Dialogue Narendra Kumar Alambara
Narendra Kumar Alambara
COO, Thanthi Group
16 Mar 2012
'I am excited about my role. I feel privileged and honoured to be part of an iconic media legacy that is expanding into new verticals. My role will evolve into more defined functions over the next few weeks.'
Narendra Kumar Alambara, the new COO of the Chennai-based Thanthi Group, is an industry veteran of 18 years who has worked with agencies such as Lintas Initiative Media and Euro RSCG/MPG.

Immediately before joining the Thanthi Group, Alambara spent seven years with the Starcom MediaVest Group, where his responsibilities included managing the Chennai unit with a focus on new business, key clients and revenue growth from traditional and new media opportunities.

With his goals set clear for his current role in the Thanthi Group, his aim is to facilitate growth across the already established verticals of the group, and to help advertisers use the platforms seamlessly to build their brands.

Here are excerpts from Srabana Lahiri’s conversations with him:

Q. You have had a very successful experience at SMG Chennai. What are the learnings that you bring to the Thanthi Group?

Starcom Mediavest Group is the most fertile ground for initiating and implementing Integrated Marketing Communication practices for clients. Over the years, my role at SMG went beyond traditional planning mandates, and I got the opportunity to drive consumer engagement initiatives including rural and small town marketing, sports and entertainment marketing, digital (including mobile marketing), retail branding /marketing and activations for my clients in Chennai and other markets. Today, the Thanthi Group’s offerings go far beyond the ubiquitous newspaper with presence in key platforms including print (magazines), radio, digital and television. These collectively represent significant consumer bases for brands to harness and engage with. My role would be to enable advertisers to use these platforms seamlessly and build their brands taking advantage of the group’s unparalleled reach and interactive options. But fundamentally, if we look at the planning process at a macro level, it revolves around the relationship between consumer, brand and media. Whether it is an agency or a media house, these three aspects will remain a constant, only perspectives will change depending where you are based.

Q. According to the latest IRS Q4 figures, Daily Thanthi is No.3 among top 10 language dailies and No. 8 among top 10 print publications overall, the best by a Tamil newspaper and way ahead of your closest competitor Dinakaran. What is the differentiator for the brand?

Legacy is the most critical differentiator. For millions of folks in Tamil Nadu, Daily Thanthi is the preferred choice. When it comes to availability, choice of supplements and sections, etc., Daily Thanthi is ahead of its competitors – old and new. The cornerstones for any newspaper from the readers’ perspective are credibility, trustworthiness and in-depth coverage. For the advertiser, it is Thanthi’s ability to deliver the right audiences in most markets with a relevant editorial environment that matters. All these values have been built over time and more importantly by being consistent. Further, it is important to adapt to the changing needs of readers and advertisers. Daily Thanthi has been able to manage both requirements quite well.

Q. Though readership of Tamil dailies has shown an increase in IRS Q3, do you think readership of language dailies in general will see a decline over time, as most children are now educated in English medium schools?

Print will continue to grow for a while in the near future. With literacy levels still growing, language papers will be the first choice of new readers. While growth of most English newspapers comes from exploring new markets, most language newspapers continue to grow by acquiring new audiences in the same market. While it remains to be seen if the younger audiences take to language papers as much as the current audiences, there is adequate reason to believe that there is scope to grow. But to grow continuously, most language papers need to be relevant to the younger audiences and adapt to the changing requirements – from form to presentation style to distribution. If gravitation, acceptance and consumption of language content and programming is still strong on TV, cinema and radio by the young audiences, print too can do it, but will have to work harder than others.

Q. What are your plans going forward for the Thanthi Group?

The key thrust area for the group is to have exponential growth across verticals and my role is to facilitate that growth engine. Each of the media brands in the group already has a strong individual identity and audience base, we just need to help advertisers use the platforms individually or collectively to help their brand growth and connect with consumers. The possibilities and opportunities with marquee legacy brands are limitless; we just need to unlock the potential of the brands in the right spaces. I will be working closely with the management and the vertical heads to ensure the growth across brands.

Q. Do you see an impending slowdown affecting the ad revenues of the group?

There is a healthy mix of brand and retail advertisers across the group portfolio of media offerings and I feel that would help ride out any possible slowdown in the future.

Q. Please share an anecdote related to your personal experience in the industry...

While it is difficult to single out any one incident, I can say without doubt that my entire run of seven years at SMG was a dream. The open work culture, interactions with mentors, peers and clients, use of cutting-edge apps, defined consumer focus, etc., have all defined me as a professional and as a person.

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