Competition in the Gujarat market implies that Audit Bureau of Circulation figures will not be available for regional bigwigs like Gujarat Samachar, Sandesh and Divya Bhaskar for a while; courtesy – schemes executed by each player that defies the trade terms and conditions of ABC. However, realising the need for audited figures, Divya Bhaskar commissioned Ernst &Young to conduct a survey and the results give the publication a circulation of 11.31 lac copies in the Gujarat market.
Sharing more on the numbers that the E&Y survey throws, Girish Agarwal, Director, Marketing, Bhaskar Group, shares that in Ahmedabad, the net paid sales shown is over 5.66 lacs, in Surat it is over 2.52 lacs and in Baroda, where the group made a foray only in September 2004, it is over 3.12 lacs. This in totality gives Divya Bhaskar a circulation figure of 11.31 lacs.
“This is just to authenticate the claims that we have been making,” says Agarwal, “There are times, when people have found it difficult to take our word and hence there was a need to authenticate these figures by a trustworthy third party. We took this step because we were sure of our numbers. To my knowledge, this is the first time a publication firm that is doing this.”
Why did he feel the need to arrange for a survey of this kind? “We realised that we are an 18-month-old paper and we have 11 lac-plus copies. When we approach planners, client or agencies, they have problems in believing this. I can’t blame them, as this is an extremely difficult target to achieve. Which paper in the history of India has given 11 lac copies in merely 15 months of its launch? And so we approached E&Y to authenticate these numbers for us.”
He informs that E&Y has performed identified test on the processes followed by the management in calculation of the reported numbers. Following the procedure, the firm checked the copies printed, the newsprint details, the money recovered and the trade terms given. “It is quite a tedious procedure that required quite a few terms to be completed from our side as well. The procedure was implemented in Gujarat, where they audited the figures of Ahmedabad, Surat and Baroda for the month of September 2004 and based on that, gave us the certification,” expresses Agarwal.
The ABC problem in the Gujarat market began in June 2004, when with the launch of Divya Bhaskar, papers like Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh along with the newcomer launched schemes that offered free gifts to the reader for the value of the paper. As this doesn’t conform to the terms and conditions of ABC, there are no audited ABC figures since July 2003. No player will have certified figures from ABC till the schemes are withdrawn.
Agarwal explains that given E&Y reputation and their works with names like Tata, Reliance and Birla, the firm was Bhaskar’s obvious choice for auditing the circulation figures. He explains that the audition was for a month’s period, due to reasons like money collection and that as these are net paid sales, E&Y has excluded all trade commissions.
“The best part of this all perhaps is that this reflects the advertiser response in the market,” Agarwal states, “This festival, all the clients gave us the exact same share as Gujarat Samachar. I must thank the industry that without having NRS and IRS, they supported us. They have relied on the credibility of the group.”