Giving a peek into the minds of world publishers on how they viewed the opportunity in India , foreign delegate speakers at the Indian Magazine Congress 2006, being held at the Capital, described India as the place of natural extension for their global reach and at the same time pointed out the major stumbling blocks on the way.
"India is amongst the fastest growing magazine markers in the world unlike in countries like the US where readers are no more interested in buying magazines," said Mike Brennan of Reader's Digest.
Making his observation as to why India was such an attractive market, Brennan said, " India's vibrant democracy, the high growth of its market, large English speaking community, which is why no localisation needed, efficient postal system and a huge potential educated employee base are very attractive propositions for any foreign publisher."
Coming to the now almost clichéd 'China Vs India comparison' in every field, Brennan said, "The overall feeling of the international publishers is that it is much easier to do business in India, but more difficult to make much money. The governmental approvals are endlessly time consuming."
"Publishers should come to India with a long term strategic plan to establish a brand. One needs to have multiple titles to achieve higher scale in this market," Brennan observed.
Carel Limburg of Axel Springer said, "Before entering India, one should ask himself questions like what actually he targets to achieve and whether his existing portfolio fits into the Indian market."
"If China is world's factory, then India is world's back office. India could be the development base for multi-media platform and ICT knowledge base for non-India operations. India could be the partner for other territories outside India. India also throws huge opportunity on the Internet front for the potential huge Internet usage base," Limburg pointed out.
Pointing out the hindrances to foreign publishers foraying into India, Russ Haderer of BPA said, "Slow government action, low pricing of publications and concerns regarding accountability in JVs and licenses are worrying foreign publishers." However, he said that BPA was looking at India as an opportunity. "We are also exploring for possible JVs and licensing opportunities."
Tim Pinnegar of The Economist said, "We are spending a lot of money in marketing intelligence to understand our consumers. We believe India is a natural extension for ones global reach."
Moderating the session, Donald Kummerfeld, President of FIPP, UK (International Federation of the Periodical Press), observed, "As the market in developed economies have saturated, there are two options left for magazine publishers to expand their market. Either you go to the developing countries or to grow beyond existing product brands. Most publishers are looking at both directions."
Speaking on the topic, "Licensing to JVs: Courtship to Marriage," Nextgen's Hoshang Billimoria said, "JVs were unheard of in India except for the Reader's Digest magazine. Wholly owned subsidiaries are still rare except IDG and Conde Nest." However, Billimoria pointed out that licenses were not always successful. "Due to unrealistic licensing terms, content not adapted to local conditions and high cost model licenses often fail," he cautioned.
Jim James of Haymarket said, "We started with licensing in Indian market and as regulatory hurdles eased, forming a JV was natural progression."
Asked which was best for a foreign publisher, JV or license, James said, "What is the best way to produce the content will decide whether to go for a licensing arrangement or a JV. It is purely on a case by case basis."
"However, one has to take a long term view and be realistic while venturing into markets like India ," he added.