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English Press Is Loosing The Premium Status

Director of Lokmat Group Bharat Kapadia explains how regional papers are challenging English press and reveals Lokmat’s plans ahead.

English Press Is Loosing The Premium Status

Bharat Kapadia Director, Lokmat Group

Bharat Kapadia commonly known as Bharat Bhai in the industry had joined the Lokmat Group as a Director on the board in December 2008. At the Lokmat group he has been involved with the overall functioning and growth of the group. An entrepreneur turned professional, Kapadia co-owned and ran Chitralekha Group till few years back as an Editor and Associate Publisher. Prior to this, Kapadia was heading the Jagran Network18 print JV Jagran18 as its CEO and Managing Editor. The plans for the business daily were later shelved. Before that, Kapadia was with Divya Bhaskar as Executive Director for the group.

In conversation with Puneet Bedi Bahri of BestMediaInfo.com, Kapadia speaks at length about Lokmat's plans ahead, current state of media research and the future of the newspaper industry.

Q) To begin with I want to congratulate you on attaining the number one position in regional dailies in the first round of Q1 IRS 2010. What has your strategy been in attaining this position? Thanks. Actually, we have retained this position attained in last round. We have constantly fine tuned our content, distribution and invested in resources.

Q) You have been associated with several media research initiatives including MRUC. What do you make of the current state of media research? In a vast country like ours with so much diversity, it is a challenge to conduct media research.

IRS has a very huge sample size but we find some problems to successfully reach to SEC A and above due to many practical problems. We are addressing these issues by taking help of modern technology conducting CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interview) and are constantly taking inputs from the experts & users.

Q) Newsprint prices, which had dipped slightly, last year, have started going up again and hovering around $600 per tonne. What is your view on it and do you think that will be an alarming situation for the industry in the near future? Newsprint is a very large component of our cost & the price rise affects us badly. However, strong Rupee has partially helped and we have to keep taking tactical steps from time to time with change in page count, cover price etc.

Q) You joined Lokmat Group as a Director on the board in December 2008. Share with us how has the journey been so far? What were some of the major initiatives you took while being a part of the esteemed group? Lokmat is a leader in Marathi Newspaper segment and is a progressive company with lot of ideas. We are looking for newer opportunities & avenues for further growth. With media & Entertainment industry showing a steady & healthy progress, we are excited with the potential. I am happy to be here at the right time.

Q) How has the association with IBN been? Has it helped you in increasing your base? We have a 50:50 JV with them for the 24 hours Marathi News channel IBN Lokmat which emerges as No.1 in the segment in a very short time. There is a huge potential and we are happy with the progress so far. It certainly has its own advantage and expanding our base is one of them.

Q) How do you perceive the prevailing scenario in the newspaper industry? What are your views on the regional newspaper industry? India is the only market currently in the world showing a healthy growth in the Newspaper industry and regional paper are the key drivers. English press is loosing the premium status and regional papers are increasing their share of the ad pie. Also, literacy is rising which results into higher readership potential first for the regional papers.

Q) Do you see e-editions of newspapers as a threat or an opportunity? Currently, with internet penetration being low, it is an opportunity. English speaking population is just about 4 per sent in our Country so the threat seen in western countries is still far away in India.

Q) Where do you see the Indian language newspaper industry five years down the line? Language newspapers will continue to grow for at least a decade as things are today. We are the lowest priced industry in the world but it has also helped the market to expand. Many who can read but were not reading any newspaper are attracted by the aggressive pricing & marketing by the regional papers increasing the base.

Q) What is your USP and content strategy for Lokmat? Any newspaper is driven by its content. Marketing can provide a push but the pull will only come from the content. With technology providing instant access to news both for the publishers as well as to the audience, key is the dissemination. Lokmat provides it well with a special emphasis on local news of all districts considering the migrated population from one region to other.

Q) How do you define your target readers? Each market & region has its own needs. For example, when we launched our Goa edition, we had to cater to the specific tastes & sensitivities of the readers. They don't like themselves to be clubbed with Maharashtra. So, we changed our tag line from 'Maharatshtra's No.1 Newspaper' to 'India's No.1 Marathi Newspaper'. We launched out Goa edition in the midst of the slowdown yet emerged as clear leaders. We have now an ABC certificate of 45,812.

Q) What are your future plans for Lokmat? What are the other states that you are looking at for expansion, and when? We are looking forward to expand our footprint and be more significant player in the Media & Entertainment industry. We have tied up with popular Ramesh Deo Productions for feature films in Marathi which will be co-produced by us. Many more exciting things happening at Lokmat... Watch out this space!


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