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Arun Anant

CEO | 14 Sep 2012

The main focus is to strengthen the existing brand digitally. If newspapers were the source of conversation in the past, today social media is the source of conversation. If you look at the newspaper, the way news flows and the approach is different and, therefore, the way a digital product will be constructed will be different. I reckon there will be a lot of digital initiatives.

Arun Anant, CEO, The Hindu Group of Publications has over 25 years’ experience in the business of advertising and marketing and has worked across print and television medium. In his career span he has worked as GM - Strategy at Lintas; Business Head – VP with The Economic Times; CEO of UTV New Ltd and IncValue Advisors.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Deepa Balasubramanian, Anant speaks about the growth plans of The Hindu, the importance of digital, where the newspaper industry is headed and more...

Q. You took charge at The Hindu in February, what are your key focus areas to strengthen The Hindu’s position?

Increasing the brand image and perceptions in line with the reality of our business is the key focus area. We are the number one in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and number two in Andhra Pradesh, we also do well in Delhi, where we have a Rs 6 product, but still we have a good number of readership. The biggest task is to embark on all other cities in the south, as we stand high in Tamil Nadu.

We have been working on a lot of internal systems and processes in the organisation to increase our effectiveness and efficiencies as well as our overall business. So this has meant a lot of optimisation, pre-confederation work, for example, we now have a school edition, which is different from our regular newspaper. We are not able to keep up the supply for the kind of demand we have for that product. We have been looking at changing a lot of our products keeping in mind what our readers and advertisers want.

Q. We have heard that you are going to appoint a new Business Head. Is it true?

Yes. We are appointing a new Business Head - Digital, who will be joining us in September end.

Q. What are some of the changes that The Hindu has seen in the recent past after a huge shift in the editorial as well as advertising and marketing fronts?

We have four editors overseeing four different businesses. So there is more devolvement of responsibilities down the line that’s happening and we have made the product more cutomised for the different editions. I would not say this shift has taken place after Mr N Ram has moved on. It’s a continuous process that we have embarked on. So now, we have more customised pages, covering more city news in the different editions.

Q. Please tell us about some of the recent successful campaigns for The Hindu and also any new campaigns in the near future.

The ad campaign that we did in January still has a very high recall, which is largely because of the communication style that we had adopted, which was really questioning today’s consumers and was very much in line with what The Hindu stands for. It is quite amazing that even after six months, the recall value is huge. In fact, you will notice that the same format is being used by DNA in Mumbai.

We have started a B2B campaign called ‘The Pressense’, which means Press Sense, which is about how newspaper advertising can deliver for newspaper advertisers. It is a two-hour programme for advertisers. This campaign is specifically for first-time advertisers and small advertisers. One of the biggest strengths of our economy is the SME sector. A recent study states that 15 million companies account for 8 per cent of our GDP. The creation that comes from these SMEs is actually the backbone of our country and naturally we would like these SMEs to grow and become stronger brands with more robust processes. That is why we have embarked on Pressense.

Q. What are you doing to develop talent?

We are working on various training programmes and attending international conferences. Further, we are also working on various personality development and assessment programmes.

Q. How has the competition with the Times Group been?

Competition from The Times of India is along expected lines. They have been in Chennai for some years now. But we know what we are doing and have stood out. We have been growing as the South market has been reasonably good.

Q. Post digitisation, what are the significant changes that you see in the newspaper industry? What has The Hindu done to go digital?

I think all newspapers are moving towards digital. Internationally, there are newspapers that have become fully digital. Various newspapers have gone into e-commerce based content. There is growing reader contribution as newspapers go digital and that has been an advantage in the present scenario. A two-way communication has been strengthened due to digitisation.

We have invested in new machines in Bangalore, Kochin and Madurai. We are looking at digital investment. The main focus is to strengthen the existing brand digitally. If newspapers were the source of conversation in the past, today social media is the source of conversation. If you look at the newspaper, the way news flows and the approach is different and, therefore, the way a digital product will be constructed will be different. I reckon there will be a lot of digital initiatives.

Q. What are some of the challenges you have faced in the recent past?

I think the largest challenge has been the environment challenge, slowdown in the economy. Secondly, there are a lot of systems and processes that need to be done.

Q. According to you, overall how has the market changed from the consumer and marketing perspective in the last few years?

Post digitisation, people have no constraints in expressing their views, and with that we have a lot of reader-editors today. The market is changing as we move towards digital. So, we need to be in touch with and observe our readers a lot more.

The demographic structure of the country is young and the youth are not always looking at indepth information on every subject, because it is the world of T20. So how you catch the young readers’ attention in an interesting manner is the greatest challenge.

Q. What are your plans for the future?

We have several plans lined up that you will see in the coming months. We also have plans for Hindu Business Line as well. We re-launched ‘Sportstar’ last month and also re-introduced ‘The Postal’, which use to be there in ‘Sportstar’. We have moved into a magazine format and are now working on the editorial for ‘Sportstar’, which focuses more on forthcoming sporting events than events that have already taken place. We are also re-launching ‘Frontline’ magazine next week in Delhi.

Q. What are your growth plans for 2013?

Continue to grow, streamline processes and make smart investments for long term growth.

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