Day two of the Indian Magazine Congress, held in Mumbai on September 23 saw a panel discussion on ‘B2B Magazines: The next big wave’. The panellists included Jim James, Director and Publisher Haymarket; Suresh Ramakrishnan, Executive Vice President and Country Head, Reed Infomedia India; Alok Brara, Publisher, India Infrastructure; and Chander M Rai, President and CEO, Cross Border Media Inc. The session was moderated by Pradeep Gupta, Chairman and Managing Director, CyberMedia.
The Indian Magazine Congress was organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in association with Worldwide Media (WWM). exchange4media Group (exchange4media.com, Pitch and impact) and Business Standard were the media partners.
B2B, dream or a nightmare
Jim James began by saying, “I dream about B2B, but sometimes I have nightmares too. What B2B needs is passion, it is enormously profitable too. B2B caters to smaller audiences having huge opportunities and I suggest that every industry should have a B2B magazine. Some of those magazines we launched in the 1960s in the UK are still successful. B2B develops along with time, it is possible to launch a magazine and become successful all you have to do is to bring a slight difference in your magazine.”
Suresh Ramakrishnan said, “I started my career with a B2B firm. I personally find it a huge opportunity. However, though it is a highly fragmented market, it is also a sustainable one. The community base of B2B is around five lakh and your entire dependency is on advertising. When in B2B, you have to enable a lot that can mainly happen through events.”
Chander Rai observed, “The difference between B2B and B2C is narrow, they are going into a specialised area, events and digital. However, the real medium here is the B2B as they are the pioneers in the market.”
According to Alok Brara, there were tremendous growth opportunities in the B2B market, and as the Indian economy grew, B2B was bound to grow faster than B2C.
Community related issues
On community related issues Brara said, “If you want to build a community, you have to keep in mind two things. You have to become a trustworthy source of information, which you can achieve only if you are independent. You must make sure your magazine is based on facts and is accurate. What you also need is a forum where people are allowed to exchange ideas. Secondly, the advertisers are also your readers, they realise that because you are a credible publication your audience will like you and the advertisers who left you will eventually come back.”
Agreeing with Brara, James said, “You’ve got to have a rock solid editorial product, which is also independent. If you have all the facts right, the advertisers who have left you, will return.”
Brara observed, “The biggest challenge today for the B2B magazines are ‘people’. If you want the B2B market to flourish, you need to have journalists who understand the industry well. However, getting a good one is difficult. We can’t get good advertising and sales people either, instead we find more and more people shifting to the television which is one of the reasons why we lack people.”
According to Rai, “The biggest challenge in India today is the infatuation for numbers as everyone wants to show they have huge numbers. What people fail to understand is that even if you have small numbers that does not mean that publication is not successful. As of now, we seem to be thriving with exaggerated numbers.”
Ramakrishnan was of the opinion that there was no way to find one’s circulation numbers, therefore, making it difficult to convince the advertisers.
According to James, “There are a lot of challenges in the B2B market – from maintaining the quality of the editorial to selling ads. The general challenge is based on human resource as people crave to go television and the Internet, and these are the things I have nightmares about.”
B2B in 2009
Looking forward, Rai said, “2009 will be a year for B2B publications, which will be one of the best years for B2B. I think 2009 will also see a lot of international B2B publications coming to India.”
Brara said, “2009 will see transparency and I am optimistic about international publications coming to India. We are growing very strong in the Indian market.”
Summing up Gupta said, “There are enormous challenges in terms of opportunities and circulations, thus proving that B2B in India is coming of age.”