Bhaskar Das, Executive President, Bennett, Coleman & Co.Ltd., was among the speakers at the MMA Golden Jubilee conclave at Chennai. Speaking to exchange4media on the sidelines of the convention, he said that the group was not considering the launch of The Times of India in Chennai, for now.
The market has been abuzz with news of The Times of India’s impending launch in Chennai for some time now. Denying any immediate intentions of launching an edition here, Das said, “Strategy is also what not to do. For the time being, our priorities are different. You can’t manage business with emotion. It has to make sense commercially. It would depend on whether or not there is a need gap in the market. Right now, someone else is battling it out in the market. Let that battle get over first. We are immediately not thinking about it.”
With media fragmentation, the ability of a media to survive would depend on its ability to reinvent itself, stated Das. Answering a question on the compact format taking over from the broadsheet, he said, “The reconfiguration of format is likely to happen. 50 per cent of newspapers have converted to a compact size. Compactness acknowledges the time constraint and the attention deficit of the audience. Compactness also means that the content is also relevant. There are different needs and interests, and because of plurality of interests and the time-squeeze, compactness of size, and compactness of content, is going to be the order of the day.”
While he did not affirm that the Mumbai Mirror model was likely to be replicated in other cities, Das did not deny the possibility either.
“It is difficult to say. No one realised that Times London would go compact. Strategy is always a function of a corporation’s priorities, market priorities, evolution of the industry. You need to constantly adjust with that, and give due respect to consumer tastes,” explained Das.
The South is being viewed by TOI as one of the most promising regions. One key to this was identified as political stability and a resultant favourable environment for emerging industries, leading to creation of a new category of employees and consumer affluence. Das explained that the South would “definitely be in the consideration set for any launch, and that includes media”.
Underlining one of the advantages of being an established player in an era of new brand launches, he reasoned that with no overnight supply in the ideas industry that is media, new players would be forced to operate on higher pay scales. This, resulted in changes to the cost structure, and changed competitive positions. Das reflected, “That’s competition, so one has to face it. One cannot prevent the pace of movement. So, one has to look at talent development and talent retention in a way that makes commercial sense.”
On the pride the brand takes in its youthful visage, he said, “Today, young or youth is not an age band – it is a mindset. Though we are 168 years old, we have an incumbent body but an insular mind. We have no choice because the market is getting hyper competitive, especially with the competition shifting from intra category to inter category. In a hyper competitive market, one needs to be agile enough to continuously reinvent the corporation to adjust to consumer tastes and preferences. The key challenge is to manage the present from the future, and not the future from the present.”
And therein, lies the challenge.