<b>Rasina Uberoi</b>, Vice President, Media Transasia Thailand Ltd.
<p align=justify> We planned to make a Globalocal magazine out of the already existing product. Here we took the Global title and enmeshed the global and local content. Hereby, a perfect match for advertisers and readers was created. We look for the leading magazine in its segment in a particular country and import it over to one of our markets in Asia. The strategy has worked. Each of the magazines imported to Thailand and India are leaders in their respective categories, command high average ad rates and a higher cover price than their competitors. </p>
We planned to make a Globalocal magazine out of the already existing product. Here we took the Global title and enmeshed the global and local content. Hereby, a perfect match for advertisers and readers was created. We look for the leading magazine in its segment in a particular country and import it over to one of our markets in Asia. The strategy has worked. Each of the magazines imported to Thailand and India are leaders in their respective categories, command high average ad rates and a higher cover price than their competitors.
Rasina Uberoi has been the face of Media Transasia for the past ten years. As Vice President International development, Rasina scoped the international markets to look for more opportunities and take Media Transasia to the next level. The result has been the successful launch of licensee/consumer titles with relationships with most global publishers. The last twelve months has seen a shift in focus for Rasina towards the digital business. It is something that she embraces and looks forward to developing this aspect of the Media Transasia portfolio. Prior to Media Transasia, Rasina was Vice President, Citibank Thailand, responsible for introducing global transaction services to Thailand and roping in clients like GE, Shell, Toyota and Caltex.
Media Transasia, one of most diversified and vertically integrated publishing houses in the world is known for its range of publishing activities. The group headquartered in Bangkok with three publishing centers - Thailand, Hong Kong and India has in its stable over 25 magazines region wide. It is also known for its specialized coffee-table book publishing arm.
Rasina Uberoi gets candid and shares invaluable insights about the Media Transasia and the future of magazine industry as a whole, in conversation with exchange4media Group's correspondent, Akash Raha.Q. Do you see Media Transasia moving towards vernacular languages in India owing to their strong growth?
I think in regional markets the sheer number of the audience is much more. Literacy rates are improving so the growth will only get stronger. Definitely from a number perspective vernacular language publications are strong. However, for us, this is not our core competency because we are dealing with SEC A markets.
Q. Do you think content is cheap in India and cover prices irrelevant? How did Media Transasia cope with this situation?
When we came to India with several international brands and launched Maxim at Rs 100 (2005-06) people thought we were crazy. At that point of time newspapers were available at Rs 2. People here are used to getting content for very cheap. But I have come into the market saying, that if I am bringing a reputable brand, brand recognition, you are going to pay for that in the same way you pay for a Louis Vuitton product or a Chanel product. People do have the money to buy. It's just this that they are not used to buying it. Are you telling me that you can't pay Rs 100 for a Maxim Magazine? Off course you can, a coffee costs as much. You merely have to change the habit. People will pick up a niche magazine at a price point of Rs 100.
Q. Media Transasiaï¿½s titles published out of India are ï¿½Swagatï¿½ï¿½ ï¿½Discover Indiaï¿½, ï¿½Golf Styleï¿½, ï¿½Architecture and Designï¿½, ï¿½Travel and Leisureï¿½, ï¿½Maximï¿½, ï¿½Childï¿½, ï¿½Better Homes and Gardensï¿½, ï¿½Blenderï¿½, ï¿½Casaviva ï¿½and most recently ï¿½Sports Illustratedï¿½. Each of these magazine caters to a selected target audience. Is this a strategy you follow?
Definitely it is. But what we are learning to do is to understand what the audience needs. We saw that there was a market for men magazine in India. We saw that about five years back, and we wanted to be the number one stop for the men in India. We have Maxim, then we launched Blender which is a music magazine and then we have Sports magazine. In one way we would want to converge, and in the other we would like to expand.
Q. From being a successful publishing house, with 35 years experience in Asia, to being a dynamic purveyor of change in the business. How has Media Transasia grown over the last few decades?
