India becomes the focal point for the newspaper industry worldwide

There has been a frenzy of activities in the Indian newspaper industry - some eye it with pleasure, some with anxiety, but this spur of fresh developments is continuing. New editions, new titles, all-colour pages, acquisitions and mergers, internal co-operation...these are just a few of the happenings that have transformed the entire scenario. Undoubtedly, the newspaper industry is in its full bloom, posing a win-win situation for everyone...newspaper publishers, readers, advertisers, web offset manufacturers, consumable suppliers, etc. Such is the potential of the Indian newspaper industry that come September and Ifra is set to organize IfraExpo for the first time in India.

Newspapers shape the nation and it holds true for India as well. Even before India got independence, newspapers played a major role in spreading the issue of independence. Today, India has over 300 big newspapers, besides hundreds of medium and small-sized ones. And the number is increasing almost everyday as existing newspapers bring out new editions apart from new players joining the bandwagon. More recently, Metro International, Sweden is in talks with ABP group to launch their daily ‘Metro’ in India. The negotiations are on and very soon the deal would be done. Similarly, UK based Associated Newspapers and India Today Group have entered into a joint venture to launch the ‘Daily Mail’ in India. With such international newspapers foraying into the Indian market, the future of the newspaper industry at large, looks promising. Little doubt then that Ifra is set to hold its popular event IfraExpo for the first time in India (September 4- 6, 2007, Chennai). Till now, IfraExpo was held only in Europe.

There was a time when select group of newspapers were ruling a particular region and they all were self-contained and did not wish to foray into other regions. For example, Hindustan Times was confined to Delhi region, The Hindu in Chennai region, while Tribune was dedicated to Ambala (later Chandigarh), Anandabazar Patrika was confined in West Bengal and Bhaskar in Gujarat and so on.

But lately, the scenario has completely changed, probably marked with Times group spreading its wings across other territories; for example, the Times of India added a number of new editions and the recent one being their Nagpur edition. The Indian Express group launched its Marathi daily ‘Loksatta’ in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd launched the Chennai edition of Deccan Chronicle and they are now planning to bring out a Bangalore edition as well. HT Media Ltd launched a new edition in Kolkata and lately in Mumbai. They also relaunched HT Next, targeted at students of age group 12 to 16 years with its new campaign ‘I am next’.

Regional newspapers like Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Rajasthan Patrika, Amar Ujala, etc have also started spreading their hold over B class cities by bringing out regionspecific editions. Close on the heels of launching its Amritsar and Jalandhar editions, the Bhaskar group launched an edition in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh and more recently Gorakhpur, UP. After launching its Rajkot edition, Divya Bhaskar launched its Jamnagar edition, making it Jamnagar’s first ever Gujarati morninger. They also launched an edition in Anand. Amar Ujala launched its Gorakhpur edition, which was followed by an edition in Aligarh. Nai Dunia, the Hindi daily, launched its Bilaspur edition, which will soon be followed by Jabalpur and Bhopal editions. Rajasthan Patrika launched a Hindi paper ‘Daily News’ in Jaipur. Sahara Group launched its Urdu daily, Roznama Rashtriya Sahara in Bangalore, which will be followed by the launch of its Srinagar edition, besides specific editions for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The Sahara group also launched the Kanpur and Dehradoon editions of their popular Hindi daily Rashtriya Sahara. More recently, the Hindi daily, Punjab Kesari forayed into Hisar. Jagran Prakashan Limited launched I-next, the first bilingual newspaper in the country, targeting readers in the age group of 18-35 years. The paper was launched in Lucknow and Kanpur and the company has plans to launch the brand in 5 more mini metros of North India. More recently, The Tribune launched its Himachal Pradesh edition; it is notable that it is their fourth edition after Chandigarh, Delhi and Jalandhar.

