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Commentary: Times Group all set to enter Kolkata market with Eyi Shomoy

For the Jains of BCCL, it may well turn out to be final attempt to capture a market that was once their home. Veteran journalist Suman Chattopadhyay has been roped in as Editor. And ABP announces launch of Bengali tabloid Eyi Bela

Kalyan Kar
August 22, 2012 The Times Group is all set to launch its Bengali newspaper in Kolkata, Eyi Shomoy, by the end of next month. It has appointed veteran print and television journalist Suman Chattopadhyay as Editor. Chattopadhyay in his last assignment was editing his own newspaper ‘Ek Din’.

Chattopadhyay had moved from Ananda Bazar Patrika as its Executive Editor to enter the television news domain around the mid-90s as Chief Producer of Star Ananda. From there he moved to Kolkata TV as its Chief Editor. He has also worked with Tara News before launching his own daily Ek Din.

With the title and editor in place for TOI’s Bengali daily, a major war is imminent in the Bengali newspaper market in the run-up to this year’s Durga Puja festival. The launch of Eyi Shomoy (which translated means ‘Times Now’) would mark Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd’s (BCCL) full-fledged assault on the ABP Group’s dominance of the Kolkata market.

While BCCL’s English daily, The Times of India, which was launched in 2000, is already a strong competitor to ABP Group’s The Telegraph, Eyi Shomoy is all set to become a challenger over time to the Bengali newspaper market leader Ananda Bazar Patrika. According to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) published data for the period July-December 2011, in the English language daily market, The Telegraph is still the clear leader with a circulation of 371,353 copies in Kolkata city and suburbs, against The Times of India’s 265,155 copies.

However, Kolkata is seen as Ananda Bazar Patrika’s bastion. The Bengali daily is very much a part of the DNA and culture of the Bengali public. BCCL may have made huge inroads with its flagship English daily, but the Bengali newspaper market may well prove to be a difficult one to crack. In many ways, it could be a battle of attrition between ABP’s local cultural strength versus BCCL’s marketing strength.

Price war: BCCL had, on August 11, let it be known through The Times of India that Eyi Shomoy would be a broadsheet with an initial offer price of Rs 175 for the first six months, which roughly works out to less than Re 1 a copy.

Not to be left behind, ABP, in a flanking move, announced the very next day that it would launch a tabloid priced even more aggressively at Rs 150 for the first six months. The tabloid would be called Eyi Bela (in translation, ‘This Moment’).

ABP had an average issue readership (AIR) of 59.70 lakh in the first round of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) in 2012. Bartaman, Sangbad Pratidin, Ganashakti, Aajkal, Uttar Banga Sambad and Sambad are among the other Bengali dailies published from West Bengal.

The Times Group already publishes a general interest magazine Aamar Shomoy and a women's monthly magazine Ami Udita in Bengali.

BCCL has always eyed the Bengali newspaper market. It is well known that some years ago, it made an attempt to enter the market by buying out Bartaman. But the founder of Bartaman, the late Barun Sengupta, himself an iconic, ex-ABP journalist, refused to sell out. And when he fell unwell, he had even toyed with the idea of selling Bartaman to ABP. But that never happened as Sengupta’s family members wanted to retain the paper’s independent identity. Thus, ABP missed a golden opportunity to consolidate its stranglehold on the market by way of an acquisition that never fructified.

Given the history of The Times Group’s fierce battles in the Delhi market with the Hindustan Times and its enviable marketing and financial muscle, it promises to be an interesting, no-holds-barred war. BCCL has proved over the years that in a price war situation they are masters at bleeding the opposition’s balance sheet. And that is where ABP has reasons to fear an all-out skirmish with BCCL. Eastern India’s No. 1 media group would be hard put to face up to a full-scale onslaught backed by a significantly large war chest that BCCL is capable of putting to use.

History & emotive factor: There is an emotive reason too. For the Jains of BCCL, Kolkata is where they began their business journey many decades ago. They may have shifted their family base to New Delhi, but they still have a strong emotive bond with Kolkata. Samir Jain himself is an alumnus of St Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

People may forget over time but history does not. In the first part of the 50s of the last century – perhaps 1951 – the Jains did make an attempt to establish The Times of India in then Calcutta. The paper was rolled out for a few months from its press and office in the Entally area. The paper had an Englishman as its News Editor. The otherwise competent British gentleman made an error of judgement about the display of a news item on the death of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. He played it down grossly. Calcutta’s readers of The Times of India saw it as a conspiracy against a famous son of Bengal; the city erupted, and the Entally establishment was set on fire by angry mobs. It was curtains for The Times of India’s Calcutta dream – for then.

Some quarter of a century later, BCCL made a re-entry in Calcutta by launching The Economic Times. Around the turn of the century the group also launched its flagship The Times of India in Kolkata. Calcutta has since become Kolkata, and for The Times, it is time once again, now. Enter Eyi Shomoy. And welcome Eyi Bela.

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Comments (3)
  • Dhruba Mukh- 9 years ago

    This is in context of your Commentary. Based on ABC latest data, not only is The Telegraph (TT) ahead of TOI by about 1.06 lakh copies, you may find it interesting to note that as per the readership figures published by IRS in their latest round (Q1-2012), the position of TT and TOI in the Kolkata market are as follows: TT: 943,000 readers; TOI: 556,000 readers. So, in readership too, TT is ahead by 387,000 readers which indicates the “unputdownable” dominance it commands in the city of Kolkata.

  • Sujit Dongr- 9 years ago

    A wonderful Commentary on Times Group’s entry into the Kolkata market with Eyi Shomoy. Found the article extremely informative!

  • Sourav Agar- 9 years ago

    We r going to witness a war between BCCL and ABP group that is a slice of real life. If BCCL wants to grap a pie of the Bengali news market in Bengal, it has to appeal to the emotions of the natives of Bengal..