Rajiv C Lochan, MD & CEO Kasturi and Sons Limited, publishers of The Hindu and Group newspapers joined the group on June 1, 2014 and since then has been leading all non-editorial operations of the company. In a conversation with exchange4media, Lochan spoke about the focus areas for The Hindu Tamil, striking the right balance between informing readers and delivering value to advertisers and the focus on the South being a massive strategic advantage.
The Hindu recently entered the Tamil newspaper space. With competitions such as Dinathanthi and Dinamalar in existence for more than a few decades, how is The Hindu- Tamil doing in the market? What are your plans to develop it?
While The Hindu Tamil is only a one-year old baby, it is important to remember that The Hindu Group is a 136-year old icon with a loyal reader base. The focus with The Hindu Tamil will again be on quality. Our product is simply far superior to the prevailing competition and our readers have endorsed this quality enthusiastically. Within just a year of our launch, we’ve touched 3,00,000 copies in circulation. To mark our one-year anniversary, we organized a series of reader meets in 14 centres in Tamil Nadu and the resounding endorsement from our readers is both humbling and energizing. As Tamil Nadu grows and prospers (and with it Tamilians globally), we are determined to grow our readership with our characteristic twin focus – distinctive journalism and reader-centricity.
We have always seen the group being very particular about what ads to be published in which page. Has that been a positive or negative for the group?
Without doubt, this is necessary and positive. The reason to be very particular about the nature and positioning of our advertisements is to strike the right balance between informing our readers and delivering value to our advertisers. Any imbalance in this – and sadly, the current trend in the industry seems to be drive an imbalance – is not healthy in our view. So while there may be some short-term commercial hits in being particular about page positioning, choice of advertisement creative or strictest adherence to established standards, we are clear that in the medium to long term this is the only sustainable way.
Unlike competition, the group started its base from the southern region of India, has that affected the readership and circulation figures?
In reality, the English language newspapers in the country are actually quite regional – either geographic (north vs. east) or cherry-picked city-specific (tier 1 & 2). We are proud of our reputation of having a national voice with a southern accent. It is crucial to understand that the South is the fastest growing, most prosperous and demographically most evolved region in the country. Literacy levels in South have gone up by 24 per cent according to Census 2011 (much higher than any other region), McKinsey Global Institute reports that urbanization in the South is at 41 per cent (much higher than the national average of 31 per cent, with Tamil Nadu being the fastest urbanizing state in the country) and according to the Planning Commission and Central Statistical Organization, GDP growth rates in South India are 30 per cent higher than the national average, consumer spends are 68.90 per cent higher and domestic savings are 30.50 per cent higher.
So the way we see it, the focus on the South is actually a massive strategic advantage. We are number one in the South today and are clear leaders in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Pondicherry, Andhra Pradesh. No one has better reach than us in ‘South Bharath’. In markets like Delhi and Mumbai, which are very important centres, we prefer to remain small but extremely influential. Our products are premium priced (Rs. 8-10 daily) and our readers are bureaucrats, policy makers, industrialists – in short, opinion leaders.
What are the key focus areas for The Hindu Group of Publications for 2015?
The key focus of the group is continued focus on our strengths – distinctive journalism and reader-centricity. We are committed to quality in everything we do and we are ensuring that our readers demand the highest standards from us. For The Hindu and The Hindu Business Line specifically, the agenda is maintaining our leadership position in South India. We are also looking to build on the success of our new products such as The Hindu Tamil, The Hindu In School – a newspaper for school children and The Hindu Young World which is a paid weekly magazine for children.
Digital is also a top priority. Our digital media reach is growing by leaps and bounds on the back of our distinctive journalism. Our newest digital launch, Roof and Floor, a real estate classifieds product has an unsurpassed visitor experience. There’s more coming up in this space, both in media and in commerce.
How do you plan to position the brand KSL in India? What are your plans in taking the group to the next level?
The KSL brands have tremendous brand equity in India and enjoy the respect and admiration of readers and clients alike. We would like to consolidate our position as the “media elite.” The goal is to build on our reputation and our leadership position in the South, and of course to communicate our reach and relevance in a market that’s growing at a rapid pace. Our plans focus on playing to our strengths, obsess about our values and embrace new-age technology and thinking.