|Mumbai bound: Shobhana Bhartia
(L), VC of Hindustan Times and N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief
of The Hindu BL
the Rs 775-crore Mumbai newspaper market is abuzz with new launches.
The Rs 93-crore Mid-Day Multimedia recently launched a morning newspaper
The Morning Quick. The Chennai-based Hindu group also launched the
Mumbai edition of its 10-year-old business daily, The Hindu Business
Line (BL), late last month. Plus, there is talk of the Times Group
launching a second general newspaper in Mumbai apart from The Times
of India (TOI), reportedly to be called Bombay Mirror. The Bhopal-based
Rs 447-crore Dainik Bhaskar Group has already evinced interest in
launching its Gujarati daily, Divya Bhaskar, in Mumbai. And then
there is the impending (and long awaited) entry of Hindustan Times
(ht) in Mumbai, some time early next year.
So what's really happening? Why has the country's
financial capital suddenly become a hot destination for the print
media? One reason could be that for as long as one can remember,
Mumbai has dominated the country's advertising market. Of the Rs
4,998-crore national print ads market, Mumbai accounts for a sizeable
16 per cent. "The mistake that everyone is making is reading
too much into these launches and looking at them as signs of opportunity
in either the readership or the advertising market in Mumbai,"
says Tariq Ansari, Managing Director of Mid-Day Multimedia, about
the rush to enter Mumbai. "What really counts is not the opportunity,
but the strategic need (of their businesses) to be here."
A tabloid, The Morning Quick is priced at
Re 1 and has 24 pages, with snappy sections on world news,
business, and sports et al
Ansari may well have hit the nail on the head.
"We're not looking to achieve anything spectacular (in terms
of circulation) in Mumbai. As a business paper that has achieved
critical numbers (around 50,000) in circulation, we need to be in
Mumbai as it is India's business capital," says a candid N.
Murali, Joint Managing Director, Kasturi & Sons, the publisher
of The Hindu Group. "And reporting from Mumbai will give us
not just good visibility, but additional revenues in southern markets
where we are already strong."
ET continue to be leaders among the general and business
dailies in Mumbai
VC/Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.
So the now 13 edition-strong BL (with a combined
readership of 130,000, according to the National Readership Survey,
2003) is not looking to challenge the predominance of the Times
Group's The Economic Times (with a readership of 213,000 in Mumbai;
NRS, 2003), but rather hoping to carve a niche for itself by taking
away marketshare from other financial dailies such as Business Standard
(with a Mumbai following of 20,000) and The Financial Express (a
readership of 22,000 in Mumbai). The Dainik Bhaskar Group, with
its focus on cornering the Gujarat market and the Gujarati diaspora
through its international New York-edition of Divya Bhaskar, is
not immune to the lure of Mumbai, with its large Gujarati population.
So does that mean there is no room for any
new entrant to challenge the status quo in Mumbai's newspaper market?
"A good alternative (something ht is expected to provide) will
be acceptable to Mumbaikars," insists a senior ht manager.
And most media buyers will tell you (well, strictly off the record)
that any fragmentation in the Mumbai print market will be a welcome
development as it would give advertisers what they have always sought-a
Even Mid-Day's Ansari, who rationalises most
of the recent newspaper launches as strategic needs to protect existing
brands and markets, sings a different tune altogether when it comes
to his company's Quick. "Our research showed a readership gap
in the market among women and language crossovers. And we saw an
opportunity for a simple and straightforward newspaper here."
Quick is a morning newspaper in tabloid form. Priced at Re 1, it
has 24 pages, with snappy sections like Quick Biz, Quick World,
and Quick Sport.
hopes to tap women and language readers with the launch of its
The Morning Quick
That's not all. The group is offering free bundled
advertising in Quick to its existing Mid-Day advertisers. "I
am not saying what we'll do in the future. For the moment, we're
giving more bang for the (Mid-Day) advertisers' buck," adds
Ansari. And even as ht looks at dipping into its huge war chest
it has built up by selling a 20 per cent stake in Hindustan Times
Media to Henderson Global Investors last year (for Rs 120 crore
by some estimates) for taking on the TOI's might, its Mumbai launch
is essentially a strategy to deflect the latter's onslaught on its
flagship Delhi edition (ht has already lost the leadership mantle
to TOI if NRS, 2003 is anything to go by) and hit the competition
where it hurts most (See Mumbai Newspaper Market: High Stakes).
"They have been using the profits from their Mumbai edition
to fight us in Delhi. Now we'll bleed them in Mumbai by bringing
down both advertising rates and the cover price," warns the
senior ht manager.
Says Sandip Tarkas, Chief Executive Officer,
Media Direction, RK Swamy BBDO's media agency, "It is in this
context (the need to take on ht's Mumbai gambit) that TOI's new
newspaper needs to be looked at." Even Quick is purely tactical
in that sense, for at a strong No. 2 in the general newspaper market
in Mumbai (with a readership of 776,000; NRS, 2003) the need for
it to flank its flagship brand Mid-Day is critical, given ht's impending
entry as well as the threat it faces by default from TOI's Bombay
Mirror. According to industry sources, the Bombay Mirror is looking
to be both a flank to protect TOI from ht as also a tabloid-condensed
version of TOI to take on Mid-Day, while offering an alternative
to afternoon commuters in Mumbai. This, even as Ansari puts on a
brave face: "Not everything I do is geared towards TOI. They
don't define my life." The Times Group turned down BT's request
for comments on Bombay Mirror, saying it was speculative and an
internal corporate issue.
| For Business Line, Mumbai
was the next logical stop given its status of being India's
Joint MD/Kasturi & Sons
Does this mean that most strong newspapers across
the country, such as The Hindu and The Telegraph, will also start
looking at a Mumbai foray sooner or later? "With the taps of
foreign funding open now, this is the time a lot of people can get
into the Mumbai market," says Sandeep Viz, Managing Director,
Optimum Media Solution.
So even though TOI doesn't pose any challenge
in the Kolkata market to The Telegraph at the moment, and doesn't
have an edition in Chennai, no one has forgotten how TOI took on
ht in Delhi and displaced it as the market leader. For a lot of
media watchers will tell you how, for much of the early 1990s, the
thought with the country's numero uno print group, The Times, was
to 'consolidate Mumbai and confuse Delhi'.
Clarifies The Hindu's Murali, "We're not
even thinking of The Hindu going there (Mumbai)." But in business,
as in life, it's best to never say never.