Interview with Romail Gulzar, MD of Pukaar News

Read an exclusive interview with the managing director of Pukaar News, a Leicester-based Asian news agency.


11th September 2016    22:08

Romail Gulzar of Managing Editor of Pukaar News

Romail Gulzar of Managing Editor of Pukaar News

The ‘Pukaar’ brand has become synonymous with Romail Gulzar, how has the journey been for you since you launched as a news agency in 2005?
It’s been a long road for me, professionally and personally. But it’s fantastic to be where we are now. If you want to succeed in the media you have to put your heart and soul into it. One thing that I’m really passionate about is giving opportunities to young people. The position I’m in now enables me to do that, taking on work experience students, talented freelancers that are trying to make their way in the industry, just to give them a chance is a wonderful thing. I see Pukaar as being the whole team and everyone that passes through our doors. It’s a group achievement.

As Leicester’s only Asian news agency, how have you been able to maintain your stance in an otherwise competitive industry?
I wouldn’t necessarily describe us as an Asian news agency. We do cover a lot of stories relating to Asian communities but I think this comes with the territory when you’re based in such a culturally diverse city. Our ethos really surrounds celebrating this diversity and I think that’s what gives us a competitive edge. We look for the stories that really matter to the people we serve, whatever their ethnicity. I think this sense of inclusion draws communities together.

What have been your biggest challenges since you launched in 2005?
For me personally, my language skills have been a challenge. When I first came to the UK in 2000, I spoke no English at all. I’ve put a lot of hard work into learning the language but I still struggle sometimes. That’s why I feel so privileged to have a great team that help me.

In 2011, you extended the Pukaar brand by launching a quarterly magazine, tell us about this?
I saw Pukaar Magazine as an opportunity to extend our coverage of Leicestershire and the talent that it has. The news site is just that, up to date current affairs. The magazine allows us to delve deeper into the people of the city and to celebrate its successes. Celebrating the diversity of Leicester is our tagline and I think we do that really well. Whilst we adopt this approach with the news we cover on the website, it’s not always possible, you can’t control the things that happen. The magazine gives us much more scope to create a well-rounded representation on Leicester. It’s also an opportunity to further showcase the talent of our writing team. It’s not a magazine full of adverts. It’s quality journalism.

With the decline in print and uptake of digital outlets, what’s your take on the print scenario?
There’s no denying that the future of the media is digital. But I think there will always be a space for print, at least I hope so. Digital is great, it allows us, as consumers, to gather more information at a faster pace and, as journalists, it allows us to interact with our audience in a way print doesn’t. But we tend to go a high speed when we use digital media. We scan articles, we don’t read them thoroughly. Print slows us down. It encourages us to sit and really ‘read’. I think that’s healthy and I hope it continues.

You’ve personally achieved a fair amount of accolades for your work in the community, what has been the biggest for you to date?
Every award is an honour. It means a lot to have your work recognised. In terms of our work for the Leicester community, The High Sheriff of Leicestershire award was a great achievement for me. One of the most significant points of my career though has not been from an award, but the opportunities I’ve had to interview fantastic people. I am particularly honoured to have had the pleasure of interviewing Sir David Attenborough on a number of occasions. That is something I will never forget.

You’ve done a lot to help push Leicester news on national platforms, do you envisage growing the Pukaar brand to outside Leicester?
Whilst we’re mainly known for our work in Leicester itself, we do operate on quite an international scale. We’ve followed stories in places like Sri Lanka and Uganda, we operate Pukaar News Asia, we do a lot beyond our Leicester platform. As for expanding nationally, we have some ideas that we may bring to life in the future. We’ll see!

You’ve done some incredible work with Crimestoppers too, how did this come about?
A friend of mine introduced me to Crimestoppers. I went along to an event and became really interested in the whole concept. As a journalist, I have a natural interest in anything that happens in my local community, so Crimestoppers seemed like a good organisation to be involved in. It just grew from there really. I gradually became more involved as a volunteer and eventually had the honour of becoming the Chair for Leicestershire and Rutland, and then Nottingham. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done as an organisation.

What’s your take on the current state of Asian media such as print, online and radio?
I think it’s in a healthy state. It’s good to see new platforms appearing that focus on Asian communities. I think Asian media is best served by online and digital platforms. This allows interaction from a much broader area. Whilst it would be nice to see a dedicated print publication for the Asian communities in Leicester, I think it would be hard, we have such a diverse society.

You had a brief stint on radio a few years ago, is this not a path you’d like to pursue?
I’m always open to pursuing any avenue, but for the time being I think my strengths lie in video broadcasting and online news. Maybe in the future.

How do you envisage the Pukaar brand in five years from now?
Like I say, we have some ideas in the pipeline that may be put into practice in the future. Like with any media organisation, we’ll look to expand and grow, to change in line with new technologies and techniques. I think it’s hard to say where I’d like to be in five years because we don’t really know what the future holds for the media and how it will develop. As for the brand though, I’d like to stick to our roots and continue reporting on what really matters to the communities we serve, wherever they may be in the future.

What more can we see from Romail Gulzar in months to come?
That really depends on what opportunities come my way! I’m always open to working in new areas and with new people. But I’ll continue my work with Crimestoppers, I’m very dedicated to that. We have our annual Leicester’s Got Talent show coming up in November, that’s a project I really enjoy working on. Sometimes the news can take such a serious turn, it’s nice to have a bit of fun now and again.

How can the industry access Pukaar News and get in touch for stories?
We have two websites for our news and magazine outlets; www.pukaarnews.com and www.pukaarmagazine.com If you have a story that you think we may be interested in, feel free to contact our team at team@pukaarnews.com

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