While growing the top-line continues to be a challenge, the days of squandering resources are certainly over. For any organisation, stagnating the cost structure would be a critical property so that any lukewarm-ness in top-line growth can be neutralised through disciplined cost management.
Talking about the print business, Mohit Jain, Executive President, Supply Chain, BCCL, pointed out that there are two parts of the business – one is publishing and the second is printing. The first part is to deal with making the product and getting it to the readers and consumers. The printing part has an aggregation at the back, which is happening in different parts of the market. “We have seen in global markets that people have either converted their supply chain into profit centres or are sourcing their production requirements from an aggregate time,” said Jain.
There are similar examples in India, but Jain wondered if the industry could scale it up. He stressed on having a reliable course of network from where the newspaper industry could see production services or which would allow a superior amount of monetisation to a fix cost.
According to Ashish Pherwani, Partner Advisory Services, Ernst & Young, one issue where the industry hasn’t been able to come together is controlling the common cost. And there is no reason why it can’t be done. He added, “The entire backing in the DTH sector has an identical approach that we play up. The print business is pretty similar. The big question is, do we have to wait for a stage where it becomes necessary to do so or is the industry thinking of doing it right now.”
Pherwani further said, “We can actually get into a model where we can come together as an industry and share our reporters, have a common news gathering system and share common feeds. In a way, there are various opportunities within the industry that we can work on.”
Pawan Agarwal, Non Executive Director, Bhaskar Group, said here that the newspaper industry has not created any barriers for working together. “We have actually combined two sources – that is, publishing and printing infrastructure,” he added, echoing what BCCL’s Jain had said.
For this, Agarwal said, one has to create a large infrastructure and invite people to come and work together and be a part of it.
At the same time, industry experts also mention that there are some competitive barriers to forming such a common platform.
Piyush Gupta, Group CFO, HT Media, observed, “Like most industries, the newspaper industry is going through some challenges. These challenges can come from the cost side.” At the same time he felt that as an industry, some kind of a consensus could be arrived at, where people can consciously share physical infrastructure.
Citing HT Media’s example, he said, “We actually started our Mumbai business by printing The Times of India first. Hence, sharing physical infrastructure makes lot of sense.”
For him, the intellectual property of a newspaper is the USP and that is the journalistic ethics that it follows as well as how the newspaper brand connects with its readers.
Mohit Jain, Ashish Pherwani, Pawan Agarwal and Piyush Gupta were expressing their views at the 6th International News Media Association (INMA) South Asia conference, held in New Delhi on August 7 and 8, 2012.