With the memories of the downturn not too far away, the panel discussion on ‘The Smartest Strategies used in the Recent Downturn’ garnered a lot of interest. The panellists included Anant Nath, Director, Delhi Press; Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group; Nick Carugati, Director of International Advertising and Brand Partnerships, Time Out, UK; Riyad Mathew, Senior Assistant Editor, The Week; and R Rajmohan, Publisher, Open Media Network. Chris Llewellyn, President and CEO, International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP) moderated the session.
Chris Llewellyn started off by giving a background of the recent economic recession, when most of the publications around the world found the going tough and had to cut their bottomlines. However, as it turned out from the discussion, Indian magazines were not hit too badly by the recession. At the most, the industry had to push back some expansion plans.
In his presentation, Nick Carugati showed how his magazine, ‘Time Out’, did very well. Not only did it do well, it also leveraged the brand successfully on several mediums. “It is very important to use your brand, promote your brand and leverage your brand. The key is to engage with the audience on various platforms,” noted Carugati. The group has embraced technology and has made its content available on iPhone, Nokia phones and on tablet PCs. “The proposition is to extend the brand for our consumers and that is what the advertisers want. The key is to extend and monetise the brand,” he pointed out. ‘Time Out’ bucked the worldwide downward trend by launching 17 new products in 2009.
Sharing his experiences, Ashish Bagga said, “The phase was difficult for us because we were coming from a phase of high growth. It almost felt like the growth was unstoppable. Three years prior to the downturn was glorious, where we recorded 30-35 per cent growth. We were launching brands, we were expanding, but the downturn stopped us in our tracks. We had to look at the market differently, which we did. We restructured and re-organised the organisation. We did so through synergy with all our resources. We extracted the maximum out of our resources and were also able to launch brands, such as ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ during this period.”
On the other hand, Riyad Mathew said that his organisation focussed on the brand and the rest followed. He added, “We decided to focus completely on the product. We gave everyone security and reassurance. There were no cuts in salary or halts in promotion. On the editorial side, we didn’t cut down on size either. We just brought in some specialisations and stringent measures to extract the maximum from our resources. We did excellent content in our product. During the period of recession, we won nine international awards. We didn’t stop doing special pages worrying about the ad-edit ratio. All this resulted in increase in circulation.”
Delhi Press’ Anant Nath, too, said that his magazines saw a healthy growth and added that the recession just forced them to take certain corrective measures. “We just focussed on our product. We marketed our language products aggressively. During the period of recession, we had a robust 25 per cent growth,” he informed.
It does appear that magazine players in India felt little effect of the economic slowdown. Though growth came to a halt, most magazines still survived and thrived. Also, some new magazines, like ‘Open’, were launched during this period. Launched in April 2009 amid the recession, ‘Open’ has managed to successfully carve a niche for itself in the market. However, as its publisher R Rajmohan explained, there was a lot of pressure on them to hold back their plans, the magazine was launched nevertheless. And at hind sight, it has done well for itself.
Even as the media industry reeled under the impact of the recession the world over, magazines in India managed to emerge fairly unscathed. ‘Time Out’, too, as revealed in the panel discussion, did well for and even launching 17 brands during this period.