suppressing dissent

What happened to the legal action against 'Gas Wars', the book that took on the Ambanis?

The writer of the book, which is still available easily, details the events of the year gone by since legal processes were initiated.

A year ago, lawyers engaged by the two richest siblings in India, sent notices to me, my co-authors and my associates. It was claimed that we had defamed the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, in our book Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis. Over the past 12 months, I have often been asked: “What happened to the case against you?”

My standard reaction: “Case? What case?”

No legal proceedings

Contrary to what some may presume, Khaitan & Co., representing Mukesh Ambani and Reliance Industries Limited, the country's largest private corporate entity, and Mulla & Mulla, Craigie, Blunt & Caroe, representing Anil Ambani and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, have not filed any legal proceedings against me, my co-authors and my associates, in any court of law in India or anywhere else, since the legal notices were served on us in April-May 2014.

A day after the book was launched in New Delhi on April 15, 2014, lawyers for RIL and Mukesh Ambani served the first notice on me, my co-authors Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri, our publishing facilitator Authors UpFront, distributor FEEL Books, our printer, Internet retailers Amazon, Flipkart and Kobo, and even Deepshikha Shankar, who used to work for the Foundation for Media Professionals and who had forwarded an electronic invitation for the launch function to various people.

The notice alleging defamation described the nearly-600 page book as a "pamphlet" and called for a stop on the sale, publication and distribution of the book, suggested that all existing copies be destroyed, that online publicity be stopped, and an unconditional apology tendered by us.

A week later, on April 22, 2014, my co-authors and I received a second legal notice, this time from lawyers representing the younger brother Anil Ambani and the conglomerate he heads, ADAG. This notice asked for the removal of the website promoting the book,, besides an immediate halt to the sale, publication, distribution and circulation of the book.

What the notices said

Both notices, in standard legalese, said that “failing compliance” their clients would be “constrained to adopt such civil and/or criminal proceedings” as “advised”. On April 23, all nine respondents of the first notice from Khaitan & Co. received another round of notices, expressing unhappiness at the proceedings of the launch event.

This notice took umbrage at my quoting the former Governor of West Bengal Gopal Krishna Gandhi at the April 15 launch function. Gandhi had described Reliance as a “parallel state”, exemplifying corporate greed, earlier that same morning at the Indian government' auditorium in the capital, Vigyan Bhavan.

Ironically, Gandhi had made the remarks while delivering the 15th D.P. Kohli Memorial lecture, titled Eclipse at Noon: Shadows over India's Conscience, organised on the occasion of the conclusion of the golden jubilee celebration of the country's premier police agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.

It is understood that a separate legal notice was sent to Gandhi. The April 23 notice had a rather prickly dart thrown at us. We were asked to pay “token damages of INR 100 crore” within ten days. We later learnt that a similar notice had been served on the editor of MoneyLife magazine and website for publishing a review of Gas Wars.

Striking fear

There's a term to denote the impact such legal notices are meant to have not only on those on whom these have been served by on others as well. It's called “chilling effect”. In legal jargon, such notices are called SLAPP or strategic lawsuits against public participation – that is, litigation meant to harass, intimidate and silence critical writers who are expected to give in after they are faced with prospects of incurring high expenditure on legal defence.

As far as my collaborators and I are concerned, our position has not changed. We do not believe there is anything in the book that is defamatory. The book, which had been in the making for more than four years, is based on government reports, various other publications and websites, and interviews with many individuals, including senior officials of the Reliance group.

On May 23, 2014, a month after we responded to the legal notices, a fourth notice was received by us from Khaitan & Co. reiterating the views that had been already made. The following month, RIL brought out a 56-page, glossy booklet titled: India has never been here before: Facts you didn’t know about KG-D6. (KG-D6 refers to the area in the Bay of Bengal off the basin of the Krishna and Godavari Rivers along the south-eastern coast of the country where a company controlled by RIL has been exploring and producing oil and natural gas.) Together with the booklet that contained endorsements of the work RIL was doing by eminent persons, a promotional video was released.

The past year has been a tumultuous one for me. I have been humbled and, at the same time, astonished by the reactions of different – and diverse – sections of people to Gas Wars. Expect new, updated versions of the book in different Indian languages.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a journalist, educator and documentary film-maker with 38 years of experience.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.