Business newspapers have also branched into new editions in newer territories. Financial Express, the business daily, launched its Pune edition while Business Standard launched its Bhubaneshwar edition. Another business newspaper (20 pages colour and 4 pages black-andwhite) launched was ‘Mint’ from the Hindustan Times group in Delhi and Mumbai. After these two cities, HT Media plans to launch Mint in Kolkata and Chandigarh, giving competition to Economic Times from Times of India group. DNA Money launched its Ahmedabad edition for the Gujarati businessmen and also a stand-alone Mumbai edition, even though it continues to be available as a supplement along with the main paper ‘DNA’ in Mumbai. DNA Money is planning to bring out its Jaipur edition as well. The Times Group has launched a Gujarati language edition of The Economic Times.

Another popular way seen to enter into other territories quickly has been by acquisitions, like Times of India group acquired Bangalore-based publishing house, Vijayanand Printers to tap the southern market. The Vijay Times group was comparatively a newcomer to the industry, with its promoters coming from the transport business, but with good political background. Soon, Times of India group launched its Kannada daily ‘The Times of India Kannada’ in Bangalore.

It’s really surprising that how fierce competitors join hands to form new strategies - first it was in collective marketing campaigns and now a joint newspaper as well. As a new marketing alliance, Business Standard has tied up with Desh Pardes Ni AajKaal, a Gujarati evening newspaper, for advertising combination. This step has been taken to grow the circulation of Business Standard in Saurashtra and Kutch regions.

Hindustan Times and Times of India jointly launched a newspaper ‘Metro Now,’ a morning tabloid targeted at the age group of 18-30 years. Metro Now is published by Metropolitan Media; a 50:50 joint venture between HT Media and The Times of India group. Even though the tabloids have not been very successful in the past, specially in Delhi, but this market is now set to experience world-class changes as three major tabloids are lined up for Delhi region alone - first it was Metro Now and recently Mid Day group has relaunched its afternoon tabloid ‘Mid Day Delhi’ on the same content lines as ‘Mid Day Mumbai.’ Both the newspapers are targeted at the young readers who are regularly on the move. Besides, the Times of India group is set to launch Bangalore Mirror, another tabloid for the IT city Bangalore. In terms of adopting new technologies, the newspapers have realized that customer is the king and amidst so many choices, readers would go for newspapers that are more reader-specific, content-rich and give value for money. The blackand- white technology is becoming passé whether it is a mobile phone or a newspaper. Today, readers prefer all-colour editions and more and more newspapers have come out with all-colour editions. This has necessitated the newspaper publishers to opt for CtP technology, which by default has improved the print quality and reduced the waste percentage. Besides, the newspapers are also going in for makeover of their publications, in terms of layout, font and sometimes even masthead. For this, they are spending substantial money and are even taking help of international designers. The cut-off size 546 mm is preferred over 578 mm, which has resulted in savings in newsprint cost. The price of the newspapers also dwindled and some newspapers even went to the extent of offering their newspaper at Re 1 only. The newly launched Metro Now newspaper is also offered for a cover price of Re 1 only and provides 40 pages in colour and 8 in black-and-white.

All these trends have facilitated a lot of business potential to press manufacturers and consumable suppliers like that of ink, plates and newsprint. The web press manufacturers in India have been keeping themselves busy round-theclock. Infact, a few of these manufacturers gained presence in international markets as well. The largest Indian web press manufacturer Manugraph went a step further by acquiring US-based Dauphin Graphic Machines (DGM), which is a leading manufacturer of single-width web offset presses in the 4-page segment.

Top newspapers in India are now opting for high-speed web presses like that of Goss, MAN Roland, Mitsubishi and mailroom systems from Ferag and Muller Martini. However, the majority of newspapers are continuing their production on indigenously produced equipment. With this impressive growth in the industry, it is high time that the highend manufacturers from developed countries may enter into India either in collaboration with local manufacturers or independently to tap the growing demand. Infact, a little bird has informed that a leading foreign manufacturer is in talks with a local web press manufacturer to jointly set up a new manufacturing facility in India. It would indeed be a major step in this industry and the effect would be for all of us to see. Quality has become an important factor in the industry and Indian newspapers are continuously investing in quality control equipments. The demand for automatic registration control systems has increased to the extent that leading manufacturer QI Press Controls is planning to come up with manufacturing activities in India.

– Varsha Verma

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