East is on a swing – from the sepia-tinted impression of an indolent economy to a bustling marketplace. Shedding off its mottled image of unhealthy politics and ebbing commercial activities, east is adorning itself everyday to woo business from across the world. And, investors are flocking to the east – perceiving it a growing market of immense potential.
That was the beginning of ABP’s presentation at the Capital on June 4. In a crisp-and-statistically substantiated presentation, the media baron from the east painted the image of a booming economy centred round the nerve-centre of Kolkata – a city, better known for its poverty, urban squalor and anti-industrialist psyche. “Would you keel over if we told you that Kolkata has the third highest population of high-income households in the country?” Aniruddha Lahiri, Managing Director, ABP, began his presentation. “Going by the purchasing power, SEC A1+ density in West Bengal is double of Tamil Nadu and over three times that of Punjab,” he claimed.
Boasting of the east as one of the fastest growing markets, Lahiri continued: “Kolkata is fast closing in on other metros in terms of product penetration, media use and lifestyle activities.” As RK Swamy/BBDO Guide to Urban and Rural Markets 2004 puts it, in last two years the city has recorded 81 per cent growth in four-wheeler ownership, aptly substantiated by a 493 per cent rise in PC sales and 536 per cent increase in mobile connectivity.
Ever reckoned as the intellectual hub of the country, the City of Joy has been a challenging market for media planners. In the print-dominated market of the east, regional newspapers outgrow the regional television by over 40 per cent. There are 57 per cent more businessmen and professionals who turn to the newspaper and magazine instead of a hasty look at the TV. Sixty one per cent more graduates and 43 per cent more high-income households prefer print rather than the tube. “In this relatively uncluttered media market, print is still the most effective way of reaching the more appetising consumer segment,” observed the managing director of ABP – the group which is the majority stakeholder in STAR News with 74 per cent share in its kitty.
However, the spat over the low advertising share in the national pie, psychologically risk-averse consumers, high attrition in advertising agencies and relocation of corporate houses, continues. “East is certainly improving but it has a long way to go,” said Chintamani Rao, President – Integrated Communications, McCann Worldgroup.
Interestingly, in a silent crawl, Kolkata is fast coming up of age as India’s latest technology hub. The city has attracted global IT biggies like Wipro and IBM, while launch of a software park is in the offing. “Why are corporates looking for growth opportunities in this part of the country?” Lahiri left the debate open.
In the media front, Kolkata has 53 per cent more readers of English dailies compared to 2002. In last two years English general interest and lifestyle magazines have posted growth of 18 per cent and 43 per cent respectively. And, log in rate has shot up by a staggering 378 per cent, read the RK Swamy Guide.
Racing ahead with the growing market, ABP Group has safely settled itself at the helm of the media world of the east. “With our fleet of nine publications, we reach out to over 70 per cent of all relevant audience segments,” Lahiri claimed. As per NRS 2003, in the vernacular publications category, Anandabazar Patrika has posted an AIR of 3207, distantly followed by Bartaman with 1443. In Kolkata, The Telegraph, from the same stable, has an AIR of 887 – over twice the size of its nearest competitor, The Statesman.
Despite being identified as the second most expensive publication, considering the ad-space value, Anandabazar Patrika has been ruling the market for decades and has established itself as a heritage that’s always growing. What could be the secret content recipe? “ABP Group has been there in every step of growth of the regional economy. We have successfully represented the right content-mix to the people and evolved as the best platform to voice their issues,” claimed Suman Chattopadhyay, Executive Editor, Anandabazar Patrika.