Amar Ujala is undoubtedly one of the most widely read newspapers in the country. According to the latest IRS figures, Amar Ujala ranks No.5 among top 10 Hindi dailies and No. 7 among top 10 print publications overall.
The group is planning to raise Rs 1000 crore through its IPO valuation and has also increased its marketing budget up to Rs 12 to 15 crore this year as part of the group’s aggressive sales stance.
In an exclusive interview with exchange4media, Probal Ghoshal, Director, Amar Ujala, Publications Ltd. spoke about the group’s future strategy, taking on the competition and most importantly about its planned IPO. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
What are some of your focus areas for Amar Ujala this year?
From the market share point of view, we have to consolidate ourselves in the territories in which we already have significantly grown. We are also focusing on few markets in which we still need to grow. If you look at our footprint, we cover 13 cities, out of which we command number one position in 8 cities. So this year we have to work harder to ensure to take one or more cities from the competition.
We are focusing on the profit line and last year has been encouraging and this year we are targeting 30 per cent growth in our EBITDA.
There is a perception about Amar Ujala that it targets only SEC B and B2 consumers and not SEC A or youth. What do you have to say about this?
I would say that you are partially right; the perception was there a couple of years back. However, I don’t know what the perception is right now. But fundamentally we have done something different in the last couple of years.
We conducted a study about the market potential and we changed our circulation strategy in order to focus on the high potential markets. So in the last couple of years, we have not only grown in numbers but we have also grown across markets.
How difficult it is for you to market Hindi newspaper among the elite or uppermost segment of the readers. Let’s say SEC A1, A2?
I don’t think that’s a very difficult thing to do because Amar Ujala is a much respected brand and people connect with it easily. Obviously, there is a need and demand from SEC AB. Even in markets like Kanpur, Agra, SEC AB reads Amar Ujala and is connected with the brand.
Amar Ujala is preparing for an IPO. Don’t you think it is too late if you compare the move with other publications?
IPO is a process that you go through to unlock the value of shareholder’s wealth. In this process you get into the market that you believe can unlock the value; the question is, do you really want to unlock that value or wait for some time to see the potential of the market?
How much valuation are you looking at and when exactly can we expect the IPO?
We are looking at a valuation of Rs 1000 crore. It will take one and a half year’s time before we go ahead with it. As I said, it depends on the market and many other multiples.
According to the latest IRS figures, Amar Ujala is ranked No.5 among top 10 Hindi dailies and No. 7 among top 10 print publications overall, how do you plan to lift up your numbers?
You know what happened to IRS in 2014, all the media houses disowned those numbers and declined that process and made it clear that they don’t own the process.
We have not participated in that process, they have used our masthead. We are still using 2012 data; we have said we don’t accept those numbers.
Are you participating in the upcoming IRS?
We are participating in the upcoming IRS but we are disassociating ourselves from the previous IRS. We expect we will be very close to Jagran in numbers.
That means at no 2 position?
Certainly, no question about it
All leading publications are offering regional language editions. Are there any plans to launch non-Hindi editions?
We will only be in Hindi. This is a good and sizeable market. India has eleven Hindi speaking states and we are present in seven and the market in these seven states is close to Rs 2500 crore. That itself is a huge market and we are known for servicing the Hindi market and we understand this market and its readers. If we can consolidate and enhance the experience level with the audience that we service, I guess there is a big opportunity in this market and there is much more money. So, why should we expand to other markets, like Bhaskar and Jagran have done, but lost out eventually?
What is stopping you from stepping out of Hindi markets?
Because that’s not our core, we understand Hindi market very well and that market itself is large. Let us service that market, let’s consolidate that market and make some money.
Are you coming up with some brand campaign for Amar Ujala?
We are planning to do specific brand activities in the current year and we have set aside a decent budget for that.
What is your marketing budget for this year?
It is around Rs 12 to 15 crore and it will include all the mediums such as Print, OOH, Radio, TV, and Digital.
How digital ready is Amar Ujala?
Digital has been our big focus. We are working on digital and we have integrated teams in the system which deal with digital and print as well.
Amar Ujala is a very popular site and we have around 7 million visitors every day. Though we may not be as popular in the digital space as our competitors, especially the Dainik Bhaskar group, but we are developing it fast.
According to you, which Hindi newspaper is doing well as far as the Digital medium is concerned?
I think Bhaskar. They are much better placed on digital.
Do you think the advertising and subscription ratio is moving in the right direction?
It is the same ratio which has been existing for a number of years and I don’t think much has changed.
Coming back to IRS, do you think Hansa was a better research agency in comparison to Nielsen? At least publishers were getting IRS numbers every quarter?
The methodology followed by Nielsen was not appropriate, while Hansa’s process was more appropriate in comparison.
Do you think the industry needs an alternate currency?
I strongly believe the industry needs a new currency. IRS is the right currency if it comes out clean next year. They are adopting a lot of scientific ways and hopefully they will come with good results this year.