B Srinivasan, MD and Publisher of Vikatan Group, believes in the philosophy of ‘Customer is King and if you deliver value, he/she will pay for the same’. He is an evangelist and has understood the nuances of the industry very well.
As Vikatan Group turns 88 this year, B Srinivasan speaks to exchange4media on the group’s journey, how print can leverage digital media, and keeping the customers’ preferences at the forefront.
Vikatan has turned 88 this January. How has the journey been over the years?
‘Think nothing but happiness and joy for all (customers)’ is a loose translation of the motto that has been driving the Vikatan Group for the past nine decades and continues to be relevant in all spheres of activity that we do today.
In the past two decades, we have consolidated our position as market leader in every sphere that we have got into. Even as we hear ever-louder voices about the irrelevance of the printed word, we have expanded our magazine portfolio from two to 12 magazines.
About a decade ago, it was believed that TV would wipe out print and lead the race. But we were strong enough in terms of distribution and editorial and have been engaging the audience in various ways, including Aval Vikatan Jolly Day, Chutti Vikatan Color Galatta and so on.
Less than a decade ago, with the onset of the web and free content, traditional media was yet again ‘written off’. With the launch and growth of vikatan.com in 1997 – and even as we supposedly committed hara-kiri in 2005 by going pay – Vikatan has struck close to its simple philosophy that customer is king. Deliver value to customers and they will pay, which has showed to the world that going pay on the internet is not taboo, rather, it is the only way out.
Yet again, social media and YouTube were supposed to have served as the death knell for traditional media companies. But with over 1 million likes and over 100,000 daily ‘people talking about’ us across social clusters, Vikatan has yet again shown that if you understand the medium well enough, you can get the message across quite clearly.
The TV and Internet boom has only helped us adapt better, in getting brand Vikatan to all parts of the globe at the same time, reaching out to new customers.
Today, Vikatan has a bouquet of offerings. How difficult has it been to attract readership for all your 12 magazines?
With the strength of our flagship magazines ‘Ananda Vikatan’, ‘Junior Vikatan’ and ‘Aval Vikatan’, we experimented by offering various genres as sections in these mainline magazines. Every time we had a sustained, overwhelming reader response to niche, we started our research on that niche. When research vindicated our gut feeling about the niche, we launched the next unique product.
For ‘Naanayam’, ‘Motor’ and ‘Pasumai’ (Personal Finance, Auto and Organic Cultivation), we created a niche when none were available in the retail market and we still don’t have retail competition in these three categories. We popularised them through our mainstream magazines, did relevant research, and then spun off from the flagship magazines. Subsequently, each magazine has its own distinct readership profile and enjoys a loyal following in their respective genres.
You had recently come out with a 3D format. What was the objective behind the exercise and how is it being sustained?
Every year, post Diwali till Christmas/ New Year there is a sort of lull in the market. We wished to extend the festivities and hence, came up with the 3D initiative to add a new dimension for our readers. The 3D issue festival consisted of five issues of entertaining visual content presented in 3D form. We received tremendous response both from our readers and clients who had partnered with us. We are now planning to continue Vikatan’s 3D excitement annually.
How important is digital for publishers like you to engage with the readers?
Digital engagement for us is not a challenge, but opportunity. A reader has only so much time for his media consumption, of which a printed product has to compete with all other media, viz. TV, radio, digital and social. As we engage with readers digitally, it has given us more knowledge about his/her usage in that realm. If used and integrated right with the print, I think digital is a tremendous opportunity for Indian publishers. In the past two years, we have extended our digital reach with apps for iOS, Android.
How has vikatan.com grown since you went online in 1997?
Vikatan.com gains its popularity from being the digital face of the Vikatan Group of magazines. Since we went online, we had been giving our entire content for free till 2004. When we introduced pay wall in 2005, our page views plummeted initially, leading to loss of advertising revenue. But this was more than made up for with the start of a robust subscription base, which has transformed our perception of the digital world. On an average, we get close to a million page views a day. The current growth can be attributed to the launch of exclusive digital sub-brands such as Cinema Vikatan and News Vikatan, which also get significant page views.