Jayantrao Salgaonkar started the ‘Kalnirnay’ calendar in the 70s. Today it is available in nine languages (Marathi, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu). Let us know the interesting story of the coming of Kalnirnay.
Today we are going to tell you about the world’s largest publication Kalnirnay Calendar. When Jayantrao Salgaonkar expressed the idea of converting the almanack into a calendar for the commoner’s convenience, everyone made fun of him. However, Jayantrao remained adamant about his idea. He was ready to take financial risk. However, he knew that selling calendars was a different and unique idea, as they were available for free in the 1970s.
Jayantrao Salgaonkar, who lived in Mumbai, was the 10th pass. He invested an amount of Rs 2,600 using his astrological knowledge and printing skills and made copies of his calendar in 1973. He went to the vendors to sell his calendars with an unswerving attitude and conviction, but no one gave him an advance. But where Jayantrao was about to stop, he had already guessed the revolution in the calendar system of India.
Today, if we talk about 2021, 18 million households across India use Jayantrao’s ‘Kalnirnay’ calendar, which is available in seven languages - Marathi, English, Gujarati, Hindi Kannada, Tamil and Telugu.
Apart from being the largest publication globally, one more thing that makes periodicity different is that you can simultaneously get any information from this calendar. From homemakers, farmers, students to butcher shops, everyone uses this calendar. In 1996, a Braille version of this calendar was also introduced.
In Nashik, the mother of two, Archana uses this calendar to see auspicious days, festivals, fasting dates, etc., coming every month. This helps them prepare food in advance. She also marks the dates when her milkman and domestic help leave. Her husband, Dileep, marks the relatives’ birth dates in red ink. His daughter likes to read health-related articles, which are published on the reverse side of the calendar.
This Maharashtrian family has been using the calendar for more than 30 years, and even today, they like it more than smartphones. He says that he has not yet found a better option.
Jayantrao’s son and managing director of the company, Jayaraj, told The Better India, “Whether buying a bike, moving to a new home or job, investing money, deciding a newborn’s name or welcoming a bride Yes, most Indian families make important decisions of life according to auspicious dates. My father knew the importance of almanacks but saw that only the Pandits or Brahmin community had a monopoly on understanding Sanskrit texts. In today’s date, mentioning auspicious times and minutes in the calendar may not be a big deal, but nobody was doing it. This is the reason that Kalnirnay (Kaal + Time; Decision = Decision) came into existence. ”
Launching Kalnirnay was a difficult task, but maintaining it for decades was equally challenging, especially when the Internet came into the country. The calendar could have been easily lost, but the Salgaonkar family used technology and innovations to keep it going.
Jayaraj is now accompanied by his daughter, Shakti (third generation), in this work. He told about the history of Kalnirnay, which is more than a calendar. It can make an influential case study in business schools – a man who dared to break ancient monopoly practices and maintain the essence of almanack with modern solutions.
Simplify a 2000-year-old system
Jayantrao, a regional newspaper, worked as a crossword compiler with Loksatta, and before starting the tenure, he was engaged in a lottery business, which was not succeeding. Friendly relations with journalists helped him to spread information about the decision.
According to Jayantrao, it was the first company to appoint a typographer. Also, it was the first company to receive a colour scanner in the state in the 70s. Apart from the material, the founders were also very conscious about the quality of the paper. The papers were kept in the air for a month before going for printing. They designed special machines to prevent paper piercing and to prevent it from bursting. A patent colour is used for the ribbon, by which it was hung on the wall.
He started the work with five people who used to do everything from designing, printing to distribution. The period determination was an amalgam of the Gregorian and Indian calendars. To make it more attractive, he added predictions, literary articles, recipes and more.
Jairo was only 17 years old when Kalnirnaya was initiated. He says, “In Sanskrit, Panchang means ‘Five Angas’ – Tithi, Nakshatra, Rashi, Yoga and Karana. The almanack measures time and marks the interval between the five limbs called Ghatika and Pali. Scholars convert these partitions into hours and minutes. The 2,000-year-old system was simplified to the level of a Class 8 student. However, the page could not be filled with dates only, so my father decided to add recipes and articles. ”
Jayaraj soon became the editor and arranged the writings of famous writers such as Durga Bhagwat and PL Deshpande.
The father-son duo circled several vendors and left samples of calendars. He admitted to not paying the unsold calendars. When the initial sale did not go as planned, Jayantrao approached his journalist friends to write a review. These reviews subsequently boosted sales. Not only this, but they also got advertisers to market their brand.
Says Jayaraj, “We sold 25,000 copies in the second year, 1974, and today we sell over 15 million copies annually. We now have a team of 150 people. Our team conducts in-depth research over months to create a calendar for every edition, such as a mini-encyclopedia. We do not preach any religion nor give unsolicited advice. ”
How time has become a part of every household
Every year, the calendar is released on the first day of Navratri, and they immediately start work for the next year. For months, the team conducts surveys among people to find out what they want in the calendar. They also incorporate the latest trends.
Jayaraj recounted a particular incident when a professor gave him the idea of marking important occasions in colours or symbols. He says, “In the 80s, I went to meet a professor, and I saw him in yellow marking the dates of Shravan (fasting). Now, we present the symbol of the days with a Varkari flag. In another example, a newspaperman inspired the idea of our famous jingle ‘Kalnirnayya Ghya Na’ (Take Kalnirnayeye Naa). Our website was launched in 1996 when Indians living abroad also showed interest in the calendar. In the first month of launch, we received hundreds of responses from NRIs around the world. ”
However, listening to people’s advice and incorporating changes was not always in their favour. He has faced many lawsuits over the years. A person had filed a case against the company because it did not feel right to have the chicken recipe written in a calendar hanging right next to the temple in his home.
The Salgaonkar family has also used the calendar’s credibility to educate people about social taboos and issues. In one of the 1980 editions, milk was written and explained how mother’s milk is best for infants. One year was told about the myths associated with AIDS. Recently, mental health has been mentioned in the calendar.
Shakti joined this business in 2016. She says, “We cover everything that people are interested in, from health, insurance scams, organic farming to nutrition.” When everything started going digital, we soon launched applications and websites. Many people told us that the Internet would replace the calendar, but we were one step ahead. ”
He used social media platforms to his advantage and connected directly with customers, answering questions and getting their feedback. They kept the website simple, and most importantly, they kept the content accurate and simple. The team regularly updates the content on its handle.
Apart from Jayaraj and Shakti in the Salgaonkar family, Jayaraj’s brother Jayendra and his nephew Samarth have also contributed to the company’s growth year after year with new solutions. His annual growth rate of revenue is between 10-12%, and in the last year, he has earned a revenue of Rs 50 crore despite the epidemic.
Shakti says, “COVID-19 is perhaps the toughest time in our company’s history, but we found a way to work from home, and each of our employees gave 100% of their time to release the calendar. We did it. The learning of our last year is already helping us, and we are working on the calendar of 2022 in a better way. We will not disappoint our customers because, for them, time is not a product. It is a feeling. ”
Jayantrao died in 2013. Jayaraj and Shakti have pursued this inherited business with full dedication and are working together in the most difficult times of the epidemic.