“You have to woo the reader. You have to persuade the person, first of all, to read what you have written that's the very first thing. If you have failed there then you've already failed. It doesn't matter what are the gems of wisdom. So the notion that you have to woo your reader was important.”
That is Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar, aka Swami, the legendary and long-serving columnist for the Times of India and one of the foremost chroniclers of the India economic story.
Growing up in Mumbai, the Times of India was a daily habit at our household. Here’s what I would unfailingly do, when I got my hands on the newspaper:
- I’d look for ‘interesting pictures’ in Bombay Times (I mean, let’s be honest, I was in my mid-teens)
- In the main paper I would chuckle at RK Laxman’s cartoon of the day
- I’d then ignore the rest of the front page and head straight to the sports pages.
- And when it would be the Sunday Times of India, I would head to the edit page and first read the ‘Swaminomics’ column
Today, I’m not exactly a big fan of the Times group. But I still like the Sunday Times of India, especially that edit page and especially Swaminomics.
Since my early teens, I have marvelled at Swami’s ability to demystify complex economic and political news and distil the key essence for the lay reader. He would take contrarian perspectives and back them with solid data and clear analysis. You might disagree with his opinion, but you couldn’t ignore it.
Swami is a legend, a doyen of economic journalism in India.
And so, it seemed like a moonshot - what if I could interview THE Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar for this podcast?
Well, dreams do come true.
After a few emails and some help from his daughter Pallavi (who I knew from earlier) I was thrilled when he agreed to come on this podcast!
In this conversation, Swami narrates key milestones from his 56-year writing journey … (That’s right, 56 years - he’s been professionally writing for 14 more years than I’ve been on this planet).
He shares his research sources, how he records his ideas, his contrarian approach, and the focus on lucid writing.
It’s a memorable conversation. Let’s dive in.
Links to resources:
- Swami's columns in the Times of India
- Author page for the Economic Times
- CATO Institute Profile
- Books by SA Aiyar