B Saikumar (also known as Sai), COO of the Network18 Group, has been appointed the new chief executive officer (CEO) of the Rs 2,500 crore Indian digital media house Network18 Media & Investments. He will also join the boards of Viacom18 and Homeshop18. Saikumar will report to Raghav Bahl, founder of Network18.

Earlier this month, the then CEO Haresh Chawla announced that he was leaving Network18 to pursue new challenges. Chawla has led the group for a decade, is a well-respected figure in the industry and his exit has caused ripples in India’s fast-paced digital media industry. Under his leadership, Network18 reached over 300 million households across various media platforms – television, print, films, mobile and the Internet. Chawla also led the formation of the joint venture Viacom18 that currently runs a number of channels including COLORS, MTV, Nickelodeon and Vh1, and the processing facility Studio18.

Today, the Network18 Group runs an Internet and mobile division called Web18 Software Services Ltd, which is behind one of the top media sites and fast-growing e-commerce site It also operates Television Eighteen India Ltd that runs the CNBC channels (CNBC TV18 and CNBC AWAAZ) and THE IBN channels (CNN-IBN, IBN 7 and IBN-Lokmat), as well as the joint venture Viacom18 and wire services unit Newswire18.

Haresh Chawla, who hands over the mantle to Saikumar, said, “He has seen the company 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.”

As the chief operating officer (COO), Saikumar had led management teams across group companies to optimise business value and revenue generation. He led various inorganic forays and provided the operational leadership for the group, to grow organically. Prior to joining the Network18 Group, he was working with the Times of India Group. He holds an MBA in Marketing and a graduate degree in Statistics.

Saikumar will be responsible for the group’s news, Web, publishing, entertainment and allied businesses, which will include the IBN general news network, CNBC TV18, CNBC Awaaz, Web18, Yellow Pages and Forbes India. “The next phase of growth promises to be exciting and I look forward to it,” he commented on his new role. “Building upon the inspiring legacy left behind by Haresh Chawla, we have some very ambitious dreams for the future and we intend to see each one of them fulfilled.”

Raghav Bahl, founder and editor of Network18, said, “Haresh Chawla 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 Sai has the inclusive skills and mature leadership that are needed to get us there. He has our best wishes and wholehearted support.”

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