Our group started off with the custom publishing business where we did magazines on behalf of multinational companies or local companies. For example we did 'Swagat' for Indian Airlines. Then Media Transasia went into books publishing. Several coffee table books were published too. Ten years ago, I came in and started the international licensing business. I realised that there is a successful brand that exists in the market which has spent years in research. This brand has a recognition and fame in the market. So by acquiring the license, we were bringing in a tried and tested product into the market. We planned to make a Globalocal magazine out of the already existing product. Here we took the Global title and enmeshed the global and local content. Hereby, a perfect match for advertisers and readers was created. We look for the leading magazine in its segment in a particular country and import it over to one of our markets in Asia. The strategy has worked. Each of the magazines imported to Thailand and India are leaders in their respective categories, command high average ad rates and a higher cover price than their competitors.
Q. Do you think there is an inherent measurement problem in India and abroad, apropos magazines?
Yes, this problem exists in Thailand also. We need a qualified readership survey in India which follows a proper methodology. Honk Kong and Singapore are going that way and it will be time before we have to move to that model too. As a Publisher this is something I am going to embrace and accept.
Q. How did Media Transasia cope with recession? What are the targets, in terms of growth for the current year?
I would say that the period of recession was very tough, especially for our shelter magazines. We met our budget, but the budgets were revamped several times. We were able to come out just right. We had to face job cuts in those times too. The period eventually taught us how to use our resources better.
The year 2010 has been good so far. The market is looking positive, the market is looking strong. We have a growth target of 12-15 per cent over the last year. We are well on course of meeting our targets.
Q. In the recently held IRS Q2 2010 survey, 3 out of top 20 magazines have recorded a negative readership. What does this trend suggest in India?
This is all an evolution and it's going to slowly change. I also have a hitch about how magazine readership surveys are done. There are different ways of doing it but you generally go from house to house and ask. However, if you go to a second tier village and go house-to- house they will have no idea what 'Travel and Leisure' is, they will have no idea what 'Better Homes and Gardens' is. They are not used to seeing these magazines. Conversely, if you are going to go to top metro cities and see localities in Gurgaon, Hauz Khas etc, you are going to find a big difference in the kind of readership you find over there. India is such a big country, you take a sample size and then you generalize it and stereotype it which doesn't work in a large and diverse country like India.
Q. What are the upcoming trends that you observe in the market?
We will have to embrace the digital world the sooner, the better. I don't want to say that it would erode the newsstands but we should attempt to move towards newer markets (digital and mobile). There is a huge potential of readers in this market. They might not pick up my magazines because they might not even know that they exist. The power of the digital world is something we can't ignore. However, I still strongly believe that magazines are here to stay for all of us.
Q. There is this hullabaloo in the industry over the fate of the magazines. Several people believe that magazines will cease to exist. Reality or a Myth?
No, absolutely not, magazines will always exist. I am carrying my Ipad right now and I have lots of magazines downloaded on it. However, it can never take away the experience of turning pages, curling up in bed, lying on the beach which only paper and ink magazines can give. Things like Ipad devices aren't going to give that. India is inherently a reading dominated nation, people love to read over here as they are very intellectually driven. There a huge growth in the youth market. Youth, who are educated and there is a group of them who don't even read magazines yet. So there is a vast scope of penetration in this market. The magazine industry will only grow.
Q. How do you see newer media mediums effecting magazine? Will it annihilate it, or liberate it?
I don't think newer mediums are going to annihilate or overpower traditional print. It's different for newspapers as for current events you can very easily get news online or on your mobile. However in Media Transasia, most of our magazines are niche market driven. If you have a fashion magazine, you can lie down on your bed, relax and read it. It's not something that you run to the newsstands for. Take travel magazines for instance, you want to be the part of that destination you want to be able to touch it and feel it an experience which only magazines can give. It is this feeling, this attachment that the reader has with magazines which is always going to exist.
However, I feel there is a huge scope of growth in the online and digital sphere. Introduction of the tablets is great for publishing. The model is to pay for that particular article. And that is where the tablets are moving. Two years back we launched seventeenthailand.com and today, coupled with other online properties in India and Thailand the company reaches over one million unique visitors a month. In Oct 2008 we formed a joint venture relationship with Dennis Publishing Limited to concentrate on the digital business in India. Also, on December 1, 2009 we launched Travelandleisureasia.com which is Southeast Asia's biggest travel magazine online, with exclusive web content.
I am personally devoting my time on several mobile initiatives in both Thailand and India. Mobile penetration is huge in both of these countries but more interestingly, we Asians are used to paying for content on our mobiles, something which was very difficult to monetize in our digital business.
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