Conde Nast would soon be completing three years of its operations here. The company was encouraged with its India foray when the Government allowed international companies to own and run wholly-owned businesses in India in December 2006. Conde Nast entered India the following year with its most popular title – glossy fashion magazine ‘Vogue’, and quickly followed it with men’s magazine ‘GQ’. The company has now announced that it would be launching its high-end traveller magazine ‘Conde Nast Traveller’ by October 2010.
For Nicholas Coleridge, Vice-President, Conde Nast International, this simply means that the India experience for Conde Nast has been ahead of the company’s expectations. In conversation with exchange4media, Coleridge, who is in Mumbai at present, divulged, “We made a five-year plan when we came here, and we very quickly found that we were about a year ahead of our plans. When the economic crisis came, it definitely touched us for about four-five issues, but then it picked up again. We are now seeing strong growth on both ‘GQ’ and ‘Vogue’.”
Coleridge is happy with the growth that the two magazines have seen in India. He elaborated, “We invested in ‘Vogue’, and ensured that it is very well printed, it has an editorial budget much higher than that of competition, and that we are the only glossy fashion magazine that has its print order audited. Any advertiser today has an open invitation to come on a five minutes’ notice, and see the magazine when it is being printed and speak to the printers. So, the one statistic that makes me very happy now is that ‘Vogue’ is carrying 76 per cent of all the luxury advertising in the glossy magazine market. This is a reflection that the market respects Vogue and we are not a complacent company.”
Some of the other titles in the glossy magazine market include ‘Elle’, ‘Le’Official’ and ‘Harpers’ Bazaar’.
Coleridge informed that the plan of action in India would see Conde Nast stepping up its digital offering soon after Traveller was launched. He said, “After ‘Conde Nast Traveller’, our next big project here would be digital, where in addition to the digital offerings of these magazines, we would also launch standalone websites as well.”
Speaking further on why Conde Nast chose Conde Nast Traveller to be the next title in India, Coleridge observed, “By popular demand! Anyone we met here would ask us when we are launching Conde Nast; we finally just gave in. In any market, Conde Nast Traveller punches above its weight. It is a very glamorous niche magazine that knows its audience. It is also top-end of the Indian market, and would cater to people travelling outside as well as inside India.”
While half of Conde Nast Traveller would be about international travel, the other half would be about the emerging class of travellers who travel within India for holidays and leisure. Coleridge said, “When I first started coming to India, as a backpacker, which was around 35 yrs ago, I would not have imagined that India would become the place that it has become today. There is nothing that you cannot get here, and the speed at which the standards of hotels are going up, makes for the right environment for Conde Nast Traveller. It is a very authoritative magazine – we don’t accept free trips anywhere. A Conde Nast Traveller journalist pays for their own trips and their own meals. It is a small thing but it gives the journalist that extra moral ability to say it when they don’t like a hotel.”
He informed that Conde Nast Traveller also makes a “nice third point of the triangle”. He said, “It sits neatly with GQ and Vogue and the overall offering that we have for the advertisers here for that class of audience.”
Coleridge also took cognisance of the fact that competition in India, despite the various challenges that the magazine domain is facing, is still heating up. He commented, “Competition is important. Conde Nast Traveller would be helped by the fact that Lonely Planet is coming out from BBC. Lonely Planet is a backpacker’s magazine. Once the 18-20 year olds who swear by Lonely Planet today, don’t need to permanently travel with the backpack and are able to afford hotel rooms with locks, then they can start reading Conde Nast Traveller.”