Gujarat had always been a monopoly of sorts… until Divya Bhaskar entered the scene. With the Surat launch slated for March 27 2004, things are bound to heat up this newspaper season.
The Bhaskar Group started the onslaught with the launch of Divya Bhaskar in Gujarat in June 2003. As per the paper, it was launched in Ahmedabad with over 453,000 copies pre sold. This placed it at par with the existing No. 1 in the market, Gujarat Samachar.
Before the development, the newspaper landscape in the region had always been dominated by two newspapers, Sandesh (launched in 1923) and Gujarat Samachar (launched in 1932). Part of the reason for Divya Bhaskar’s success, as per sources, is the immense time and money dedicated towards market research and towards chalking out key strategies. It’s interesting to learn that before its onslaught in Ahmedabad, the newspaper major had been studying the market specifics, the readership scene, selling point of the product and the advertising for almost a year, prior to the actual launch. With no Audit Bureau of Circulation certificate being available for at least one and a half years, Bhaskar recently launched its Direct Response Test exercise to prove its efficiency as an advertising platform.
Bhaskar seems just as diligent about its Surat launch. The Group has conducted a massive pre launch campaign in Surat with a door-to-door survey of 7.4 lakh households to gauge the expectations of consumers, in addition to increasing awareness through high visibility hoardings, newspaper inserts and cable television. Bhaskar asserts that with the launch of the Surat edition, it would consolidate its position in the entire northern and southern region of Gujarat, accounting for 70% of potential sales and purchasing power within the state.
As per Bhaskar’s projection, it would be covering Surat, Rajkot and Baroda by the end of 2004 and Mumbai by 2005. Around Rs 145 crore is being pumped into the campaign and a debt equity ratio of 65:35 is being maintained.
Says Girish Agarwal, Director (Marketing) Bhaskar Group, “What worked for us in Ahmedabad was the quality that we presented in our product. We had met the readers prior to the launch and had taken their feedback to figure out the needs and the expectations from a newspaper of their choice. As far as Surat is concerned, the initial response is a lot better than Ahmedabad. We expect a minimum circulation of 2.5 lakh plus copies to start with. The major players within the region are Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar and we are moving ahead, as planned, through our pre launch survey and the pre launch confirmed booking drive. We are in the process of chalking out last minute details with the advertisers, and giving them all possible details about the launch, thus instilling enough confidence among them.”
Meanwhile, the competition doesn’t seem too perturbed with the state of affairs. Kumar Nirmalendu, Senior Vice President Sandesh asserts, “They (The Bhaskar Group) have always been known for making tall claims and it is doubtful as to whether they really have the kind of numbers in Ahmedabad, as is claimed by them. And as far as Surat is concerned, the region is not a price sensitive market quite unlike the other places they have ventured into and they can’t possibly get away with the lower cover route. In addition, Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar have traditionally been the big players in the region and we retain a big proportion of the market, just amongst us.”
He adds, "With the initial fizz over Ahmedabad having died down, and with our gift scheme in place, we have redemption of 3 lakh, 25000 in numbers which is testimony that we are not threatened by Bhaskar’s ambitions in the Gujarat market. If you really want to get evidence of the kind of prowess we have, and continue to have, you must understand that we have projected revenues of 100 crore to be reached this year."
Bahubali S Shah, Managing Director of the Gujarat Samachar ends the matter in two sentences. He states pointblank, “Well, we are at the top as far as the Surat newspaper market is concerned. We are quite secure in our position and are not too bothered with what the Bhaskar Group intends to do. That’s all I would want to say on the subject.”
Newspaper squabbles, so it appears, are set to get a lot more interesting, more so in the volatile Gujarat newspaper market. With the stakes set to get higher, we can expect a lot more drama in times to come.