With India emerging as a potential market, quite a few international magazine titles have launched in the country. This influx has been further aided by easing of FDI norms. However, their entry has not been without hurdles and teething troubles. The session on ‘The future of International magazine brands in India’ discussed these issues in detail at the Indian Magazine Congress (IMC), being organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in Mumbai on September 6-7, 2010.
The panel comprised Hoshang Billimoria, CEO, Next Gen Publishing; Nicholas Brett, Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Managing Director, BBC Worldwide Magazines; Rasina Uberoi, Vice-President, Media Transasia; and Sandeep Khosla, CEO, Publshing, Infomedia18. The session was moderated by Maheshwar Peri, President & Publisher, Outlook.
Commencing the session, Peri spoke about the various brands that had started to come in because of the dramatic change in the magazine scenario in India. “There are quite a few groups that are looking at India. Even though worldwide there has been a drop in magazines, they are looking at India to expand their titles. Even though they see it as a small market, they want to be a part of it,” he noted.
Expressing his views on the licensing issue, Billimoria stated that when it came to fully owned licences like the case of ‘Conde Nast’, the job was much easier done because they had deeper pockets and could outlast everyone, but that was not the case with the licensees. “The sad reality is that in the hurry to get the license, many have ended up with licences that are not at par and then, however, good the content is, the title is moved out after all those years of putting in your hard work and bringing in profitability. We are then accountable to the stakeholders,” he remarked.
Taking off from where Billimoria left – the losing of a title and profitability – Uberoi said, “We invest heavily in a brand, and the brand is already well established overseas, what needs to work here is the profitability. If it’s profitable, it is a two-way street, and so the chances of losing the brand could be anything other than profitability.”
Speaking on the same, Khosla stated that there was no clear cut formula for this. “There has been a mad rush to get licences and down the line, publishers have realised that spends are not just ordinary spends and that there is a lot involved with it, including being on top of your competition,” he pointed out.
Being the outsider from among the group, Brett gave his views on how licensing was looked at. According to him, “Licensing is a great opportunity, and in India it is absolutely fantastic, but we have to be careful on how we choose our partners. If it’s got BBC on it, there has to be some parameters, but at the same time, it has to have a cultural touch to it as well and some familiarity with the audiences.”
Now moving towards the content in these magazines, Peri stated that some launches had been very successful, but there still was a problem, somewhere, sometimes, in terms of the content. Uberoi remarked here, “Licensers should be aware of the fact that what works in their country, doesn’t work in ours, and so they cannot really tell us how to go about the content completely, which is why choosing the right partner is very important.”