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I am not comfortable with the word ‘local’: Varghese Chandy

23-July-2012
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I am not comfortable with the word ‘local’: Varghese Chandy

The Indian Newspaper Kongress (INK) 2012 was held on July 20 at New Delhi. Organised by exchange4media Group, the annual event aimed at understanding what the future holds for the newspaper industry, as stakeholders contemplated on how to bring about further growth for the medium.

INK 2012 was presented by Dainik Jagran. Business Standard was the print partner.

The topic was ‘National Brands dovetailing local heroes or vice versa’ at the third panel discussion. Varghese Chandy, Chief General Manager, Marketing Advertising Sales, Malayala Manorama began the discussion by posing a fundamental question, “What is national and what is local?” He admitted that he was not comfortable with the word ‘local’ since this newspaper from Kerala, with its strong credentials such as circulation and strength, does not by any chance appear to be ‘local’.

Regional is the new ‘national’
Incidentally, the company had released a campaign recently, called ‘Regional is the new national’ – the reason was to establish the fact it (Malayala Manorama) is the No I regional daily in the country. In terms of reach, they are indeed No 1, with 35 per cent in the single state of Kerala. That’s the kind of clout Malayala Manorama enjoys, which hasn’t happened overnight.

He pointed out that talking of the market per se, a lot of national ad agencies are now setting shop in Kerala and national newspapers such as TOI are entering Kerala, in search of strategic alliances. The main reason for this is that Kerala is a ‘mature’ market. Even before we were hit by the onslaught of mall culture, Kerala already had many malls and “you got brands that you did not find anywhere else”. In the case of Malayala Manorama, unlike any national newspaper (where the main business came from Mumbai or Delhi), 60 to 65 per cent of business was generated from Kerala itself. That’s why it is called a ‘mature’ market. He was of the opinion that when brands came there, it was difficult to understand the nuances of the place; that’s the greatest challenge that national advertisers will have to face when they go to any alien territory; they need to “understand the nuances of the culture to be a success there”.

Making ‘Onam’ a national success story

Chandy recalled that when he started 10 years ago, it was a challenge to take Kerala to other parts of India. We took ‘Onam’ to the national level; it was (and still is) the most important festival in Kerala.

They promoted it heavily – organised roadshows, ran campaigns, went to ad agencies. Onam threw open a window of 15 to 20 days, when 55 to 65 per cent of consumer durable sales happen. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of publications to go out there and educate the advertisers, for, ultimately, it is the advertisers who benefit. He observed that today, the festival season kicks off with Onam, which is actually an indicator of good times or bad times; and subsequently, Diwali budgets are also decided, based on how Onam has performed.

Early adaptors of technology
About digitisation, he said, “We have been early adaptors of technology and whether it was our computerised printing technique, or getting on the net. Digital media came naturally to us, and we were right there, since the digitisation revolution started.” They also have apps for iPad, etc. However, the apps have not been monetised yet, but he assured that they have a digital team looking at it. Advertisers and agencies should understand the need to make the digital medium more attractive. “That’s definitely the future,” he concluded.

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Prior to joining Madison PR in 2012 Chaudhary was Group President Corporate Communications at Reliance Industries Limited.