the mindless terror attacks in Mumbai has left me completely cold. Known as one of the avant garde and most charismatic personalities of media industry, Rohinton was at the same time one of the most friendly, down to earth and jovial people that I have ever worked with or known.
It was 2002-03, and the online business was still fledgling. I was just deciding to move from the television to the Internet stream when Rohinton acquired Cutting Edge Media and took up a bouquet of projects for Zee Telefilms Limited. Among these was to head the sales endeavour of Zeenews.com, the online arm of the Zee News channel.
Thus began our association. I was to look after the editorial aspect of the website and he was to take care of the sales as well introduce new ideas. While he was based in Mumbai, I was in Noida. Over numerous mails, we coordinated, quarreled, made up and, most of all, achieved some targets.
Very often when he came across to Delhi, business was always put on the table first. Once that was sorted out, he would have a thousand jokes and anecdotes to share, especially about his Parsee community.
A complete family man, he was proud of every contest or competition either of his two children won or participated in. It needed no encouragement of conversation on my part to set him off about his kids and their conquests.
He was also passionate about his hobbies of sailing, collecting vintage cars, match boxes, and music concert DVDs.
Suave yet extremely astute about the businesses he dabbled in, Rohinton saw opportunity in arenas still considered unprofitable by others.
He was also steeped into technology, he carried a Blackberry before it became commonplace and foresaw this sector as a major growth area for the future. No wonder then that he saw computer education as a mover and shaker industry and co-founded Computerland, later renamed Aptech.
He started his career at Trikaya Grey in brand planning and helped launch Thums Up. As entrepreneurship was his call, soon enough he started an ad agency and followed it up with Sheri Louise Slimming Centers & Professional Slimming Centers and Adar Nutrimetics, makers of salt, jams, pickles, and other foods.
Through his Cutting Edge Media launched Zee English, Zee MGM, and also did ad sales for Zee Telefilms and our Zee News website.
He also was part of a joint venture with Hutchison Whampoa to start STAR TV India. He helped launch some channels including STAR Plus, MTV, and BBC World in India.
Rohinton also helped set up CNN & Cartoon Network for Turner/Time Warner in South Asia, HBO West Asia, and also co-started Hallmark card and gift stores in India and re-launched Hallmark channel.
He was also the founder of Brandwidth, a digital and online media marketing company.
Just before joining TELiBrahma, a mobile solutions company in 2007, as consulting partner and strategic advisor, Rohinton had launched Media Vault: a digital media sales and marketing company in alliance with the WPP Group. Earlier he helped launch Mediascope Associates.
His versatility can be gauged by a mere glance at his profile. In his 48 years of life, besides Media, he represented a Jewellery Council, launched Slim Fast Food, and Medical Hair Centres, food businesses etc.
On the ill-fated night at 10 pm, Rohinton was dining with a British acquaintance Alex Chamberlain at the Trident’s Kandiha restaurant, when they heard gunfire and hid in the kitchens.
Discovered by the gunmen, they were ushered up an emergency stairway, where another gun man was waiting.
Describing the event, Chamberlain told media, “Pointing the gun at us then, the terrorists began sorting people on basis of their nationality. : ‘Where are you from? Are any of you English or American?’ He was speaking in Urdu – my friend was translating – but I could hear the venom in the gunman’s voice.
“Then he marched us up the stairs again. Smoke was billowing down. I could not see Rohinton. There was a moment or two before the gunman who was bringing up the rear rounded the corner. I and another guy both slipped through a door into a tiny alcove.”
It was at this point that Rohinton and his friend got separated. What can be said except that it was a cruel stroke of fate that while his dining partner survived, Rohinton was caught in a horrific and unyielding grip of terror and lost to us forever.