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“Punjab Kesari group surging ahead with ideologically and technologically sophisticated vision”

“Newspapers’ importance is incalculable and they have adequate shelf life, no means for dissemination of information can provide alternative; that’s why the newspapers are becoming of greater relevance even in the era of electronic media. So, we should not take electronic media and magazines as the threat to newspapers, but should deem them as complementary to newspapers, owing to their contribution in bringing up the curiosity in populace to know whatever is happening in their region, nation and world over as well,” opined the triad of Punjab Kesari group (PKG), including Vijay Kumar Chopra and his enterprising sons Avinash as well as Amit, in conversation with S K Khurana and S M Dutt, editors at All About Newspapers, recently.

The Punjab Kesari group (PKG) - originated from the fertile soil of Jalandhar, the former capital of Punjab (1947-1953), legendarily that of the kingdom of Lav (son of Lord Rama) and literarily means ‘area inside the water’ that is tract laying between the two rivers Satluj and Beas, located at a distance of 350 kms from New Delhi on Delhi-Amritsar highway – is constantly illuminating the huge Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi speaking belt of northern India with knowledge and awareness through their three bright moons, including Punjab Kesari, Hind Samachar and Jag Bani. The group initiated their perpetual operation in 1948 with the launch of the Urdu daily Hind Samachar, and later added Hindi daily Punjab Kesari in 1965 and Punjabi daily Jag Bani in 1978 to their spinning compass. Now, the three dailies are well established with a combined circulation of around 9.75 lakh copies on weekdays and 10.5 lakh copies on Sundays.

Founded by Lala Jagat Narain and nourished by his elder son Romesh Chander (both were assassinated in 1981 and 1984 respectively), the plant of PKG has become a mature banyan tree. Succeeding these two icons, the leadership triad - Vijay, Avinash and Amit – now altogether engage in bringing the group to a prominent platform in India’s newspaper publishing industry. While Padma Shri Vijay Kumar Chopra (76) contributes the group with his sublime ideas through authoring a regular editorial for the three newspapers besides supervising the entire group performance, being editor-in-chief & chairman-cummanaging director; his elder son Avinash Chopra (46) has been shouldering the responsibilities of administration, distribution, and editorial department since 1983 and Amit Chopra (45) is responsible for finance, moderanisation, expansion/ new projects as well as advertising promotion, apart from editorial for supplements since 1984.

Established precedent! Do you remember,
when in 1974, the government cut off power
to the PKG’s press, instead of cowering,
they rigged up a tractor to power the web
offset rotary press and issues rolled off
like this for ten days continuously.
“However, the profuse cut-throat competition is pervading all over newspaper publishing industry and every one involves in the race to grow at any cost. Households are getting direct benefits of this situation, receiving newspaper for only Rs 180-199 per year. So, they have started to get more than one newspaper. Inspite of this sort of scenario, PKG is constantly improving their strength, without coming under influence of the competitors. We have no adverse impact of the competition yet. To name, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, The Hindustan Times, The Tribune, Amar Ujjala, and Ajit Samachar are our competitors in the covering region,” they stated. “Continuing the progress, PKG had advanced with a growth rate of fifteen percent in the last three years. Last year, both ad revenues and volumes went up; albeit this year, they remain static. Advertisers are receiving better response from our publications. Owing to wide gamut of our quality writers, we share content with many newspapers. The Saturday issues of our newspapers are too good and ply that readership to which even magazine can’t cater,” they said further.

“Presently, Hind Samachar is being printed from Jalandhar, Ambala and Jammu, with a circulation of about thirty thousand copies. While Punjab Kesari, a flagship publication is being printed from Jalandhar (since 1965), Ambala (1991), Palampur (2004), Ludhiana (2004), Panipat (2006), Hisar (2006), Jammu (2007), and Mohali (2008); and planned to be printed from Chandigarh and Shimla in 2009. This is the largest circulated newspaper of the group, with a circulation of 6.4 lakh copies. Our third newspaper, Jag Bani, being printed from Jalandhar and Ludhiana, with circulation of 3.1 lakh copies, is also getting popularity enough. So, we have planned for its Chandigarh edition from 2009,” the triad divulged.

At their all printing facilities, PKG has set up Cityline web presses from Manugraph India Ltd or Roland presses from K K Printing Machines Mfg Co Pvt Ltd (Faridabad). Cityline Express presses have been installed in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Mohali; while Roland presses are operational in Ambala, Palampur, Panipat, Hisar, and Jammu. All pull outs are printed on heatset web presses, including Mitsubishi BT 280, Manroland’s Cromoman, Manugraph’s Manuline–16, Komori S35 at their Jalandhar facility and sent to other locations.

“PKG was the second customer in India for the popular Coroset offset press in 1984. As many as 2,20,000 copies of Punjab Kesari were printed on its first Coroset press in a single Saturday night! And when in late 2005, plans were being finalised to go all colour, once again the first preference was Manugraph who met with the group’s requirements and six Cityline Express presses capable of printing 24 pages in full colour were ordered. The first press was installed in a record time of 35 days and in September 2006, Punjab Kesari came up as the first full colour Hindi daily. In January 2007, Jag Bani, the largest Punjabi newspaper became the first and till now the only Punjabi newspaper to go all colour. These presses have helped Punjab Kesari and Jag Bani not only in going all colour but also in achieving highest standard of quality for the discerning readership catered to. Having gone all colour has boosted the colour advertisement revenues of the group since the advertisers have greater flexibility of colour placement and with superior production quality and an overall more appealing product. On the other hand, the circulation of the newspapers has also been positively impacted by the quality upgradation,” Amit illustrated. In the post press segment, they have IDAB WAMAC International’s stacker, set up in 1990, besides mailroom equipments from Technoweb and Grammler. “In prepress segment, majorly we are still using CtF systems, as they look beneficial to us. The increasing trend towards CtP systems in the industry has contracted the demand for CtF, resultantly prices of films coming down. Taking the advantage of this pervading scenario, we had bought two CtF systems in the recent past. However, we are also utilizing CtP systems and recently we have installed two thermal platesetters from Screen in our Jalandhar facility and have brought ourselves to a level of CtP ready at all locations, whenever we wish to switch over,” informed Amit.

On asking the reasons for opting most of the web machines from domestic manufacturers, Amit replied, “Being not a very large print run in each district, high speed machines are hardly required. And indigenously produced machines are rather user-friendly. Their handling is not complicated, be it changing over to next folder or speed up-gradation.” Revealing their future plans, Amit pointed out, “We are to cover more territories of India with our vernacular newspapers, and add more titles to the group. We are setting up two more printing facilities in the next one-year, besides planning to bring up an ‘afternoon newspaper’ and SMS portal. In Jalandhar, we have already set up a new facility in Suranussi, where Cityline Express with 4 towers + 2 towers to be added soon, Manuline 4-page, Mitsubishi heatset 4-page, and Komori heatset presses are functioning.”

Presenting the chronicle of their initiatives, Amit mentioned with pride the various firsts in their operations, including monocaster (automatic composing) in 1966, web press (1971), photo composing (1980), colour scanner (1989), mailroom (1990), faximile (1991), heatset press (1996), balloon former (2003), and full colour hybrid heatset/coldest press (2006). “And with our committed staff, comprising over 1,500 individuals, mostly nurtured through in-house training programmes, we are set to add some another firsts in the years to come,” he added.

“As our existing chronicle reveals, we are constantly surging ahead with ideologically and technologically sophisticated vision. Our business strategy, adhered to our approach, keeps us ever in profitable position, providing a good share of advertising and placing us amongst the leaders in the newspaper publishing industry” Amit concluded.

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