It was in 2008 that the Dainik Bhaskar Group came up with the ‘Zidd Karo, Duniya Badlo’ philosophy. It was their first national campaign since the company began operations in Bhopal in 1956, and featured their then brand ambassador, MS Dhoni, and was launched parallel to the Group’s agenda of national expansion. Fast forward to 2016, and the Dainik Bhaskar group is one of the largest newspaper publication houses in the country. Recently, Dainik Bhaskar was also featured as the fourth largest circulated newspaper in the world in the Wan-Infra World Press Trends 2015 report.
Girish Agarwal, Director of the Dainik Bhaskar Group, talks to Srabana Lahiri and Samarpita Banerjee about increasing reader engagement, the basis of good content and why the Print medium in India will always grow bigger.
What are some of the focus areas for the next year as a group?
Our focus area for the next year is clearly Print and Digital. We will also be focusing on Radio because we have recently got 13 Radio stations in the last auction, and all these stations will be rolled out in the next six months time. We are also focusing on Digital where we already have 40 million unique visitors with us. However, our internal target is to increase this number by 50%. On the Print side, we want to increase circulation further. We are talking about adding another 3 lakh copies this year through various markets.
What is the Group doing to intensify reader engagement, both on Digital and in Print?
While we are doing multiple things to increase reader engagement, we are primarily driving it through our content. We are a very content-focused organization and at times go crazy about content. We do multiple things including training our journalists, that are typically not done by journalists or newspaper organizations. We are very happy with the positive response to such engagements.
How do you ensure more advertiser engagement?
When I have an engaged reader, I go to the advertiser and ask him if he would like to help me monetize it in a manner where the other person doesn’t feel offended. To put it simply, more engaged the reader, more engaged will be the advertiser. If my reader is devoting 30-40 minutes to our product every morning, the advertisers will also find their way to talk to the reader. At the same time, we also try to explain to the advertisers multiple ways of engaging with our reader because we know our readers more than anybody else.
You have just launched the English language daily DB Post in your home market Bhopal. What does this signify? Are you going to look at English newspapers again?
In markets like Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Indore, Bhopal and Chandigarh, there is a percentage of audience that doesn’t belong to that region. For example in Ahmedabad, as per our experience, the non-Gujaratis living in Ahmedabad can’t read Gujarati. Similarly in Chandigarh, there are a lot of people who are not Punjabis or not from Haryana, and these people prefer to read English newspapers rather than a Hindi or Punjabi newspaper. So there is a percentage of consumers in all these markets, roughly around 10%, who want to read English newspapers. So we thought why not even look at that 10% market.
Dainik Bhaskar has a diverse talent pool in marketing and other departments. How have you harmonized their strengths to the best advantage for the group?
Frankly speaking, the group owes its success to the contributions of the 12,000 people working for it. Today, our team comprises professionals from diverse fields. Every year, close to 300 new people join from varied places including the automobile industry, liquor industry, FMCG, Telecom and of course, newspapers. However, to integrate them into our culture becomes a mammoth task. But our HR team is doing a fantastic job.
Many of your marketing campaigns have been awarded and celebrated. What makes these initiatives create so much buzz?
Our thinking is simple. We believe you are communicating with an individual, a human, so there has to be an emotional chord. If you come and talk to me about something alien to me, or something superficial, I may not relate to it. But if you give me something I can relate to, can understand, like Unmetro, it works. We have been saying for the past 10 years that the Indian growth story is moving away from metros. One thing we have ensured in our communication is; we prefer not to talk about ourselves. This is a call we took in 2002 when Ogilvy Consulting did a big exercise with us on our group and suggested a few things. Then we decided that we won’t talk about ourselves unless we have to launch an edition. We moved towards talking about markets or something that would interest our consumers.
Expanding business through acquisitions has been the way forward for some publication houses. Are you looking at anything currently?
We are very open to acquisitions. We are very open to mergers, but if it makes business sense. I don’t really want to acquire some entity as if I am buying a painting for myself, because there is no personal win there. Whatever I am buying has to make business sense for me, and more than me, my stakeholders, who should feel that the price we paid for a particular acquisition had paid back well, and we are getting good returns out of it. One has to be very careful when it comes to acquisitions. So, wherever there is an acquisition opportunity, we evaluate it from our perspective, and if it fits in, we are more than happy to take it forward. But if it is not fitting in as per our requirement, then we are very happy to let it go.
What do you think are the challenges that the Print market faces today and what is the next big thing in Print?
Print as an industry is facing two challenges. One is an internal challenge. The industry needs to change its mindset of calling themselves a print organization. Instead, they should consider themselves to be a news organization. Secondly, the bigger challenge is that 75% of industry revenue comes from advertising. And currently, advertising is dependent on the growth of a particular client or a particular market. It also depends on how the market is growing, how the economy of the country is doing, and how the client is doing which is another challenge. If India is not growing at a GDP of 7-10%, if more cars are not being sold and more cars are not being bought, that becomes a challenge for us. India needs to continue growing and showing better numbers to help us grow. However, this factor is external and we can’t do anything about it ourselves. So that is a larger challenge. Other than that, we have regular challenges like how to acquire new customers, how to acquire a new client and how to grow.
What is your Zidd in terms of the Group’s business? What do you definitely want to achieve?
My zidd for the company is twofold: one to ensure that we give readers a well-rounded experience. We have been doing a lot of things around that and you will see many more coming up in the days ahead. Coming to the business, we are a listed company and have a responsibility towards our stakeholders also. Our zidd there is to ensure that we have the best of return to investment, return to equity, return to capital to deliver to them which means more profit and more cash reserve. That is the Zidd we are working on currently. Another very important Zidd for our employees is to provide the best working environment to them. They should enjoy coming to office and should feel a sense of pride working here. That is a big responsibility upon us.