The Indian Magazine Congress 2008 concluded with a CEO Forum, where various issues discussed during the two-day Congress came under scanner, including rising newsprint costs, talent crunch, vendor commission. IMC 2008 was held in Mumbai on September 22-23 and 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.
The speakers at the CEOs Forum included Smiti Ruia, Outlook; Maneck Daver, Spenta; Pheroza Billimoria, Business India; Lakshmi Narsimhan, Infomedia; Khushroo Bhadha, Nextgen; Xavier Collaco, Media Transasia; and Prakash Johari, Maxposure Media. The moderator for this session was Maheshwer Peri of Outlook.
The discussion started with growing concerns over the rising newsprint cost. Daver said, “Rising newsprint costs have upset calculations and has affected the print industry to a great extent.”
Billimoria too said that the hike in newsprint cost had impacted the print industry and added that the industry needed to inventive and creative.
Bhadha said, “To bear the burden of rising newsprint cost, internally a publication can take few steps such as using thinner paper, tightening the ad-edit ratio and avoiding too many pages with too much content such as special issues and anniversary issues, which are blown out of proportion.”
He added, “Some publications are increasing their cover price to bear the burden of hike in newsprint cost, but I feel increasing cover price is not an issue in country like India.”
Talent crunch woes
Lack of skilled people and retaining the good people also got prominence in the discussions. Daver noted that the talent crunch was costing the industry a lot and it was becoming increasingly difficult for the magazine industry to retain talent. “A niche, specialised product needs specialised people, and there the people cost goes up,” he said.
Agreeing with Daver, both Billimoria and Narsimhan noted that the talent movement was happening due to the growing opportunities in the market. Both felt that the magazine industry had to tighten its grip to retain talent and invest in good quality talent.
Collaco, on the other hand, said that people cost was not that huge an issue in the industry. “It is a part of life and is happening everywhere,” he added.
Johari said, “The advertiser doesn’t care about the hike in newsprint cost. If the deal does not work out in one publication, then the advertiser would go to your competitors.”
Regarding the commission paid to vendors and retailers, Bhadha said, “Footpath vendors are dying, and the new retailers are getting huge commissions. Time has come to monetise the commission percentage system amongst vendors, retailers, etc.”
On foreign publisher, Peri said, “Initially a brand is sold and content is sold later. Each issue of foreign publisher have to prove that they are better than me.”
The Indian Magazine Congress concluded with a wrap up session. Anurag Batra, Convener Events, AIM and Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group, said that needs of magazines were different, and as a fraternity, coming together would make a difference. He said, “What works is common sense, and there is opportunity for entrepreneurship.” He further said that wealth should not be created for oneself alone, but as an industry as a whole. He expressed his happiness with the way the Congress went this year and promised that next year would be even bigger and better. “There are many more initiatives and it will be taken up in the next conference.”
Maheshwar Peri, President, AIM and President and Publisher of the Outlook Group, said, “The decisions are not with us. We work together and work for the industry as a whole. It is not about who makes how much, as long as we all make much.” He further said, “AIM is still incomplete. We are just eight people here talking on behalf of the industry. For the Association to be complete, we need at least 50. We are here to minimise the problems and if we can’t do that, we can at least reduce the gravity of the problem.”
Pradeep Gupta, Vice-President, AIM and Chairman of CyberMedia, thanked all the speakers, the panelists and moderators and partners. He also thanked Donald Kummerfeld, President, FIPP, very specially because of the support that AIM receives form FIPP.