RMR Ramesh has a rich experience of three decades in the media industry. He started out as Administrative Manager at Sumangali Publications, and later headed their first video magazine in Tamil, named ‘Poomalai’. He went on to become Vice President - Administration, HR and Projects, Sun TV. He is currently MD of Kal Publications, which owns Dinakaran, a well-known daily in Tamil Nadu.
In conversation with exchange4media, Ramesh speaks about how innovation at different stages has helped the newspaper grow in the market.
How has the journey been over the years, especially after Kalanithi Maran’s Sun Network acquired Dinakaran?
When we took over the newspaper in 2005, its circulation was 30,000 copies throughout Tamil Nadu with 7-8 printing centres. There was grave mismanagement in the system paired with obsolete technology. The challenge to gain recognition and change people’s mindset of it being a politically-owned newspaper was intense. We had to innovate and bring a sea change to the look and feel of the paper and offered special supplements. To sum it up, it was a roller-coaster ride altogether.
Today, the Sun Group has diversified into various sectors. How has Dinakaran fared in the market? How have you differentiated yourselves from your competitors?
The diversification of the company has acted as a positive sign for Dinakaran. Advertising in in-flight magazines, schemes with DTH and partnering with our own FM radio station are some of the positive things which has happened only because of the group’s diversification. Our circulation stands at 1,292,000 copies throughout India.
We have always tried to differentiate ourselves. We were the first vernacular daily to go all colour in 2005. We also came up with special editions, district wise. Today, Dinakaran prints a total of 34 editions in TN, Bangalore, Pondicherry, Mumbai and New Delhi. All these initiatives helped us grow significantly and remain at the number one position for the last six years. We are expecting a 15 per cent growth this year.
You spoke about innovation being your key element in the growth of the newspaper. What are these innovations?
We have always tried to bring goodwill among the readers. Recently, we started bringing out a special booklet for standard 12 students. We have weekly supplements on religion, women, and cinema, which have garnered a lot of support from the readers.
Innovation leads to success and that’s where we have tried and have struck the chord. For the first time in Tamil Nadu, the advertisers got a chance to have French window advertising, which is usually seen only in English dailies. Because of these innovations, our advertising revenue has grown year-on-year by 20-25 per cent.
The group owns six magazines. How have they been faring in the market?
According to ABC, our flagship magazine ‘Kungumam’ is ranked No. 1. Recently, we have launched a women’s special magazine, called ‘Thozhi’, a magazine on religious themes called ‘Anmeegam’, a magazine on education called ‘Kalvivellai Vazhi Kati’, a magazine on cinema, ‘Vannathirai’ and ‘Muththaram’. We will launch a magazine catering to the health sector.
According to you, how is the niche magazine market shaping up in India, especially in the South?
There are very few niche magazines in the South. They don’t work in the market as readers usually prefer reading a book or a novel. We have started our own publication, Suryan Publications, and have released 45 titles in one year.
How has your presence in cities like Mumbai and Delhi helped you in terms of growth?
Of course, the presence up North has made the brand stronger. Our newspapers make the readers feel closer to home. We have also been able to augment our brand presence to most of the agencies that have their head offices in Mumbai and Delhi.
What is the importance of digital for Dinakaran and where does mobile as a medium fit in?
We are present in almost all major social media sites and we have close to 7 lakh followers on Facebook. Exploring the medium is our focus.
Do you think new media will eat up print’s share in the coming years?
No. Print will always be there. There is still a great digital divide in our country. The only threat that I foresee is the mushrooming growth of the smart phone.
Going forward, what would be the focus areas for the group in 2014?
Our focus is on raking up the revenues because the costs have spiraled in every sphere of newspaper publishing today. We aim to retain and expand a loyal readership base.Focus is also on adapting new emerging technologies and setting up more centres in Tier II and Tier III cities.